Kenic has a new CEO….. 7th in 7 years…

Abdalla Omari is the new Kenic CEO.  At this point I will stop counting coz it means the annual tradition of the board is; lets get a new CEO.

Usually, when people join new organisations, they are asked what they will do to improve the status of the organisation. I imagined these are some of the questions Omari had to answer.

I know I ask some annoying questions that at times people choose to ignore, like the immediate former CEO did. So I just copy pasted the questions, which mainly dealt with growing the registry, stability and resilience.

He gave me one of those answers you give when you want to put people off, like when they bother you too much. Here is the response;

“We are currently in the process of reviewing our Strategic plan. The Strategic Plan review will capture the intended strategies on marketing and price sensitivity challenges which you have raised. The moment the SP document is finalized, we will publish it on our website for all the stake holders to read.
 
I have studied our Technical report on downtime, and seen the latest downtime was in August 2014, after a period of over one year (that is Sept 2013). We are finalizing the process of setting up 3 redundant sites to address any future challenge of the same. This project should be complete in the next 2 weeks.”

Either the guy has no idea. I don’t get how the review of a strategic plan has anything to do with your leadership skills of steering a registry. How will you help that plan if you have no experience in running registry operations? I get it, I am told you don’t need to understand how to run a registry to make it efficient and sustainable; apparently even a farmer can run a ccTLD.

So, who is Abdalla Omari? Here is the CV….

“EDUCATION:

–       M.B.A- Maseno University

–       Bachelors In Management and Leadership- University of Free State, South Africa

–       C.P.A part three

–       Currently pursuing a PhD in Business Management

EXPERINCE:

I have been a General Manager for Avtech Systems Ltd, for around 5 years, before joining KENIC. Avtech Systems Ltd (www.avtechsystems.co.ke), is an ICT based organization which specializes in Electronic Security, Video Conferencing facility set up, Broadcasting Station setup, and audio vision solutions.

During my tenure at Avtech Systems, the organization was among the Top100 finalists competition, for a straight 3 years. KPMG consultants and Nation Media group moderate this competition. In the Top 100 competition of 2012, Avtech System was number one, in the ICT category.

I have also been a Finance Manager for a manufacturing industry called Dimensional Structures Ltd, and a senior accountant for a leading travel organization called, Charleston Travel Limited/fcmtravel (www.fcmtravel.co.ke).

My experienced is wide from Management/leadership, accounting, finance and auditing”

And the story continues…

ICANN to host its regional talkshop in Nairobi next month

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is set to host a talkshop next month. Why do I call it a talkshop? Because ICANN hasn’t held such a meeting to address key issues affecting Africa stake holders, they just dance around issues of Internet Governance.

If you are new to ICANN, you can read more about it here 

Let us first look at some of the issues the conference will be addressing next month. Here is what I got from their comms department.

“We will be hosting a panel on “Sustaining the power of Global Internet for transformative economic growth” based on the findings of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report commissioned by us on sources of e-Friction for the internet economy.  The meeting will focus on two main subject matters:

  • Introduce ICANN to the two business groups invited and display the different avenues for participating in ICANN and possibly IG going forward
  • Highlight the DNS industry as a business and motivate new and potential registrars be seek ICANN accreditation

Present will be a mixture of stakeholders from private business sectors, government officials and media, where avenues of collaboration and participation will be discussed.  Invitations are yet to be sent out. I hope you can make it.  The main speaker will be Chris Mondini, VP Stakeholder Engagement in N. America & Global Business, and will be joined by leading company executives to be announced at a later time. ”

Now, for those who may know Africa’s issues at ICANN, you will know that relegation of African domains is one of the key issues and has been dragging for ages. Redelegation is the process where a country gets back the operations of its country code Top Level Domain, like the way KENIC is in charge of .ke.

So, before we get to issues of Internet Governance, what is the status of redelegations?

“Re delegations have been a concern for close to 10 African countries in the last three years. We did have successful relegation in a few of them so far,  including : Mali, Botswana; Gabon;..Currently pending are Togo, Uganda, Guinea Bissau,Mauritius, Namibia (the worst scenario so far) , Zambia, and Cameroon.Some of the delay is due to incomplete submission of request or an ignorance of the IANA procedures by some requestors.”

So, for years, ICANN has known that countries have a problem or are ignorant on IANA rules, so, why not hold a conference on how to deal with IANA or address some of their problems? Why is it so easy to discuss IGF matters while for years, you can’t deal with relegation or at least pretend to care and hold a panel on how to answer those IANA questions. First, that IANA website can be a maze.

Most of the operational registries are manual

It is no contest that when it comes to tech, Africa adopts last. That is why the domain name business is still lagging behind. That is why you wonder, if most registries are stymied by manual operations, why are they discussing IGF matters, shouldn’t the priority be those ICANN experts to help with this? Yes, countries have a right to help, but if ICANN is to act like it cares about Africa, then let it do a better job at it.

There will be an argument that there is the annual DNS forum and the current training on DNSSEC, if the operations are manual, how does this help? It is like going to talk cyber security and benefits of e-commerce to a community that has no access to computers or the internet, what is priority?

ICANN even has a training scheduled on root zone signing, in a continent struggling with redelegations and manual operations. Here is what they have to say:

“One of the flagship projects in the Africa Strategy is Promoting DNSSEC adoption in Africa and to this effect we have already conducted 8 DNSSEC trainings in 8 countries in Africa, Kenya Included. In FY15, we have budgeted for another 5 countries. So, the DNSSEC Roadshow is about capacity building on the DNS security  which include 1)awareness building at country (cctld) level, 2) Training on DNS security an 3) Country root zone signing.”

L-root copies in Africa

If there is one thing about ICANN that has somehow worked, I think its the L-root copies. Maybe its because they partnered with AFRINIC, or maybe its because the L-root doesn’t require the country to have an IXP, just the telco is enough. I say somehow because if you ask me, most telcos in Africa should have it but again, the legal department at ICANN takes its time.

“As of today we are processing a number of L-Root requests (4) to add to the ones we have in Africa (9) ; Some of the delay depends on the necessary  due diligence to be conducted by  Legal department.”

For a continent where telcos are the major ISPs, the copies should be much more. Root server copies contribute to the resilience of the internet in a country. I will probably get a chance with AFRINIC to understand the actual hold up for these process.

So, do you still think our priorities are in IGF issues? Yes, when it comes to politics between ICANN and the ITU, ICANN will need countries on its side.

But does ICANN seriously have the issues of the continent at heart? Do they understand the priorities? Do we understand what ICANN means with its Africa Strategy?

Can you imagine if the current merry-go round about .africa happened to .EU or .asia? Or any domain that China or Russia have an interest in? Do you think ICANN would hide under their rules the way they are doing now?

Somehow I thought Fadi Chehade would be different as ICANN president, I remember listening to him talk about Africa when he was appointed and I thought, “this guy is too good to be true” years later I am looking at it and thinking, “this guy maybe all about talk, policy papers and nothing practical.”

He still has time to deliver whatever but if you are going to be concerned about Africa, start with the priorities!

//

 

TESPOK now wants to manage KENIC

About a week ago, I received a press release, which I guess was widely circulated. It was from the Telecommunications Service Providers of Kenya, commonly known as TESPOK.  It was sent by the Access Kenya PR machine, maybe because Kris Senanu, Access Kenya MD is the chair of TESPOK.

Since then, a lot has been said and you can read John Walu’s blog in the nation online and if you are new to matters KENIC and domain names in Africa, you can read some posts I have done over the years.

Back to TESPOK, their concern was that the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) soon to be Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) had not consulted them on the idea of commercialising the .ke domain. The release was responding to a story appearing in the papers to that effect.

Kris Senanu, TESPOK Chair

Kris Senanu, TESPOK Chair

Now, TESPOK sits on the KENIC board, the release clearly indicates that it is one of the founding stakeholders and at the height of the crises at KENIC board, TESPOK gladly took over the technical functions at KENIC. It may well be that TESPOK didn’t want the disruption of services for .ke owners but it may also be that TESPOK was comfortable with the status.There was even a proposal for revenue sharing for performance of technical function.

At the point when it emerged that the new law would change the structure of KENIC, I expected TESPOK to be more vocal and to be the leading light, but maybe its just me, maybe they started the debate earlier.

When I got the release, my first reaction was: What changed at the KENIC board? The balance has been altered.

Then I got to the last segment of the release…. boom….

“Unfortunately, over the last five years interference of CCK, now CAK, in the day to day operations of KENIC has seen the organization experience unprecedented turnover of both Board and staff; with 5 CEO changes. The functions of KENIC have continued to be delivered because TESPOK maintained its commitment to the local industry as per the ICANN Agreement to provide technical and logistical support to the .ke manager.  It is important for CCK/CAK to give the .ke ccTLD manager the opportunity to deliver on agreed key deliverables that have not been met in the last five years. Commercialization is not a solution to meeting the identified and agreed industry gaps within the local internet community.

 TESPOK has both the technical and administrative resources necessary to continue as a sole guarantor of the ccTLD if and when CAK pulls out. It has provided such support in the past. This will evidently lead to consolidating the Internet technical community shared resources under one umbrella body; a move very similar to, the consolidation of the various government agencies handling government ICT deployment and implementation under the Kenya ICT Authority. The scenario would then consolidate KENIC (the .ke manager), KIXP (Africa’s fastest growing Internet Exchange Point) and I-CSIRT (Internet Computer Security Incident Response Team) under the TESPOK stewardship.”

 

The last para is where the weight is, TESPOK wants to handle the .ke registry. It is very clear that they have outlined their capacity. Please note, it says TESPOK can continue as the sole guarantor of the ccTLD, (.KE) and not of KENIC.

Technical capacity? But, KIXP was recently moved to the Liquid Telecom data centre, does it mean the KENIC registry will be moved there too?

There is a registrar organisation known as DRAKE that is represented in the KENIC board, are they ok with this? (Aly Hussein used to be the representative, now I have no idea how to get to the new rep, if you know, please help me 🙂

I am told of  battles of supremacy between DRAKE and TESPOK over who is the industry voice and who is king. There are some who think that registries like .ke thrive because of registrars example Nominet in the UK, while others feel the role of ISPs is vital.

It depends on which camp you are because there are arguments that ISPs have shifted from domain and hosting business and left it to smaller players who make it their core business.

There is no doubt that the KENIC story is convoluted and the decision for CCK to leave KENIC board and be replaced by the ICT Authority doesn’t make much sense. It is the same government, CCK and ICTA are brothers or sisters, whatever they want to do they can, let us not kid ourselves.

CCK says it has extended the comments on the new law by a week and when the time comes for the application process, I wonder whether TESPOK will put in a separate bid or will seek to protect KENIC and have it continue with the functions.

Time will tell…….

 

 

Gabon provides .GA domain names for free

My GA registry has opened up registration for .GA domains for free. My GA – the Gabon domain name – is operated by the Agence Nationale des Infrastructures Numériques et des Fréquences (ANINF) who pledges to make this national resource as open and easy to use as any generic Top Level Domain, while carrying the Gabonese identity on the Internet.

This move comes in after Freedom Registry took up operating the TLDs (Top Level Domains) for Mali, Gabon and Central African Republic, mid this year, aiming at creating international interest in them by providing free domains.

“We got a deal with Mali, Gabon and Central Africa Republic and hopefully we can get other countries to sign with us. Our thinking is that we should offer domains free then make money from other services,” Joost Zuurbier said.

Free domain names will be offered to all internet users in Gabon and in other countries with no restrictions to registration and anyone can claim their own .GA domain. The domains work exactly like any other extension and can be renewed each registration period at no charge.

 

“Gabon is working hard to become one of the leading IT hubs in Africa. By giving our .GA domain names for free we want to encourage businesses and individuals in Gabon to develop their web presence and web applications and in turn diversify our economy and promote e-commerce. This strategy is an important part of our country’s vision to develop the Digital Gabon.” said Cyriaque Kouma, DIG Project Manager at ANINF.

 

In accordance with international best practices, Gabon also completed a Sunrise and Landrush period, allowing trademark owners to register their corresponding domain names and protect their intellectual property in the .GA namespace.

READ MORE

African governments raise voice at ICANN

Two days ago, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) revealed which governments had expressed intentions to oppose some of the applied new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and African governments had a good showing, Africa was ranked third, behind Asia Pacific and Europe.

The African Union Commission led 16 African governments in registering their intention to object to some of the applied new gTLDs with the leading objections directed against the .africa application by Dot Connect Africa Trust, which had submitted a rival bid to AUC for .africa. The .africa geographic name was applied by DCA and UniForum SA, trading as ZA Central Registry, which was appointed by the African Union Commission after a request for proposals and tendering process.

ICANN introduced the “early warning” process as a way to allow governments to register their objections to some of the top level domains applied for. Kenya, South Africa, Benin, Gabon, Senegal, Cameroon, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Morocco, Mali, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Comoros sent their letters against DCA.

“DCA’s application constitutes an unwarranted intrusion and interference with the mandate given to the AUC by African Head of States and African Ministers responsible for Communication and Information Technologies. In this regard the AUC has been mandated to establish dotAfrica (.Africa) as a continental Top-Level Domain for use by organisations, businesses and individuals with guidance from African Internet Agencies and in doing so to set up the structures and modalities for the implementation of the dotAfrica (.Africa) project. DCA’s persistent interference in this process is likely to have substantive political, economic and social repercussions in Africa,” said the AUC in the early warning letter submitted to ICANN.

To some people, maybe the sending of the letters mean nothing but for a region that has had issues finding relevance in ICANN, it was great that African governments were there. At least we can say that the level of awareness on internet business is growing. The interesting part was that .africa was not the only new gTLD that was objected to, there were others too. You can read more about it here 

African governments in the Francophone region joined France in objecting to .Sarl, which is used to refer to certain incorporated companies in French, while South Africa objected to .zulu, and Nigeria opposed .delta, applied for by Delta Airlines. The Nigeria case will be interesting because Delta Airlines may have brand and identity claims while Nigeria will claim that Delta is a geographic region.

The deadline for sending letters was November 20 and 240 were received, relating to 200 new gTLD applications, Australian government led the objections with 129, Germany had 20 and France 19 while the Asia Pacific led with 154, Europe had 51 and Africa 30.

At this stage, applicants have a choice to withdraw their applications and receive 80% of the $185,000 fee or take the matter further and fight it out.

Update: Kenic AGM set for Friday 24th Aug. at Panafric

Kenic has set its Annual General Meeting for Friday this week, to rubber stamp the board’s decision to fire all employees and start afresh.

Contrary to past practices where the AGM comprised of registrars, government, internet businesses and basically anyone interested in domain issues, this one will be a closed door session, open only to parties that play nice and don’t ask questions.

The meeting comes after a stormy two months for the .ke country code Top Level Domain registry, where board members have left and a change manager appointed to run the affairs.

Kenic was constituted as a multi-stakeholder body, where all parties concerned with the critical internet infrastructure would have equal say. Maybe the idea of .ke being critical doesnt sink in but can you imagine if KRA.go.ke failed to work for a day because someone deleted it by mistake or deliberately? No filing of returns, clearing and forwarding services and all other services that we enjoy at the click of a mouse.

The Permanent Secretary in the ministry of information and communication, Bitange Ndemo says he was blindsided by Kenic board’s decision to fire all staff but more facts will emerge after the AGM.

I wonder whether there will be security guards to keep other people from attending 🙂

Technical services handed to TESPOK

When the cracks at Kenic started emerging, TESPOK tabled its proposal to run technical services for Kenic. Indeed, immediately Kris Senanu took over as TESPOK representative on the board, his first order of business was to address the proposal. Details are contained in my previous post.

In retrospect, TESPOK must have foreseen that at some point, Kenic will come to such a position and TESPOK expertise will be needed. That is what happened. After the technical staff were let go, they were asked to send passwords to TESPOK, who are now in charge of technical functions at Kenic.

This was expected because its not like any other aspect of tech. That part of the resource is scarce. I am not sure there are many techies who you can call one morning and say, “hey, come in this morning and run the registry, deletions are this time, DNS updates that time,” and the person will hit the ground running. I may be wrong but they may need experience in such settings.

I guess much of the details on who handles the technical functions, whether the open multistakeholder model continues and leadership direction will come out after the AGM.

🙂

 

Kenic CEO fires first salvo at govt, terminates all employees

In a strange move, Sammy Buruchara, change manager, acting CEO (etc) at Kenic, the .ke registry, has issued termination letters to three employees on the payroll, in a move likely to cause friction within the government.

The move comes barely a week after Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary in the ministry of information and communication announced plans to increase government influence at the Kenic board.

Now, the board and the CEO seem to have pulled the rug on Ndemo’s intentions, because if there are no employees, what will the board be doing, therefore nullifying Ndemo’s intention.

To digress a bit, this is not the first time Kenic has defied the PS. Last month, Kenic undertook to sponsor and foot the cost of Kenya IGF under a body constituted by the PS. After the event, Buruchara threw a tantrum and said he can not pay because the Kenya IGF committee formed by the PS had no legal standing. Apparently the agreement was that Kenic would pay suppliers directly but the promise was reneged. The event was held at Jacaranda and one of the organizers, Grace Githaiga, is at a loss, wondering how to pay Ksh. 130,000 as the stand off between the Kenic board and the PS continues.

Anyway, back to the employee termination story, the excuse is that so many of these actions are being taken after the institutional assessment, I have read the document and this is what it says…..

“Based on the findings, the following recommendations were made:

  1. Review the strategic plan to make it SMARTER and include pertinent chapters that were missing; Align the budget, organizational structure and systems to the Strategic plan
  2. Develop a marketing strategy for ease of implementation of the strategic plan.
  3. Review existing policies (Human Resource, Finance, Procurement & Information Technology) in alignment to the laws of Kenya and corporate best practise. Design Business continuity and Risk Management policies and procedures.
  4. Review board charter and align it to the Memorandum and Articles of association and corporate best practise. Review KeNIC’s stakeholders and bring on board, stakeholders who will add value to KeNIC and support it deliver on its mandate.”

Now, I do not understand why the board would terminate all employees, its not like .ke registry is a matatu where you fire a driver in the morning and immediately get another one to replace. How do you get a system admin to run the registry, learn and run its back ups etc.

According to the Institutional Assessment, “the Kenic board reviewed the staff salaries in 2011 and provided increments of 32%,50% and 38% for staff in grade M1,M2 and M3.It is not clear how this increments were arrived at though the Board’s aim was to incentivise the staff to perform in implementing the strategic plan.”

I have read the document and I cannot see the recommendation that all employees should be terminated, how about business continuity? I have written to Buruchara asking for further info on the contingency plan but he hasn’t responded, as soon as he does, I will copy paste the response 🙂

Just to be clear, Kenic has three (3) full time employees and a board of Seven (7) members to oversee the operations 🙂

Here is the Institutional Assessment of the growth in the past nine years…

 .Ke Domain Names Growth

Year Domains Growth % growth
2003 2218
2004 2961 743 33%
2005 3733 772 26%
2006 5625 1892 50%
2007 6600 975 17%
2008 10000 3400 51%
2009 12,200 2200 22%
2010 15300 3100 25%
2011 20061 4761 15%

On a separate note, TESPOK has proposed to take over technical operations at Kenic. Here is the proposal brief on what Kenic and TESPOK responsibilities will be.

KENIC will attend to the following responsibilities:

  1. Act as a trustee for the .ke country-code-top-level-domain
  2. Become the .ke domain administrative contact
  3. Oversee the administration of the .ke ccTLD and its Second Level Domains
  4. Ensure a cost-effective administration of the .ke ccTLD and its subdomains
  5. Notify the Internet Corporation of Names and Numbers (ICANN) of any change to the contact information about the.ke ccTLD
  6. Allow ICANN to access .ke zone files and registration data (up to date development).
  7. Ensure appropriate billing and collections for all domains registered under .ke
  8. Outsource the technical operations of the .KE registry
  9. Conduct periodic audits of the system and financials

TESPOK will be responsible for:

  1. Provide Domain name Registry services for all .ke, and ensure that the database is secure and stable
  2. Maintain and promote the operational stability and use if the .ke ccTLD
  3. Manage system operations, upgrades, implement new features and technologies as well as technical changes to the .ke database as instructed by KENIC at no additional costs to KENIC
  4. Provide the technical back-end solution for .KE DNS, WHOIS, Network Security, Data Escrow and Billing
  5. Provide appropriate skill sets and expertise to handle the .ke technical requirements
  6. Avail all relevant information to facilitate decision making as and when required by KENIC