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!