Africa.com selling domains at $20 to registrars

Are you a registrar or domain reseller who is tired of selling affordable domains from .com .net .org etc? Well, brace yourself because you can sell third level domains at an even higher cost.

Africa.com is a company incorporated in the US or EU but if you like, you can get a litany of the African countries the company wants to set up in. It will be selling domains to registrars ar $20 that means that the registrar can only sell it more expensively, depending on services.

Why would I pay more than $20 for wanjiku.africa.com when I can get a more direct domain?  The company is sponsoring ICANN meeting in South Africa so it must be well funded.

Personally I think its a rip off. The cost should be way lower. We are trying to make it lower and competitive, not exploit.

The company is getting registry services from CentralNIC, so its not like it has set up somewhere on the continent and is offering jobs.

Yes, you can offer services from anywhere but a third level at that cost?

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South Africa Government Snubs ICANN

South Africa is a very nice country; nice people, nice food, nice places, growing economy and most of all, the most developed in Africa, well that can be argued, but you get the drift.

The best part about this is that most South Africans know it and think they are better than the rest of Africa. Well, we can argue about that until the cows come home. The government is also aware of this and they don’t agree to be bossed around.

That is probably why the government hierarchy ignored the opening ceremony of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Ordinarily in Africa, when there is a big meeting in the country, you know the kind that brings together 1800 people drawn from all over, the government is involved.

This is Africa, and we like political blessings. When ICANN came to Kenya, the Vice President was there with the other political people that fall under the vice presidency.

The last time ICANN held its meeting in Cape Town in 2004, the top brass, led by the then minister, was there.

Dot Joburg

So, what changed? 

The Department of Communication said that the right protocol was not followed and the government was not involved during the bidding process for Durban to be the host city.

For every meeting, ICANN spends more than $2 million and that is before the delegates spend on their food, safaris and those other night activities.

For a country that has a majority of the new Generic Top Level Domains, South Africa feels nothing 🙂 South Africa is leading in the application for .africa, .durban, .capetown .supersport etc

So, why wouldn’t the minister make an exception and just come? Well, there are rules and they must be followed.

Its not a must for politicians to be involved, but can you imagine in Costa Rica, the president was there to open the session.

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Google supports Africa interconnection efforts

Google has partnered with the Internet Society to develop and improve Internet Exchange Point (IXP) activities in emerging markets.

Google, through its philanthropic arm- Google.org – has provided a grant that is expected to amplify ISOC’sprevious efforts in emerging markets such as Africa and establish a methodology to assess IXPs, train people to operate the IXPs, as well as build a more robust local Internet infrastructure.

“With this support to extend IXP development and improve projects, the internet society can bring core Internet infrastructure to underserved countries and assist in building key human and governance capabilities; this will also help the Internet Society achieve its mission to ensure the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of people everywhere,” said Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO of the Internet Society.

In the last few year, Google has been active in Africa, helping in setting up content generation projects, Internet connectivity and set up of Google cache server at ISPs in Africa. Google has also been supporting the Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum, an annul meeting of ISPs, network, content providers and governments interested in lowering connectivity costs in Africa and removing interconnection barriers between countries. The forum is organized by ISOC. 

“The Internet Society has proved to be one of the most effective institutions in the Internet community. I am confident that they will apply their grant wisely to extend their work to increase Internet access for everyone, including those in emerging markets,” said Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.

IXPs allow ISPs and other network operators to exchange traffic locally at cost effective rates. This helps lower end-user costs, speed-up transmissions, increase Internet performance, and decrease international Internet connectivity costs.  Google.org, is a team within Google inc focused on social impact, develops and supports technology solutions that can address global challenges, such as expanding Internet access to the seven billion people in the world.

The Internet Society is already working on another project with the African Union, to establish IXPs where none exist.

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Govts at ITU meeting labor to show consensus

Have you ever wondered why UN meetings and other government related international meetings take two weeks? Well, you are not alone, consider these scenarios:

1. Have 1,000 people editing a document

2. Have political rivals try to agree on words such as human rights, the meanings and implications

3. Have economically powerful countries have one voice, less powerful countries have another view and vote, while make it look democratic and “consensual”

4. Have one government that has invested in the resource, controls it, and on the other hand governments seeking to have some power.

5. Have every tech related word scrutinized think internet, broadband, infrastructure, technical, etc on the other hand, words like shall, may, endeavour, provide the environment etc provide new meaning when at a UN treaty related meeting.

Now, you can imagine the level of politicking and horse trading or cow trading, depending on where you come from.

Back to more technical issues.

There was a flurry of articles just before the beginning of this month, with various countries like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt etc saying that the internet needs to be regulated and included in the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) treaty. In other words, governments are looking for a role to play in the internet business.

The US is on the other side. With the role of ICANN falling under the department of commerce, the US is lobbying hard to keep governments or UN agencies off the internet, arguing that it should be left to other agencies (read ICANN) that make it work so well.

Other governments are wondering why the US is so adamant to lock them out, while it has control of the internet, including awarding of the IANA contract. They are involved, why dont they want other governments to have an element of control?

Well, if governments are allowed to make decisions on critical infrastructure, I wonder how long it would take for them to agree on DNSSEC, cybersecurity, numbering, etc.

By end of day friday, it will be known where it is headed but my guess is that this will be a huge deadlock, if the Arab group’s body language is anything to go by, compromise is far off……

Going forward, its consensus through exhaustion, deliberate till 2 am, by 3am, they will all agree. The Iranian rep summed it up very well 🙂 Consensus through exhaustion.

 

More coming up on specific clauses.

MTN files a complaint of misconduct against a Chief Magistrate

MTN Uganda has lodged a formal complaint with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in Uganda against the Chief Magistrate of the Buganda Road Magistrates Court, Sylvia Nabagala in a statement issued by MTN Group Corporate Affairs.

MTN Uganda expressed grave concern about the magistrate’s professional misconduct, in her contradictory rulings and disregard of due process.

The complaint notes that the magistrate issued summons for the Directors and Executives of MTN to take a plea, yet the court record has no formal charges and the said summons were not reflected in the court record. It is further noted that the summons are dated 7th November 2012, a day after the same magistrate had transferred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the allegations.

Sources from Reuters reported that MTN Group CEO Sifiso Dabengwa and 12 officials, including the chairman and CEO of MTN’s Ugandan unit, were ordered to appear in court on December 12, where they will face charges of tax evasion, conspiracy to make false customs declarations and conspiracy to evade taxes, according to a November 7 summons issued by the Buganda Road Court.

International media had widely published articles reporting that summons had been issued against MTN Group CEO and directors to appear in court. MTN states that it was not aware of the issuance of the said summons and when their legal counsel checked with the court following the press articles, they learnt that the summons had been strangely extracted from Magistrate Nabagala by private lawyers who had earlier been ordered to hand over the matter to the DPP.

According to the complaint to the JSC, MTN lawyers, together with the Resident State Attorney, immediately sought audience with Magistrate Nabagala who confirmed the issuance of the summons. A perusal of the summons shows that, although the order to issue them was made on the 19th November 2012, they were dated 7th November 2012.

There was no charge sheet on the record or a record of proceedings before her between 6th November, when she pronounced her ruling in an open court with counsel for all parties present, and 19th November, when the order was supposedly issued.

“For the Magistrate to have allowed that obviously ill-intentioned private person to obtain criminals summons in the manner she did, thus affording him the opportunity to have the same published to the world, knowing the negative consequences that portray, demonstrates gross recklessness and absolute indifference against our client.”, the complaint states.

Reuters reports that MTN Uganda had previously denied the charges, saying they were initiated by a former employee sacked on allegations of theft. The alleged complainant, Mr. Naphtal Were, was already facing charges of defrauding MTN Uganda, USD5m as well as attempted fraud of UShs. 600 million from MTN Uganda and in the process of searching his home, the police found stolen MTN property-11 solar power inverters, with an estimated value of UShs. 140 million.

A statement  released by the MTN Uganda CEO Mazen Mroué on November 7th about alleged tax evasion case, noted that:

“Through his lawyers Naphtal Were initiated a private prosecution against the Senior Management and Directors of the MTN Uganda Board and applied to court to issue a warrant of arrest. It should be noted that the private prosecution initiated by Naphtal Were was brought against the MTN Global Chief Executive and the Board, who are not resident in Uganda, for allegedly making false declarations to the Ugandan Revenue Authority (URA) . Also, the case was brought against MTN Uganda’s (nonexecutive) Chairman, and three senior executives none of whom deals with customs declarations to URA. Customs declarations are made by clearing agents, and not by the MTN Global Chief Executive or the MTN Board, who reside abroad, or by the MTN Uganda Chairman or senior executives, as this is a function of clearing agents which are independent companies.

The statement released by the Group’s Corporate Affairs warns that: “Without prejudice to the above statement and clarifications, MTN reserves its rights to prosecute any third party who will commit further defamation, or propagate false information to the detriment of MTN Uganda and the MTN Group as a whole”

South Africa leads internet landrush, other countries spectate

About four years ago, a friend was promised to be the editor of a property magazine in one of the daily newspapers. As a good journalist, he told me about it, seeking ideas and also possible articles.

After the discussions and drinks, I suggested to the guy that there is a new kind of property in town and that he should feature it in the magazine. He was very eager to know 🙂

With a lot of exuberance, I explained that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was discussing the third wave of the new generic Top Level Domains and that the internet was the new real estate. You can imagine the journalist’s face as he wondered what I was talking about. To him, when he said property, he meant brick and mortar, not the complicated stuff I was talking about 🙂

On wednesday, ICANN revealed that hundreds of companies had applied to run 1,930 new gTLDs and the frenzy and expectation that was online, led by ICANN followers and registry operators proved that this was the new land rush.

Check out a nice infographic

Africa had 17 applications and apart from Gambia and Egypt, South African companies led, with the first cities to apply- Durban, Cape Town and Joburg and Naspers, the multimedia giant with almost all its major brands- Naspers, DSTv, Multichoice, and Mnet among others.

So, as the journalist would ask, why should we care, after all, our investments are in land, houses and other tangible things.

Online real estate

One of the complaints that major brands had was that the new gTLD prog was going to force them to spend more to protect their brands. For instance, Verizon Wireless in the US spends more than $1 million buying domains in all the strings you can think of.

Another example is .tk for the tiny Island of Tokelau, off New Zealand, it provides free domains but for the premium domains such as google.tk, the company pays $5000 per domain, why? because these are rich companies 🙂

Anyway, select 100 top companies and ask them to pay $5000 and they have to because it is in their interest, and you get $500,000 per year, that is not bad. By the way, .tk has the highest number of domains among countries, commonly known as country code Top Level Domains.

Well, maybe the two points dont make sense, think of .tv for the Island of Tuvalu; how many domains have you seen that end with .tv? Of course it is a premium domain but that domain provides a large chunk of the Island’s GDP.

So, if you run that registry well, you can open sales internationally and locally and if you capitalize on numbers, you may make your money. Problem? Its capital intensive.

Protecting your brand

What would happen if Naspers had decided to ignore .naspers, and a competitor snaps it up? If they get it, the company will spend money in legal battles.

It could even be malicious characters who would make it a porn site or a site to discredit the products, depending on their experiences.

I hope you all recall the character who had set up KRA and Safaricom look alike websites and was posting all manner and sorts of nasty stuff. I wondered why the two hadn’t bought off the two domains, but again, African organizations are yet to appreciate online brand management, they just run to the registry and the ministry and before you know it, the two domains are knocked down, thats what happened.

There are some companies not concerned with registry operations, they will just keep the domain and keep off others. Other companies like Coke and Pepsi dint apply.

Localized services

If you are in a business that only targets Joburg, they it maybe easier to have a domain in that locality. This may also help in terms of search. Think of the many times you wished you get search on all the stuff that is in Nairobi.

For many, one domain is enough but there are others like those running phishing scams, domain packing, and advertising and the more the acres, the better the playing ground.

Registry services

There are domain registries that run more than five domains, especially back end services. In many cases this time round, registry services are provided by registry services companies, meaning that you dont have to start a new registry from scratch.

So, are other countries right in staying put and watching Europe and North American companies fight it out? In our case, are South African companies right?

@wanjiku

News from ICANN

ICANN constituencies meeting

Day two at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is all about constituencies meeting. It is the day that the country code Name Supporting Organization (ccNSO) members meet the board, and also start their daily meetings; ccNSO supports country Top Level Domains like .za, .ke, .ug, .tz, .mw, .na etc.

Other constituents of ICANN also get to meet the board but the highlight of the day was board meeting with the Governments and given the control issues between the two parties, meetings are always interesting to attend.

Here are some highlights….

Domain take down likely to continue

The issue of domain seizures has been in the news with the takedown of file sharing site Megaupload and the revelation that any domain registered with a US registry is expected to follow US laws.

During an open session between the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) and the ICANN board, it was confirmed that ICANN will enforce its contracts with registrars more effectively in oder to meet expectations from governments and law enforcement authorities. The expectations were contained in a 12- page document submitted by the GAC, which also includes   representatives from national law enforcement as well as interpol.

The enforcement will cover all the 22 registries accredited by ICANN whether they are American corporations or not. ICANN also confirmed that it will enforce its contracts with registrars to ensure more compliance and de-accreditation incase they flout the rules. ICANN has accredited more than 1000 registrars but a third have had their contracts terminated.

Commonwealth Cybersecurity Forum to support member countries

The Commonwealth Cybersecurity Forum will support member  countries’ cybersecurity efforts through training and technical support.

At a forum held at the sidelines of the ongoing ICANN meeting, the Commonwealth pledged to support member efforts through training and coordination of support efforts between members. ICANN also offered to support members with domain name system training and other needs that may arise.

ICANN At-Large Committee apologizes to Senegal

During the meeting between members of At Large Committee and the GAC, Senegal raised an issue with a letter of complaint that was written after the meeting in Senegal last October. The letter raised issues with the hotel the members stayed in, poking holes at efforts made by the government to ensure comfortable stay in Dakar.

Maye Diop, the Director of ICT at the Senegalese ministry of ICT said the issue of hotel choice had nothing to do with the government and it was unfair for the At-Large Committee (ALAC) to criticize the government and the local organizing committee.

Olivier Crépin-Leblond, ALAC representative apologized to Senegal government and admitted that mistakes were made, and that the letter should not have been sent.

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ICANN starts to make sense in Africa

In December 2004, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers held its first meeting in Africa. It came from the call for ICANN to demonstrate that it was international enough, and what better way than to rotate the meetings geographically.

At that point, many African countries did not understand the role of ICANN and saw it as an extension of the US government hell bent on ruling and controlling global internet. Yes, ICANN is highly technical and even now, not many people understand what its role is and the interplay with private and public sector. By the way, if you have no clue, please read this post and these older ones.

After 2004, ICANN continued working with AfriNIC, AfNOG and AfTLD, supporting training e.g on switching, IPv6, running ISPs, Internet Exchange Points etc.

You see, some of the problems we have on internet infrastructure have nothing to do with investment, its the people. Why buy a big capacity yet the equipment you have can only support half? In some cases, its not utilized to capacity. So, training tech stuff is better for the available resources.

Of course, only techies can get to appreciate the value of optimization at the ISP or IXP level, because it would make a difference in terms of spending but for some of us, we could care less for ICANN.

So, for the women and men who have benefitted from training on switching, IPv6, IXP and root servers, I am sure there is a difference between now and seven years ago. I have heard stories of how people met at ICANN meeting and got to exchange ideas on how different IXPs can support and work together. For instance, Malawi IXP is now collaborating with Milan IXP and the synergy will benefit Malawi.

However, if you send the wrong person to a technical meeting, they will get bored, go shopping, doze around and will not get to take advantage of some of the opportunities, both in the meeting halls and in the corridors. Like someone told me sometimes back that ICANN is like a travel club, I laughed because to some extent its true but again, people attend to represent their interests and if you have no interest, then its not your place.

Africa has several thorny issues like the problem of our country code Top Level Domain (ccTLDs) most of them are a mess, and even Rwanda, which is hailed as a tech hub and a model of development, can not sort it out. Ever wondered why Rwandese president Paul Kagame uses a .com?

I have always wondered why his website is not paulkagame.rw? Imagine the kind of mileage the president would give to the administrators of .rw if he changes his website to .rw? Domains are like flags online, they give other people your identity; if you are proud you will fly it. If people dont know, they will ask, like we do with flags, and in the process you market your country (its not like am very patriotic but it helps).

Before someone says that .com or other generics are cheap, well available, better, etc..  you can read previous posts I have done on African domains, though it seems like I have something against .ke because I have written so much about it.

ICANN is the body tasked with redelegation of African domains and for the likes of .rw, .cd for Congo DRC, the process has taken longer. There is a process in identifying the technical and admin contacts and putting the infrastructure in place to make sure that if the domain registry is handed over, no one will be switched off or left in the dark. But for many government representatives who feel frustrated about the process, they dont have nice things to say about ICANN and some for better reasons.

Last week, Senegal got a copy of the L-root server, becoming the first country in west Africa to get it. This improves the security and resilience of DNS and  helps in case of a DDoS attack. You can still read about it here.

My assessment is that ICANN is having an impact in Africa; though  its in collaboration with the regional bodies, it didn’t happen over night and seems the best is yet to come.

What do you think?

 

 

Today is World IPv6 day

In January, it was announced that the first generation of internet addresses, commonly known as Internet Protocol version 4 was depleted. Globally, organizations can only use the new generation- IP version 6. But in Africa, we still had a block of IPv4 remaining and will continue using until its fully depleted and I wrote an article to that effect.

The next big news has been in the lead-up to today- World IPv6 day. Today, major content providers like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Akamai and hardware manufacturers will offer IPv6 only services and test how the internet infrastructure will behave for the next 24 hours. In Africa, this test flight will be led mainly by mobile services providers who by default have become major content carriers. You can read more about it here.

While the internet will not be interrupted for many running on IPv4, am sure we are all wondering whats the fuss is all about if there will be no effects. You can read 10 things to know about IPv6 here.

Yes, Safaricom and MTN Business say that their core network is IPv6 ready, but is it available to end users? You can test if you are on IPv6 or not by clicking here.

The expectation was that Africa would take up IPv6 faster than it has and the main question is why it hasn’t. My observation is that we wait until last minute, until there will be no v4 or until transit carriers say that it all has to be on v6. Its more like the way most of us have no routine of organizing routine maintenance of our health until there is a scare and we have to do it. Maybe its the same, until its said that until all is v6 ready, nothing will happen, Africa may not implement.

There has been many arguments on why IPv6 is great but one thing it might do is raise the connectivity visibility because every gadget will have its address; from your smart fridge, TV, mobile etc..

Want to know how many African organizations are running IPv6? Here is the list.