I've heard a lot of discussion of the .africa controversy of late — from conspiracy theories to questions about staff competence to concerns about the role of the GAC. And it's hard not to find faults galore in the way this process and the IRP reporting has played out. But before we get too lost in the weeds of procedure or the future of ICANN, lets not lose track of what this debate was first and still is fundamentally about: a string.
Despite all the noise around the process, the real issue was and remains simple: does any applicant have the requisite geographical support to get delegation? Because if they do, then by definition and in keeping with ICANN policy, no other applicant should qualify to run .africa. End of controversy. End of discussion. Irrespective of anything we may think about the way this has gone down, whether we think ICANN needs more accountability (and I do) or not.
And in this case the answer is clear: the ZACR bid has the required support — well over the 60% of nations required have endorsed their bid to run .africa. DCA's bid does not.
There's no question the process has been flawed and there have been procedural errors. DCA may have been treated unfairly as some have commented. The GAC may have overreached or been vague in its advice to the Board. Certainly the whole affair has hurt the reputation of ICANN and its relations with Africa. Still, in my mind the biggest procedural error lies in ICANN's simple inability to follow its own policy. There is a process for evaluating the basic qualification — the geographic panel — and this should have disqualified DCA long ago.
Looking back, the entire controversy has been a completely avoidable distraction — one that has provided no value for ICANN or for the African internet community. The drama has gone on too long and cost the applicants, ICANN and the community a lot in time, credibility and money. It has also deprived the continent of a potentially valuable resource. Having just returned from speaking at DNS Africa in Nairobi, I can confirm that there is interest in .africa — from audiences across the continent and companies like ours that work extensively with Africa.
Further fuming about ICANN accountability may well be warranted, but that doesn't change the central fact in this controversy. Unless ICANN rejects the letters of support for the ZACR bid from literally dozens of African nations, there can be no issue about who should run .africa. Its time to move on.
By Andrew Mack, Principal at AMGlobal Consulting
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