It's approximately 2 months to go before the grand application process for the new gTLDs begins, ICANN the international internet body made a revolutionary announcement in June that is going to change the entire internet namespace. With the current 21 gTLDs, the world is bracing for a surge of close to 500 new applications. Among the domains of my interest is the .Africa gTLD.
Whereas the graph of other continents mostly those of the developed have been on the plateau for a while now having reached peak a few years ago, Africa is experiencing its rise. The internet experience graph is rising higher by the minute. This has attracted the interest of giant internet firms such as Google and Facebook. Google, for instance, has offices established to drive its mammoth business across the African region especially the sub-Saharan. Facebook among others have satelite staff managing the affairs under the emerging markets in Africa and Middle East.
I wonder though how sparse or closely clustered the African digital Map is on the Google or Facebook walls. I would like to see how updates on the map grow and if it is constant or spiky and unpredictable. Someone called Africa the Dark Continent riddled with epidemics, War, poverty and generally insurmountable number of maladies. On the contrary though, I would like to view Africa as not only an emerging market but a potential force to reckon with; an equal player among many whose quest for a digital future must be considered with indiscriminate attitude and altitude.
Back to the .Africa issue, this project has particularly been a hot issue — almost too hot a brick to handle with bare hands — and with several organizations setting up to apply come 2012. Question is however who really is the best messenger to drive this matter? Dotconnectafrica has been on the forefront of this quest, putting forward not only .africa but daring to include .Afriqya and .Afrique the Arabic and French versions respectively.
During the ICANN meeting recently in Senegal Dakar, DCA President Ms. Sophia Bekele outlined the various issues that must be carefully looked into to ensure that the process is not only smooth but successful. Africa must not be allowed to fail in this watershed moment, it must come through unscathed. It would be interesting to see the African gTLD championed and successfully setup.
The resulting registry must not only revert back the resources from the domain but also ensure that Africa's content is well managed and availed for and by African continent since it will not only be a unique moment but a chance to prove to the entire wide world that Africa can do it right!
By Gideon Rop, Sr. Project Engineer: DCA Registry Services Kenya and ISOC Kenya Member. He is an Internet Governance enthusiast and technology critic, an active member of ISOC Kenya who participates regularly in Internet Governance, DNS and Security Fora, and in ICANN GNSO working groups.
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