President Abdoulaye Wade Speech at ICANN 42 meeting in Dakar Senegal
November 2, 2011
Mr. Prime Minister; Ladies and Gentlemen, Ministers, African Ministers in Charge of IT and Communications; Ladies and Gentlemen, Ambassadors and Representatives of the Diplomatic Department; Mrs. Heather Dryden, President of the Advisory Council of ICANN, of the GAC; and Mr. Rod Beckstrom, Director of ICANN; Mr. Stephen Crocker, President of ICANN’s Administration Council; Ladies and Gentlemen, Ministers of State; Ladies and Gentlemen, Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen, Students, first of all, I would like to express how grateful I am and also the Senegalese people’s gratitude to the organizers of this meeting for having chosen our country to host the second — 42nd meeting of ICANN, the International Organization in Charge of Assigned Names and Numbers.
I would also like to wish to African ministers in charge of technologies of communications and IT in Dakar, welcome. And I hope you have a nice day in Senegal. Take this opportunity also to thank the ministers for the significant work done that will enable the head of state to have a very significant study analysis that will help us to make better decisions.
This is a great honor for Senegal to welcome such distinguished hosts on the planet that are in charge of ensuring Internet’s operational stability, promoting competition, and ensure global representation of communities using the Internet.
We, I think we have here one of the creators, inventors of the Internet. I believe he is one of those. I asked him a question earlier who have created Internet, who thought before implementing it.
Ladies and gentlemen, without any doubt, our continent is not at the heart of strategic operations of the Internet. In Africa, Africa — in the world, Africa is still late in entering the world of the — the digital work. Digital networks are the ideal conduit for democracy and essential for continent. I often say — and I want to go back to what Mr. Crocker said — Internet is the most perfect democracy. Because in front of the computer Senegalese, Japanese, and American, they go to the same speed as the speed of light.
So this is a race. When you have a race car, you need a car. A bicycle race, you need a bicycle. So all the theories that we can elaborate cannot — have no product, no result if — unless Africans have computers. I would like to underline this practical aspect of the Internet question. We need to go. We need to take the conduit. We need to — and we need a computer for this. I will talk about that later, again, because that will explain my choice from the start to give all government employees and teachers, students even in schools so that they have computers.
And I argued my case before my American friends and the black caucus a few years back about the possibility for Africa. We — at the time we had 700 million. We almost have 1 billion now — to at least have 500 million computers. I’m not exaggerating. In countries, certain countries, 80% of the population — 90% have a computer. In Africa computers are still very rare.
As you know, I’ve supported several initiatives in order to reduce the gap between the north and the south, between the countryside and cities. That was part of the conference in Geneva in 2003 where I proposed the concept of digital solidarity. And we created it. But there were problems — and all African countries, I mean, all African countries, even foreign countries such as France, Lyon, because Lyon are also members. Paris, Milano, Italy, et cetera, and Caribbean countries and countries of Latin America.
We met here in Dakar not very long ago to create the Digital Solidarity Fund.
I had requested information that they just brought to me.
Now, Internet that we talked about earlier created several problems, but Internet, first of all, enables people to communicate very quickly. Internet is also — I was going to say a registry of human knowledge. The most complex knowledge can be accessed through the Internet.
Therefore, the question is not the capacity to understand what’s here. Africans, we have proved when we are studying in universities or we have proved that we are capable, whether in Europe, in the United States, or in China. But the problem is to have access to it.
It’s not all just to have a computer, but you also need to pave the way to this access independently from the issue of the democratic management of the Internet. There also, I will go back to it later.
The phone, which is a means of communication, the most well-known and the most common, and which whose development is very quick. And that should interest Africans.
In June 2005, phones, thanks to the cell phones, reaches 70% of the population with quarterly growth of 23.8% in Senegal, which means that the telephone is available to everyone from the most — the poorest to the richest. I saw a publicity, a commercial, a camel rider in the desert with his computer — with his cell phone, which shows that the development of such a tool brings me back to saying that these incredible development has created an international environment, and Senegal has become a hub, international hub for international companies dealing with international communication. Google, Nokia, Samsung, IBM, who have offices here. We also, in Paris, Paris’s Wall Street, we have now a Senegalese company registered. The economic environment makes your organization even more important. The stability of Internet is really crucial for growth of our economies that rely on these networks.
As far as I am concerned, I always thought that the Internet was a way to favor, to promote the penetration of our countries on the Internet world. And, therefore, the fund of international solidarity is very important.
So ladies and gentlemen, it’s very important for you to manage fairly these names and numbers in a consensual manner with all the stakeholders, public and private.
The international aspect of your administration council of the board and the cooperation that you have established within ICANN with governments is crucial. It enables you to have better legitimacy of your decisions because countries are more and more sensitive to questions, issues dealing with digital evolution.
The GAC enables the countries to participate better in the work being done through ICANN, and this is a very important model between the public and private sector that should be encouraged. You have adopted the new gTLD program, first level, called gTLD. This is very good. Because this is the beginning, I do not guarantee — I think it’s English expression but this will definitely have a very big impact, economic and social and cultural impact.
Organizations who have requested ownership rights and administration rights of these new names shows the interest for these names and numbers, names that include names of cities and brands. So we have now a new cycle where African countries could be excluded from this new market, since, as you have defined in your processes, that it will be necessary to have millions of dollars to create one registry for one village, the name of one village or a city.
The major issue with names of domain names is safety, security. Safety for those who have the names.
Can someone buy a domain name like Abdoulaye Wade or Obama.org? Because this will show in all its documents. So it is necessary to protect certain names. It’s a recognized right for all, an individual right. And names associated with religions, beliefs, like Mecca, Vatican, Tuba, et cetera, could someone buy such names?
So you have to go further and protect populations. And for those using the system who buy and sell names, you have the task to protect the system and ensure its stability.
These are programs that are very complex, we know, and the question that we have today is when we say that Africa wants to participate in Internet governance, that’s what we mean. It’s to be represented among those who decide policies pertaining to the Internet.
I have here in Dakar, very quickly, also, on April 19th, 2004, an African conference on Internet governance.
It was just before the Tunis meeting. I became aware that if they would go directly to Tunis, it would be a catastrophe because the prerequisites were not even defined. I told my colleague and friend, Ben Ali, and I told him I am calling a meeting before our arrival in Tunis to talk about issues that will be discussed in your conference.
So the problems that we have today were already questioned and discussed before, in 2004, in April and in September. The Tunis conference happened on November 16th, 2005.
The conferences that you organized previously in June and also this one are additional steps to leading to this Internet governance. In your approach, you have certainly taken into consideration requests coming from developing countries, but I also invite you to finalize processes so that you can enable them to have access to certain resources for African organizations. This liberal access, this opening of access to African organizations, in Singapore in June 2011, is now a revolution for Internet beyond domain names based on proper identities of private and public organizations. Africa must claim its symbols of its identity as a continent. This is the dot Africa. Likewise, dot EU, European community, and dot Asia.
I know that this debate is not over with regards to this new extension, dot Africa. That’s why I inviolate the African Union to ensure the leadership in the process for the attribution of this resource by participating actively in debates on this issue so that the final decision can be taken on behalf of the entire continent that is already so far behind with regards to the access to digital networks.
I was informed of Senegal — that Senegal was chosen to host the — a copy of the root server. This is obviously a very great improvement of Internet network performances for our country and other countries in the subregion, depending — that used to depend on Maghreb and South Africa.
Thank you very much for this faith that you have for my country that will now have the responsibility of ensuring of dealing with all the requests of end users, of Internet users from the subregion.
This new configuration associated with the new undersea cable, and the works have just — was achieved, was just ended, will now give Senegal the leadership role and now will give it equality with developed countries as far as connectivity to the international network(is concerned).
The potential for — You know how important education is for me. I will never stop saying that Senegal is the only country in the world that gives 40% of its budget to education and training. And the average for Africa does not go — does not exceed 14%.
I would like to inform you that soon I will launch a big program called Digital Education for All that will enable 8,000 schools in Senegal to have access to the Internet through numeric solidarity.
It’s not only to give schools this access but also to have education on these resources, to have our education system must be connected to the international networks that transmit knowledge and education. So we have to make many efforts in order to reduce technological barriers. That’s why I am inviting you to undertake such efforts with us in this domain. In our education model, from preschool, we teach children from 2 to 6 years old how to operate computers in order not to be confused with the computers later when they are older.
Ladies and gentlemen, you are responsible for the stability of Internet, because you have to ensure end users access to all addresses that are necessary. That must require very serious coordination. According to the International Telecommunication Union, the number of Internet users has exceeded 2 billion, and there is a new generation of equipment, of devices, that use Internet.
With regards to what I was saying earlier, the increase of thenumber of people who have internet is also an issue of access. Those who are cell phones, and it also is an issue that people do not have access to the Internet.
Ladies and gentlemen, your concerns regard based on the actual protocol IPv4, the depletion of that IPv4 protocol, the Senegal has now gone over to the IPv6 version that will now have more addresses available. And experts will make sure that this significant evolution will happen also in our country.
This progress for next and technologies should lead us to think more about users and their protection against abuse. Since 2008, I voted a law aiming at installing a protection against abuse against private information and private life and the storage of information data that are personal in nature. And these data have a very valuable commercially. And now, we have installed a new program to find a protection for these data.
Please allow me to say something. It’s relevant because — what I am saying is relevant because the future of Africa, due to economic growth with regards to cell phones, whether domestically and internationally, this growth creates a lot of wealth in billions of dollars. And African countries, African countries do not have their fair share. We do have a share, but it’s not the fair share.
And so during the negotiation of a contract, the market condition terms change very quickly. The number of population change and the growth with creating new wealth. And the wish to have cell phones for people who are getting younger and younger, so the market is developing very rapidly.
Without canceling the contracts already signed, it’s not fair — it is fair to negotiate a better distribution in favor of our countries.
I was saying earlier, I read in a document that European countries wanted to regroup 160 to 180 billion euros to buy all African cell phones. This is how the market works. It’s their right to do so.
But it would be a catastrophe, that we abandon such wealth in favor of this oligarchy. As you know, it’s five, six or seven stakeholders, companies, that are like a monopoly and then they share amongst themselves the proceeds. That would be a catastrophe to abandon all these services to new monopolies, so our states must be present in all the companies that manage networks, and they have to give back, and the states have to participate in those companies.
In Senegal, there was last Thursday a bill forcing the State to acquire at least 35% of shares in each dealership, and that these 35% could not be sold in order to ensure that when the State needs it, will not be able to sell those shares. Even if he needs money.
There are countries that require more, but 35% seems to be the minimum.
So the dynamics of the telecommunications sector, this should prevent for these — for our countries to be under the monopoly of other countries, which is against the free market.
When I say this, I sometimes refer to antitrust legislation in the United States, the country that favors the most the free market.
Monopolies, like the former Vice President of the United States, Walter Mondale, (said) monopolies lead to imperialism.
So let’s prevent, avoid a new colonialism where would be the accidental agent.
So this is the message I would like my African colleagues to hear in this world that requires courage, qualification and quickness in action.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
[ Applause ]
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to talk to all of you. I know that each of your meetings gives the opportunity to the Internet world to progress thanks to your excellent decisions. I wish that Africa — that this meeting in Dakar be finally the opportunity for Africa to reduce the digital gap with northern countries, but also for Africa to take its right place in the Internet society that rose after the Tunis and Geneva meetings.
And that we be now — we have the trust you were referring to before. Because we trust each other because this is a field where all interests go to — are the same. And the big issue here is to understand the expectations of each stakeholders and through fair negotiation to progress for more justice. Thank you very much for your patience.