DCA Exclusive Commentary: ComputerWorld Kenya


Computerworld Kenya

Our attention has been drawn to the recent article written by Rebecca Wanjiku: “ICANN engagement in Africa bears fruit” published in the on-line edition ofComputerworld Kenya.

A close reading of the article conveys the impression that:

  1. “the ministerial meeting agreed that the .africa gTLD should be reserved” which means
  2. “that organizations that want to bid to manage it must be sanctioned by the AU.
  3. Furthermore, your story indicates that “ICANN’s new gTLD application process provides for countries and regions with interest in certain names to reserve them.”

We believe it is important to clarify these matters so as to properly inform your readers.

1)    The proposal to include DotAfrica gTLD in the List of Reserved Names is a tactic to make this string and similar strings in any language to be unavailable in this ICANN gTLD round so as to give special legislative protection that will benefit the AU, and give it extraordinary powers to separately negotiate and delegate these names outside the ICANN programme.  Even though DCA opposed the draft resolution, the final resolution was later adopted without any regard for dissenting viewpoints by the Experts Meeting of the African Ministerial Round-Table and a communiqué submitted to ICANN. Therefore, it must be noted that the official request contained in the communiqué still has to be reviewed by the ICANN Board, the only relevant authority that has the power to approve or deny the request to include DotAfrica in the List of Reserved Names.

2)    DCA has argued that the current name strings in the Top-Level Reserved Names List that are in the approved version of the ICANN new gTLD Guidebook does not include DotAfrica, and that any approval of this extraordinary request by the AU will necessitate an amendment to relevant sections of the Applicant’s Guidebook (such as Section – Reserved Names and Other Unavailable Strings). For this reason, we believe that it is quite problematic to change the rules very late in the game. So far, only the names for the Olympic movement and the International Red Cross movement are gTLD strings ineligible for delegation during this initial application round. DCA believes that the multi-stakeholder process that led to the negotiation of the current version of the Applicant’s Guidebook is already completed, and this cannot simply be changed since this poses a serious threat to the entire principle of the multi-stakeholder process that contemporary Internet governance is built on.

3)    DCA has also argued that the DotAfrica name string is not at risk, and as such could be applied for under the open and transparent new gTLD programme of ICANN. Our belief is that those who have advocated for the inclusion of DotAfrica in the List of Reserved Names are only doing so to enable them bypass the ICANN process, and obtain the mandate for DotAfrica through a separate process negotiated directly with the African Union. We believe that the proponents of this approach lack the confidence to apply directly at ICANN and are only hoping that the AU will assist them in their illegitimate agenda to hijack DotAfrica. One only needs to read the verbal statement attributed to Vika Mpisane in your article to agree with our opinion. Mpisane was quoted as saying: “AU is only interested in making sure that .africa benefits Africa’s Internet community.” What are we to make of this? Is the AU here to serve the interest of the African Internet Community? We think this is simply the desire of a self-serving cabal that is pushing the AU in a certain direction that would enable the cabal achieve its objectives since the so-called leaders of the African Internet community are also the members of the AU Task Force on DotAfrica.

4)    DCA believes that the political influence and diplomatic machinery of the AU should not be used to further the aims of those who want to gain secret control of DotAfrica. If the African Internet community is indeed interested in the ownership of DotAfrica then let it apply directly through the legitimate auspices of the ICANN new gTLD programme and not use the AU to ask for special legislative protections on its behalf.

In the ICANN multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance that is now in operation, no single party has a greater say than another.

5)    We at DCA believe that ICANN will see through this ruse and not approve the request to include DotAfrica in the Top Level Reserved Names List.   When that happens, the DotAfrica issue will then attract only serious applicants and become independent of the special interest group that wants to acquire it by electing to operate outside the ICANN process.

6)    We think that your article is mistaken in its stated opinion that “ICANN’s new gTLD application process provides for countries and regions with interest in certain names to reserve them.”  If taken literally, it implies that that the AU is interested in Africa as a ‘region’ and that the ICANN process allows for this name to be reserved.  So far, to the best of our knowledge, DotAfrica is the only prospective new gTLD name string that has attracted this type of extraordinary request. We have gone through the relevant provisions in the guidebook, and we did not find any proof to support your stated opinion. The Applicant Guidebook does not in any way suggest that countries and regions can ask for names to be reserved since the countries already have their 2-code country-level codes for country-level domains.

7) Finally, in the ICANN multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance that is now in operation, no single party has a greater say than another. Even so, your article inadvertently gives the impression that the views of one party, in this case, the AU-sponsored African Ministerial Round-Table overrides any contrary opinion on the subject.

The multi-stakeholder principle is supposed to ensure that all voices are heard, and all viewpoints considered. As a matter of fact, there was no unanimity regarding the adoption of the resolution to have DotAfrica included in the Top-Level Reserved Names List. Moreover, DCA had also pointed out that African Ministers were absent at the meeting, and as such the resolution that was presumably passed in their name could not be considered authentic.

“DotAfrica needs to be freed now from the prison of the Cabal that is hell-bent on hijacking it.”

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