Season’s Greetings! A Year in Review, 2012 – Yes2dotAfrica Campaign!

As Executive Director of DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA Trust) and spearhead of the Yes2DotAfrica Campaign, it gives me great pleasure to send this end of year message at Christmas to our entire Pan-African constituency and global community of supporters and well-wishers all over the world.

2012 was truly and eventful and memorable year. It was a year of many firsts and though Africa is recovering from the natural disasters faced in 2011 as well as leadership changes all over the world, we had some positive land marks as well.

Here in Africa we have seen major changes in the governments as well as development in the Internet infrastructure.

The continent is healing from the revolution witnessed in North Africa that saw the overthrow of three Heads of States in Tunisia,Egypt and Libya in 2011. The protest movements in North Africa were aided, and the events propelled, by extensive use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter only show how Africans are yearning for new leadership and we hope for a promising and developing democratic future.

The Internet and ICTs are being employed as useful and collaborative tools in this quest for democratic freedoms.

DCA believes protests do not come with a “code of conduct”. The voices of dissent and those excluded and marginalized should simply be heard by the political leadership.

To avoid large-scale upheaval, institutions and political systems need to be reformed in order to effect social change through non-violent and democratic means.

Countries like the USA recently held peaceful elections and have now embarked on national development after re-electing President Obama, who was named Man of the Year in this week’s Time Magazine. Developments are reminiscent of democratic processes that need to be encouraged all over the world.

According to Time Magazine: “The Obama effect was not ephemeral anymore, no longer reducible to what had once been mocked as “that hopey-changey stuff.”  It could be measured – in wars stopped and started; industries saved, restructured or reregulated; tax cuts extended; debt levels inflated; terrorists killed; the health-insurance system reimagined; and gay service members who could walk in uniform with their partners. It could be seen in the new faces who waited hours to vote and in the new ways campaigns are run. America debated and decided this year:  History would not record Obama’s presidency as a fluke.”

Even in times such as the Hurricane Sandy that devastated parts of the North-Eastern USA, we join hands to comfort those affected and hope that better emergency response mechanisms are adopted to mitigate the effects of such unavoidable natural disasters in the future.

In the internet circles, 2012 proved to be a seminal year for Internet Governance and would go down in history as the Year of the new gTLD Program which the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) had launched to expand and radically transform the Internet.

In early March, DCA graced the ICANN 43 meeting, held at Costa Rica discussions focuses in bettering the development of the internet, particularly issues that deal with transparency.   DCA seconds Mr. Beckstrom the former ICANN CEO who indeed remarked “We must seize the opportunity to embrace the transparency and good governance that this precious resource deserves. ICANN must be able to act for the public good while placing commercial and financial interest in the appropriate context.”

In April, DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA) had submitted an application for the .Africa geographic name string.  DCA Trust had received early endorsements since 2008/2009 for the .Africa string from the African Union Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, on the basis of which it had undertaken a multi-year global campaign and promotional effort to create awareness and support for the .Africa name string; and felt great relief after successfully submitting its .Africa application when the new gTLD application window closed eventually.

The ICANN Reveal Day however, on 13 June 2012 – which listed the New gTLD Applied-For String saw one of the highest test for DotConnectAfrica when its application came out as .dotafrica forcing DCA to clarify its application in several meetings including Prague and IGF EastAfrica.  Later in

November, the announcement of a major victory was made when DotConnectAfrica’s  change request for .africa gTLD domain name string was approved by ICANN, thus bringing to an end the reports by detractors that DCA had lost the battle for .Africa.

In the same month, DCA was present at ICANN 44 in Prague and was ably represented by a great team that included the Exec Dir/CEO Ms. Bekele and a high level delegation from Kenya. This meeting came at a time when three of ICANN communities are having anniversaries with RALOS celebrating a 5 years of existence, 10 years for ALAC and LACNIC.  It was also historic moment with the introduction of the new ICANN CEO.

Mr. Fadi Chehadé formerly took over from the Veteran Rod Beckstrom. He introduced a new executive leadership team, and presented a new management and operating structure. Mr. Chehadé also started a new era of engagement with Africa that would be pivoted on the ICANN Africa Strategy – a 3-year Africa-focused strategic plan that will be implemented along-side ICANN’s Strategic Plan period spanning July 2013 to June 2016. Dr. Tarek Kamel, Senior Advisor to the ICANN CEO was appointed to lead the ICANN Africa Strategy.

The ICANN-45 International Meeting in Toronto, Canada in October saw the unveiling of the initial draft of the ICANN Africa Strategy.  This provided the necessary impetus for DotConnectAfrica Trust to also propose the Internet Business Council for Africa (IBCA), an initiative for implementation as its principal contribution to the ICANN Africa Strategy, and took an opportunity of the same meeting to unveiled the IBCA Initiative at ICANN Public Forum. IBCA is intended to promote multi-stakeholder diversity in line with ICANN’s strategic objectives, and is envisioned as an initiative that would increase the participation of the Africa Private Sector in Internet Governance, and provide a strong platform for greater involvement of the African Private and non-Governmental sector in ICANN’s work in Africa. DCA Trust intends to continue pushing this initiative to key partners and stakeholders during 2013 and beyond.

Our resilient activity in fighting for a better .africa, DCA saw a massive, willful and malicious attack to its Wikipedia pages and select email lists. However these low moments also acted as the best moments to strengthen DCA’s bid in a journey that has not been easy.

DotConnectAfrica also E-Participated at the Baku IGF 2012, using the most available Internet resource to make valuable contributions in Internet governance even at a time when Azerbaijan was experiencing protests over anti-freedom restrictions. DCA also contributed in its part to ITU ITR changes, thus exercising its  right to have a say on any proposed changes that will  impact global telecommunication or the Internet.

2012 proved to be an important year for the enjoyment of freedom of speech on the Internet when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), an organ of the United Nations General Assembly, passed a resolution during its 20th Session for the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, an important victory for the efforts of human rights

campaigners and all those who have been advocating for greater Internet freedoms and fighting against censorship on the Internet.

The debate intensified on the future of Global Internet Governance – whether to continue with the present model as it is – a consensus-based multi-stakeholder approach led by ICANN acting on behalf of a ‘global community’ where every stakeholder has a voice; or put the regulation of the Internet under the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU).  The main proponents of the UN regulated Internet – namely, China, Russia, India, South Africa – want a situation whereby governments have more control (or an expanded voice) in shaping the future of the Internet, and believe that only the United Nations would provide them with the necessary framework to achieve their objectives beyond the consultative Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

DotConnectAfrica Trust had also weighed in by writing an open letter to Senator John ‘Jay’ Rockefeller, Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and copied to other United States Congressional and administration leaders expressing support in defense of the status quo on Global Internet Governance Model and a reaffirmation of the Multi-stakeholder process.  DCA Trust used the medium to express its support

“for the U.S. Government’s position in defense of the Global Internet Governance status quo; which promises further stability and continuity in a more predictable manner” and also demonstrated support for ICANN by urging ”

the U.S. Government – on an inter-agency basis – to consider providing without stint, any required capacity supports for ICANN to enable it play a more compelling role in Global Internet Governance so as to shore up the Multi-stakeholder process.”

During 2013 and beyond, DCA Trust intends to continue its engagement on this and similar matters with US Congressional and other leaders.

At the end of November 2012, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly to bar any plans for the UN regulation of the Internet. This followed an earlier resolution that was passed in June 2012 by the House Energy and Commerce opposing UN Internet regulation.  The House passed a Senate Resolution that calls on the United States Government to oppose UN control of the Internet.  It was quite obvious that the unanimous

397 -0 vote was passed on the eve of the WCIT meeting in Dubai to unequivocally demonstrate U.S. resolve regarding any UN plans to regulate the Internet.  The U.S. continues to favour an open, multi-stakeholder Internet that is free from any government controls. The UN is an inter-governmental body, and allowing it to control the Internet would allow governments to control Global Internet Governance.

Two important events took place in the last month of 2012.  The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The other important event was the ICANN Prioritization Draw.

The WCIT-12 was organized by the International Telecommunications Union to reform the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs). It was well-attended by world leaders, telecommunications operatives/regulators, and diplomatic representatives of governments. ICANN had also sent a strong delegation to Dubai.  However, the outcome of the Dubai meeting was not successful. The U.S. delegation refused to sign up to the international treaty, arguing that the scope of the treaty did not cover Internet regulation, and citing provisions in the treaty that would give UN approval for governments to control and censor the Internet and private networks. The U.S. position was similarly adopted by many European countries EU who refused to back the treaty, therefore no consensus was reached. The U.S. position was also supported by some African countries including Kenya.

In the coming months and well into 2013, ICANN would see the constant need to justify and consolidate its existing role in Global Internet Governance, and try to always demonstrate that it should be trusted to act in the global public interest, and that Global Internet Governance should not be placed under a United Nations body such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Furthermore, ICANN would also need to demonstrate to its supporters and detractors alike that it can ‘transparently’ regulate itself, and does not need to be reformed against the backdrop of strident clamors for ICANN to be reformed. ICANN does not have a regulatory body to supervise its functions and activities.  It still continues to operate as one global community that principally runs itself on the basis of consensus policies.  ICANN would still have to show that its operations are transparent, and that its operatives are not all conflicted and that the organization is still committed to the achievement of a Gold Standard regarding Conflict of Interest Matters.

On December 17, 2012, DCA Trust participated in the ICANN Prioritization Draw in Los Angeles, USA. ICANN had announced plans for the prioritization draw process which it described as “an equitable and reliable method is required for prioritizing new gTLD applications to meet root zone scaling requirements and enable timely processing of applications through contract execution and pre-delegation testing.”  The Prioritization Draw was used by ICANN to assign a priority number to each application.  DCA Trust’s .Africa application drew 1,005 as its priority number. The draw numbers will be employed by ICANN in scheduling initial evaluations and also utilized in releasing the evaluation results. It would also serve as the basis of scheduling appointments for pre-delegation testing and execution of new gTLD Registry Services Agreements between ICANN and successfully evaluated applicants.

Finally, DCA Trust had raised issues of Conflict of Interest to the ICANN Board regarding two Board Members requesting that they should not be allowed to participate in any new gTLD Program discussions or decisions concerning .Africa.  The matter was looked into by the ICANN Ombudsman whose report only managed to achieve a Modus Vivendi in terms of its final conclusion.  DCA Trust would continue to insist that, at a minimum, the two Board Members should endeavor to recuse themselves from engaging in any decision-making role on .Africa gTLD.

DCA Trust anticipates that the controversies surrounding the .Africa new gTLD would make the process of delegating .Africa difficult or not-straight-forward.  In early December DCA Trust was compelled to respond officially to the ICANN Board and ICANN GAC to defend the GAC Early Warning Advice that had been issued against its .Africa application by the ICANN GAC based on objections that had been filed by the African Union Commission and some African governments. DCA Trust had presented a remediation plan to address concerns regarding governmental supports for its .Africa geographic name application.

As we take stock of the major highlights of our activities during 2012, overall, we are pleased with the accomplishments of the Yes2DotAfrica Campaign.
We are thankful to all our supporters – for the hope they have provided to enable us sustain our global promotional efforts, their constant encouragement and the strength we drew from that, even as we underscore the need for their continuous support in this last mile of our long journey, for the realization of the DotAfrica vision.We ask that you continue to pray for DCA, DotAfrica and Africa during this Christmas period and beyond.

Once again, we wish you the very best compliments of the season.

On behalf of DCA and myself, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013 in advance, for Africa and the world!.

Sophia Bekele

Founder/Executive Director


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