Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Switching Nigerians to .ng


The last one year in NIRA, depicts a transformation exercise has just begun, mostly with recent launch of partnership with NITDA to switch Nigerians to .ng, the nation’s country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), reports REMMY NWEKE.

Preamble:
Barely 13 months ago, the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) commenced what many industry observers described as a transformation agenda.
This came soon after its pioneer president, Mr. Ndukwe Kalu, passed on, hence the vice president then, Mrs. Mary Uduma assumed office as the president, following an election that took place in August 2010.
One promise, she made was to makeover NIRA from where the late Kalu stopped due to his untimely death, therefore entrenching a culture of institutional structures, thereby laying a good foundation based on human resources with the appointment of a new chief operating officer (COO) among other staff.
This, nonetheless, spurred NIRA’s supervisory body, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to partner with the organisation in several occasion including the recently ended one-day Switchto.ng workshop, which is expected to criss-cross all the geo-political zones in the country in no distance time.
Importance of .ng ccTLD:
Speaking at the workshop, Mr. Akinbo Adeola Cornerstone of My Nigeria Online (MyNOL) and a member of the Board of Trustees, stated in his presentation tagged ‘Importance of ccTLDs in the Society – Nigeria and You’ said that the on-going transformation on .ng ccTLD would lead to its development with best practices and uptake among the internet community both locally and internationally.
While urging members to know their executive board and secretariat officials by taking time to visit the official website of the group at www.nira.org.ng, Akinbo stressed that currently, NiRA is focused on constitutional amendments, fundraising campaign, communications and awareness as well as participation in strategic events.
Additionally, he called for more active engagement with NiRA by members, whereas charging the secretariat to beef-up its branding strategy by reviving mailing lists, regular website update and translation where necessary. These, he noted would improve membership mobilization and capacity building.
Benefits of switching to .ng
The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), Mr. Ope Odusan, used the opportunity to list the benefits of switching to dot ng in this dispensation.
Some of these benefits, he said, include that NIRA is mindful of the unique opportunity its country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) name presents, stressing that dot ng assumes a global significance for many words by coupling of the TLD with any of the vowels of the English language, like in ‘Fishi.ng.’
He also said, NIRA intends to exploit these potentials to continue to make .ng a global registry irrespective of the entry of new gTLDs, adding that the uniqueness of the .ng ccTLD has seen firms like Google, Microsoft Domain Developers Fund taking up googli.ng; bi.ng to name a few, since the Second Level Domain Names were opened.
NiRA, he said, has deployed a robust Internet Domain Name System that would bring immense economic growth and vitality to the nation, maintaining that the organisation built a world-class Registry that Nigerians and their associates would gladly adopt as the TLD of choice.
“Our target to have 250,000 domain names registered in the .ng Registry will contribute N250 million annually to Nigerian economy,” he said.
According to him, NiRA has the potential to create over 50,000 jobs directly and indirectly, adding that it offers stable source of Foreign Currency for the economy, asserting, “Dot ng ccTLD is a platform for the Nigerian Internet Ecosystem.”
Internet ecosystem:
In the Internet ecosystem, he said, the online commerce, e-government services, access to valuable information and knowledge would thrive in addition to a boost in academics through effective research resource and participation in distance learning programmes.
On the aspect of job creation, Odusan said that there exist some job avenues for the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals, such as new generation of jobs like webmaster, content manager, and web developers, in addition to industry entrepreneurs and domain agents’ likely spurring job creation engine for local software application and content developers.
He explained that tax incentives for companies currently not using .ng domain to switchto .ng do exist, especially for unemployed graduates, underscoring the fact that stakeholders could market their skills beyond Nigeria via the internet and earn foreign income while at home.
... Remember charity begins @ home:
He then urged Nigerians to take the saying that charity begins at home to heart with encouragement of the Federal Government and its institutions, through the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Pointing out that FG should institute necessary government policies and mandates for .ng adoption to pave the way for what he described as “holistic approach to NiRA growth.”
Systems, he said, would be developed and coordinated for the technical standards to boost local administration of key infrastructure, even as process of documentation and operation of critical infrastructure, policies and procedures, regulation and service delivery, should be people oriented via institutional capacity building and mobilisation.
On the product offering, he said NIRA is looking at this by creating local content with Nigerian centric approach, hence local branding of international brands for instance, google.com.ng, thisday.ng, airfrance.com.ng, itrealms.com.ng, champion.com.ng appear in the centre stage of the product campaign.
This, he pointed out is not to say that the Private Public Partnership (PPP) for data and information security is forgotten as there are plans for the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to enable automated domain registration via links to NiRA accredited registrars’ websites. The same, he said, applies to the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce to fast-track registration of its members on .ng; just as the engagement of Nigerian embassies and missions abroad in the promotion and adoption of .ng would not be over-looked.
For those desirous of getting .ng, they need to decide on the name and extension they want to register under such as .com.ng, .org.ng or .name.ng to name a few, then choose any of the NiRA accredited registrars, search for availability of such a name chosen and if the name is available, proceed with registration, then relax “You are now on dot ng.”
The Naming Convention and Levels:
Dwelling on ‘Domain Name Conventions,’ NIRA vice president, Mr. Sunday Folayan said, it stipulated compliance to certain rules and regulations as may be set by the Registry in any given country, which in this case falls with NIRA in line with the domain name policy.
For Folayan, who also is the chief executive officer, Skannet Limited, a domain name is made up of several levels of domains with levels being separated by . (dot). He cited for instance ‘we.keep.you.sleepi.ng ‘ is a domain name, hence, levels are read from right to left.
“.ng is the top level domain alias TLD; dot ‘sleepi’ is the second level domain alias Second Level Domain (SLD), dot ‘You’ is the third level domain (3LD); ‘Keep’ is the fourth level domain (4LD) and ‘We’ is the fifth level domain (5LD),” he explained.
The NiRA Domain Name Policy, he said, is currently operating on Version 1.0 since May 5, 2008, which described NiRA’s rules for the registration and use of domain names within the .ng domain and its sub-domains. Even as NiRA’s policies are available online at the organization website.
NIRA, he said, disallows names in certain domains, therefore reserves the right to maintain the some list of domains that ‘Shall Not’ be available for registration or could be withdrawn if already registered.
No go areas in .ng:
Citing an instance with ‘Offensive Names’ he described it as words determined by NiRA to be offensive to the Nigerian community; ‘Restricted Names’ are names that would give wrong impression if used, such as Military and Government to name a few. As well as ‘Premium Names’, which he said are domains with generic words only, thus commanding premium value in terms of Naira and Kobo. Some of these premium domains he listed to include ‘cooki.ng and bi.ng’ among others.
He further said, Nigeria’s SLDs comprised of .com.ng for commercial purposes and is open for registration; .edu.ng is for degree awarding institutions; .sch.ng is for non-degree awarding schools; .gov.ng is for governmental organizations; .mil.ng means it’s for Military and related purposes; .org.ng - Non-Gov Organizations and open; .net.ng – networks; .mobi.ng - mobiles and .name.ng for personal names and still open respectively, while .premium.ng is by auction only.
NiRA, Folayan said, does not allow certain characters and as such, does not currently operate Internationalized Domain Names (IDN), which allows domain names in the natural languages of the users. Just as he listed characters allowed by NIRA to consist of 26 Unaccented Roman Characters; that is, from ‘A to Z’ both in small and capital letters respectively, in addition to the 10 Western digits from 0 to 9, coupled with (-) hyphen.
Character combinations, he said, must conform with domain names rules which states that it must be a maximum of 64 characters for now; not case sensitive like ‘AGe and AgE’ saying they are the same; while the first or last character of a domain name may not be a hyphen, there cannot be two hyphens in a name, even as domains cannot start with xn followed by --.
The second level domains (2LD), he said, could only be offered for sale via auction, whereas, some third level domains (3LD) could only be offered for sale via auction with an instance of ‘internet.com.ng’ so also that 3LD domains may not be a single character.
Even though, he added that generic restrictions may apply for each SLD or 3LD they may also have restrictions related to these sub-domains; for example, the .edu.ng may have restrictions which are different from those for .gov.ng.
Best practices:
Domain names, he advised, are more useful when they conform to best practices, short and popular names are better than long and detailed names, maintaining that to register any 3LD domain within .gov.ng, State Government entities must register the full state name or the official abbreviation of the state name similar to that used in vehicle license plate registration.
“States are encouraged to make 4LD available to local governments and state government departments and agencies,” he suggested, adding that generic names are not allowed, citing an instance with instead of shipping.gov.ng it should be nsc.gov.ng. Just like the generic SLDs are not allowed on 3LDs, for instance, “you cannot register com.org.ng, org.com.ng, mil.com.ng.”
Folayan reassured that there are rules and conventions that govern the choice and registration of domain names, hence, the naming conventions have been carefully created to avoid confusion, and make it easy for users to navigate on the Internet. As a result, NiRA as much as possible abides with global best practices, in the implementation of domain names, even as there is no internationalized domain yet in .ng.
Supervisory role on .ng ccTLD:
Mr. Lazarus Ikoti of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), who dwelt on “Implementing Compliance with Government Domain Policy,” noted that with Section 6 of the Act establishing NITDA of 2007, makes provisions for functions of the agency, comprising Section 6(b) which particularly gave NITDA the power to make guidelines for the establishment and maintenance of the appropriate infrastructure for Information Technology (IT).
Additionally, he said, that Section 6(m) specifically enjoined NITDA to accelerate internet and intranet penetration in the country and promote sound internet governance thereof. He stressed at the one day workshop that the aforementioned Section 6(m) mandated NITDA to give effect to the second schedule of the NITDA Act, describing Section 1 of the second schedule as very instructive.
Subject to the provision to this act, Mr. Ikoti pointed out that the agency shall advise the federal government generally on matters that are related to the management and administration of Nigeria’s country code Top Level Domain, as well as enjoined to setup procedure and criteria for second level domains and qualification for domain name registrars and host.

Compliance to .ng governance:
He said NITDA has been charged to develop a policy to supervise and manage .ng ccTLD, said that Section 6 of the enabling Act, NITDA Act 2007 provided guidelines to facilitate the establishment and maintenance of appropriate infrastructure for information technology and systems application and development in the country for public and private sectors, urban-rural development, the economy and the government. Just as NITDA is to accelerate Internet and Intranet penetration in Nigeria and promote sound Internet Governance by giving effect to the Second schedule of this Act.

Liable offences and .ng as a national resource:
According to him, Section 18 indicated that subsection (a) for a first offence, should be fined N200,000 or imprisonment for a term of 1 year or both such fine or imprisonment; and (b) for a second and subsequent offences, to a fine of N500,000 or to imprisonment for a term of 3 years or to both such fine and Imprisonment. Maintaining that the role of NITDA as far as .ng ccTLD is concerned is embedded in the Act.
Underscoring the ‘Government Domain Policy for Nigeria,’ the acting Head, Infrastructure and Technical Support Services, NITDA, Mr. Olayinka Adejube, informed participants that NITDA policy document was based not only on the need to populate the Internet with government’s presence but also to coordinate the hosting of government domains especially as regards security of the domain. Noting that since .gov.ng domain is a national resource for the benefit of the Nigerian people, the domain would be available for all governments from the Federal to the Local Government.
Also, he said, NITDA Act has some provisions, for instance, in Section 6 (a) which stated the mandate to “Create a framework for the planning, research, development, standardization, application, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and regulation of Information Technology practices, activities and systems in Nigeria and all matters related thereto and for that purpose….”
The section 6(m), Adejube said, stated that NITDA should “Accelerate Internet and Internet penetration in Nigeria and promote sound Internet Governance by giving effects to the Second Schedule of this Act” while should approve the constitution of the management of any such organization created to carry out the acts mentioned in Section 2 (1) of this Schedule among others.

Conclusion:

What this workshop plans to achieve is to create and re-emphasise the trust and mandate from where NIRA is coming from and the need for Nigerians to own it and become part of the process of adapting penetration for the nation’s .ng, in line with the welcome address from NIRA president, Mrs. Mary Uduma, with great expectation that over 250,000 domains would be achieved before the end of this year.
As a Nigerian, have you decided on where to plug into this .ng wave? The truth is that the earlier you begin to participate in .ng affairs, the better knowledgeable you become with the concept and processes of its ‘Naijaness’. So, take a stand today by taking a step towards being on .ng.

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