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January 7, 2016 / bswitaba

The Jostle for .africa (dotAfrica) gTLD; The saga and the long march to Africa’s digital presence

ICANN and ZACR sign landmark Registry Agreement

The signing of the landmark Registry Agreement in Singapore (2014).
Photo Credits: dotAfrica

During ICANN 49 meeting in Singapore, a Registry Agreement (RA) between Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) for the delegation and administration of the .africa (dotAfrica) Top Level Domain (TLD) was concluded.
The African continent was elated with the news of this historical signing; for the first time, Africa stood an opportunity to pride herself with a much needed unique identity.
But alas before the toasting could subside, the supremacy battles and sideshows between ZACR and dotAfricaConnect (DCA) erupted again with the latter lodging a complaint alleging unfair treatment of its application.
For over two-years, these two parties had engaged in a prolonged fight to become the official registry operator for .africa (dotAfrica).
In previous years, DCA had made attempts to make applications to be the official registry for .africa (dotAfrica), a move that was rejected by ICANN in June 2013. In the following month (July 2013), ICANN oversaw ZACR’s application pass the initial evaluation of the .africa (dotAfrica) gTLD.
The result of this evaluation was published in ICANN’s initial evaluation report.
On the other hand, DCA connived several techniques to have its application reconsidered by ICANN. In October 2013 for instance, DCA officially requested for an Independent Review Process (IRP) to be carried out by the International Center for Dispute Resolution (ICDR).

Despite signing the Registry Operator agreement with ICANN in 2014, a year down the lane, ZACR have not been able to enforce the contract or finish the Pre Delegation Testing (PDT). This follows DCA’s submission of a “Request for Emergency Arbitrator and Interim Measures Protection”, on 28th March 2014. In it’s request, DCA asserted that it was “entitled to a fair hearing and with a role to provide a meaningful legal redress”.
In it’s response, ICANN requested that DCA’s trust request be refused. This did not however deter DCA who eventually got a lifeline when their request was referred for review and consideration to the ICDR Panel.
The Panel would then rule in favour of DCA when it directed ICANN to refrain from further processing of any application for .africa (dotAfrica), until the Panel had heard the merits of DCA Notice of Independent Review process. This decision dealt a major blow to ZACR while to DCA, it was perceived as a glorious one with DCA CEO and Founder Ms Sophia Bekele hailing it.
Ever since, ZACR and DCA have been embroiled in a bitter tussle and jostle in the quest to have control of the coveted geographic brand.

Prominent Internet Governance pundits have nevertheless had a diatribe into DCA’s application stating that it “lacked merit” and accompanying supporting documentation as stipulated by ICANN’s Applicant’s Guidebook for Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs). ICANN guidelines state that for an applicant to be successful in lodging an application for a gTLD, a minimum of 60% government support is required for it to go through. It is alleged that DCA does not have the required 60% threshold. Technically, this is construed to mean that DCA’s application was “flawed” from the very start and should not have gone through to the evaluation stage.
On its part, ZACR boasts of more than 75% support from Africa governments and is unanimously supported by the African Union (AU).

Why does .africa gTLD matter?

Being a gTLD for the entire African continent, .africa (dotAfrica) has an enormous brand value (estimated to be worth millions of US$), which could be considerably and very profitably enhanced. This may be one of the prime factors as to why it is so hotly contested for by the two parties.
Statistically, there are more than 1000 ICANN accredited Registrars worldwide but only five (5) are based in Africa. According to ZACR, .africa (dotAfrica) thus possess an impressively significant growth and development of a competitive and competent Registrar market in Africa that is bound to directly benefit African ccTLDs, promote enterprise development, as well as increase the accessibility to basic Internet resources and infrastructure to the public.
In terms of content development, .africa (dotAfrica) will be an opportunity to promote African content from developers. Similarly, it is projected that partnering with content providers, social media vendors, governments and NGOs will drive content development and community buy in for the gTLD.
From a marketing perspective, .africa (dotAfrica) will help Identify with the continent, eventually aiding in showcasing brand and commitment to Africa’s growth and development. This will in turn help expand business footprint and influence in the region.

Forward-Looking

Undoubtedly, Africa has been put on another unprecedented long wait to have her unique geographic identity. With the lack of a Modus Operandi between ZACR and DCA, speculations of interesting situations among the concerned parties once the IRP renders its final decision have been rife:
In the eventuality that the IRP rules in favour of ICANN (for that matter ZACR), then DCA’s long resistance may have come to a stretch. However, given the pragmatic aggressiveness DCA is renowned for, and it’s privileged ties with the U.S congress, abiding by the ruling may be a bitter pill to swallow. Rather, it is likely that DCA may instead choose to drag the matter into the corridors of the U.S justice system!
On the other hand, should DCA carry the day, ICANN has a herculean task too – to abide by the ruling, and or head to the U.S judicial system as well to have the IRP ruling overturned.
For ZACR, the scenario is homogeneous in the event DCA is fortuitous in the ruling – the U.S judicial system may be the only option for ZACR to enforce its rights in regard to the signed Registry Agreement with ICANN.

When reached for comment regarding the complexity surrounding .africa (dotAfrica), Mr. Neil Dundas, the Executive Director of ZACR reiterated that the deadline for the Geographic Names Panel (GNP) extension had been set for 28th January 2016. “This is when the GNP must make the final decision on whether DCA’s application has the required government support – If not, the DCA application must be dismissed and the ICANN Board can elect to allow the ZACR application to proceed with the delegation of .africa (dotAfrica)”.
Assuming that this is the best case scenario, then it indeed maybe a sigh of relief, and glimmer of hope that the African continent has been waiting for eons.

As the clock ticks in the meantime, all eyes by the Internet community are set on the 28th to witness events that may unfold – of who will carry the day in the quest to have “Africa in One Space”, and most importantly when the launch of .africa (dotAfrica) will be.
Whether it will be ZACR or DCA that will be triumphant, only time will tell. All in all regardless of the outcome, Africa must prevail.

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The author is an ICANN Fellow, Trainer, Researcher, Consultant in Internet Governance and Policy matters.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here are solely those of the author and should not necessarily be construed to be those of ICANN, IAFRIKAN, any of their organs or agencies nor of any other organisation(s) mentioned or discussed.

The copyright license of this article remains with the author. The translation and publication of this article in other languages is encouraged. For more information, please contact the author.

 

December 19, 2015 / bswitaba

View from Point Noire, Congo: AFRINIC; 10 Years On

20151203_083732.jpg
Photo Credit: Author

AFRINIC, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Africa, held its 23rd Internet meeting in Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo, from 28 November to 4 December 2015, at the Hotel Azur Le Gilbert’s.
Typically, AFRINIC holds two open public policy meetings annually in various locations throughout its service region. The meetings provide a unique opportunity for Internet-related individuals and organisations to gather to discuss the policies governing Internet number resource distribution in the African region, to share technical knowledge, and to attend workshops and tutorials.

The 23rd meeting was hosted by ARPCE, the Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Posts, the Authority responsible for controlling, monitoring and regulating the Posts and Electronic Communications sectors in Congo.
AFRINIC 23 came at a time when AFRINIC was celebrating 10 years since inception.
This meeting was preceded by workshops and tutorials from 28th November to 1st December 2015, followed by plenaries which took place from 2nd to 4th December 2015.
Some of the key intensive and hands on training courses and workshops that attracted participants and AFRINIC fellows alike included IPv6, Internet Number Resource Management (INRM), DNNSSEC, and last but not least Cybersecurity.

Looking Back Forward

Since its founding 10 years ago, AFRINIC’s responsibility has been to oversee the distribution, and management of Internet number resources (IPv4, IPv6 and ASNs), throughout the African, and Indian Ocean region.
The Region’s Internet Registry prides itself in achieving tremendous milestones.
As of 30th November 2015, AFRINIC boasted of over 1200 members in 54 countries,12 of whom are from the Republic of Congo.
In its quest to optimise services offered to it’s members, AFRINIC has a pool of 43 competent full time staff based at the Headquarters in Mauritius, and the Datacenter in South Africa. Heading this resourceful team of personnel is Mr. Allan Barret, the new appointed CEO.

As far as resource allocation is concerned, over 70 Million /32 IPv4 addresses have been issued since 2005. 3.1 Million /32 IPv4 addresses were issued in Q1 2015.
2.74 /8 IPv4 were available as at Q1 of 2015. Additionally, more than 1100 ASN have been issued since 2005, with over 430 Members having IPv6 prefixes. Of these IPv6 prefixes, 51 out of 56 (91%) have been allocated to African countries.
In terms of capacity building, 2014 saw the training of (INRM & IPv6) for 353 engineers and managers during eleven (11) training workshops held in nine (9) different countries.

Another epoch has been that of ISO Certification, where AFRINIC successfully passed through the Surveillance Audit held on 17th and 18th November 2015.

IANA Stewardship Transition

The IANA stewardship transition on the status of ICANN was initiated by the National Telecommunication and Information Administration’s (NTIA’s) announcement in March 2014.

Following this announcement, on 15th January 2015, the Consolidated RIR IANA Stewardship Proposal (CRISP) team submitted AFRINIC community’s proposal to the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG).
This move was geared at ensuring that Africa’s unique needs are taken into consideration.
Due to constraints, the IANA transition phase that was highly anticipated to complete by 30th September 2015 has since been pushed forward to September 2016, with options to extend the contract for up to three additional years if need be.

ICANN Strategic Partnership

AFRINIC has maintained cooperation and a steady relationship with ICANN, the main Internet governance institution whose responsibility is to manage the core Internet infrastructure, which consists of IP addresses, domain names, and root servers.
During the week long intensive meeting, ICANN conducted a session to brief participants and Internet community members of its Africa Strategy (2016-2020).
This captivating session was facilitated by ICANN staff Mr. Yaovi Atohoun and Mr. Bob Ochieng.

 Forging Ahead

AFRINIC-24 will be held in Gaborone, Botswana alongside the Africa Internet Summit (AIS’16), from 4th to 10th June 2016.
This will be yet another chance for Internet stake-holders to discuss the policies governing Internet number resource distribution in the quest to foster Internet development in the region.

 

 

 

November 19, 2015 / bswitaba

View from João Pessoa, Brasil (Part I)

Poeta Ronaldo Cunha Lima

IGF 2015 Venue. Image credits: IGF Brasil

This year, the Internet community celebrates the 10th anniversary of the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The 10th UN IGF meeting is taking place at Centro de Convenções Poeta Ronaldo Cunha Lima, in João Pessoa, Brazil (10-13 November).
The choice of the venue is symbolic; first and foremost João Pessoa, also referred to as the “city where the sun rises first” is the capital of the state of Paraíba and the easternmost city in the Americas.
Secondly, the convention centre was primarily built in Joao Pessoa for the IGF. This is an indicator that Brasil puts Internet governance ecosystem matters at the core and takes high level Internet discussions with the seriousness they deserve.

This year’s theme is titled “Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development”, and is supported by eight sub-themes i.e:

  • Cyber security and trust
  • The Internet economy
  • Inclusiveness and diversity
  • Openness
  • Enhancing multi-stakeholder co-operation
  • The Internet and human rights
  • Critical Internet resources
  • Emerging issues

The 10th IGF can be rightly termed as “the mother of all IGFs”. This is owing it kicks off at a crucial point in time as work is in progress to review the implementation of the WSIS outcomes (WSIS+10). Besides, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is later in the year set to decide on the renewal of the IGF mandate, deliberate the WSIS+10 review and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Similarly, there are number of other hot topics up for discussion namely; the IANA stewardship transition, and the Net Mundial initiative, a multi-stakeholder model initiative initiated by the government of Brasilian 2014.

Being a multi-stakeholder, democratic and transparent forum, the UN IGF is a platform that is expected to provide an enabling environment for discussions among all stakeholders in the Internet governance ecosystem.
A section of the Internet community however remains critical of the IGF as a mere “talk shop” that fails to bring forth meaningful outcomes, with some even attempting to disrupt the meeting’s opening ceremony.

November 10, 2015 / bswitaba

IANA Stewardship Transition Discussions Dominate ICANN 54

Eire BridgeLast week, curtains were drawn on ICANN 54 meeting in Dublin, Ireland.
During this week long meeting, nothing dominated discussions than the IANA stewardship transition proposal.
In recent years, the Internet’s global multi-stakeholder community has agitated for the removal of the U.S government from control of the DNS root control (see my past blog:https://bonfacewitaba.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/evolution-of-internet-governance-unveiling-the-long-journey/ )
This move birthed to the now famous IANA stewardship transition, a hot topic that is literally on everyone’s lips.

The IANA stewardship transition phase on the status of ICANN was initiated by the National Telecommunication and information Administration’s (NTIA’s) announcement in March 2014.
This phase was highly anticipated to complete by 30th September 2015.
However, after factoring in time for public comment, the U.S. government evaluation, and implementation of the proposals, the Internet community projected that it could take at least a year for this process to complete. Technically, this means that netizens will have to wait until September 2016.
Beyond 2016, there are options to extend the contract for up to three additional years if needed.

In Dublin, outgoing ICANN president, and CEO Fadi Chehade emphasised the need to “let go” of the Internet by the U. S government if it were to grow to greater heights. Fadi likened the Internet to a child, stating that the only way to let a child prosper in life, is by giving them that independence when the appropriate time comes so that they can be able explore, and grow.

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The author presenting at ICANN 54, Dublin

In the past, the transition process has faced opposition from a section of the U.S congress.
President Barack Obama has been seen to be a strong supporter of Net Neutrality and the transition process as a whole.
His departure from office and an imminent regime change in the U.S may however just cast a shadow of doubt on the whole IANA process.

As all eyes are set on the U.S presidential elections, perhaps the questions the Internet fraternity maybe asking themselves is: “is there still hope or it’s just another hype as far as the stewardship transition is concerned?”

August 19, 2015 / bswitaba

IPV6 Transition; The Inevitable migration

ipv6-evolution
Image Credits: Telecomblog

In 2011, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) allocated the remaining blocks of IPv4 address space to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). Last month, an important milestone was achieved in relation to this; ARIN, the Regional Internet Registry for Americas (U.S and Canada) announced its exhaustion of IPv4 Addresses.
This announcement implies that ARIN joins Europe’s RIPE, Asia’s APNIC and LACNIC in the attainment of IPv4 exhaustion. While the four Regional Internet Registries seem to be on the move to deploy IPV6, Africa’s AFRINIC remains to be pegged on IPv4 address comatose.

In the last couple of years, the transition to IPv6 has been the prime focus.
IPv6 is the next generation of the Internet Protocol.
For the readers benefit, TCP/IP is the main Internet technical standard and IPs are basically unique numeric addresses that all devices connected to the Internet (PCs, tablets, phones, printers etc) must have.

The depletion of IPv4 was indeed foreseen by the Internet technical community.
Initially, when the Internet Protocol (IP) was developed back in the 1980’s, IP addresses were defined using 32 bit addresses. This IP came to be what we refer to today as IPv4. This IP resource has a capacity of 4.3 b IPv4 addresses, and out of this only 3.7 are usable by ordinary Internet access devices. The others are used for special protocols like IP multi-casting.
Currently, the world has 7 billion people (2.8) of which are connected on the Internet, with about 20 billion devices.
Technically with IPv4, the potential to accommodate the 20 billion devices is out of the question thus the need to transition to IPv6.
IPv6 unveiled

Unlike IPv4, IPv6 Uses 128 bit address space. Additionally, it has 340 undecillion (340 x 10 ^36) addresses. To put this in perspective: consider our galaxy, the Milky Way has estimated 300 billion stars (300 x 10 ^9).
This is to say that there are a trillion trillion trillion IPv6 addresses than stars in our galaxy. Now the earth’s orbit around the sun is big enough to contain 3,262 earths. Ideally, it would take 21,587,961,064,546 earths like ours to use all the IPv6 addresses. IPv6 will be able to cater for present and future expansion of the Internet, an aspect that will spur a thriving environment for the Internet of Things (IoT) – a term referring to the potential to connect to the Internet anything and everything capable of having IP addresses.

How an IPv6 address looks like: (2001:0db8::53)

Projections

Statistics indicate that IPv6 usage has been increasing gradually over the years. Google reports that last year, IPv6 traffic doubled from 2.5% to 5% and is currently 7% and rising. Big telecommunication companies, Internet Service Providers and content providers have been moving to IPv6.
Africa is said to be gradually migrating with a number publicly visible networks using IPv6.
Back home, Telecom giants such as Safaricom have not been left out in the migration race.

The Pros of IPv6

With IPv6, network administrators can easily define the visibility of each IP address based on preference. This allows companies to keep IP addresses public, but still secure when transmitting between private networks.
Additionally, deploying IPv6 infrastructure can also help businesses improve network performance and assure optimal performance within the network architecture.

IPv6 Challenge

Despite being the IP of choice for the next generation of the Internet, IPv6 does not come without challenges.
The main challenge facing its deployment is the lack of backward compatibility between IPv6 and IPv4. This is to say that networks using IPv6 cannot communicate directly to those, still dominant today, using IPv4.
Since it is very likely that networks using IPv4 and IPv6 will coexist in the days to come, it is crucial to ensure that new – IPv6-based networks do not remain isolated. A technical solution is therefore required to involve special tunneling between the two types of networks, something that is likely to cause more complex routing on the Internet.
Given the complexity of the transition to IPv6, it is alleged that developing countries may benefit from the delayed start and the possibility of introducing IPv6-based networks from the beginning.

Apart from the problem of transition, the policy framework for IPv6 distribution will require a proper distribution of IP numbers, demanding the introduction of open and competitive mechanisms to address the needs of end-users in the most optimal way.

Conclusion

As IPv4 addresses continue to become scarcer, IPv6 is the only viable option for the Internet’s present and future resilience.
By returning the Internet to an end-to-end model, IPv6 is expected to unleash new opportunities and endless waves of innovation.

August 19, 2015 / bswitaba

Hilarious Origin of Names of Towns and Locations in Kenya

Hilarious Origin of Names of Towns and Locations in Kenya.

July 20, 2015 / bswitaba

Tanzania; A Model Democracy for Africa?

Tanzania Parliament In Session

Last month, Tanzanian president H.E Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete (JMK as he’s popularly referred to in Tanzania) bade farewell to African leaders at the AU summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In his moving Kiswahili key note speech, Dr. Kikwete pushed for good governance and rule of law in the quest to help end conflicts that are a major deterrent to development in Africa.
“I am retiring to join my fellow Tanzanians to build our nation … I am leaving as a person but Tanzania, which you are used to is here to stay,” he said.
Dr. Kikwete has served his two terms in office and technically, the constitution bars him from vying for office due to the set two term limits.
His exit comes in the backdrop of a political turmoil in neighbouring Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunzinza has angled to remove presidential term limits so that he may vie for a third term.

The West has always hailed Tanzania as a “model democracy for  Africa” alongside the likes of Ghana and Botswana.
While most neighbouring states have gone through violent conflicts, Tanzania has managed to implement extensive reforms without armed political conflicts in its 54 years of Independence.
This year’s quinquennial elections will be held in October as per the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
Works Minister John Magufuli has clinched CCM’s presidential ticket after elbowing a record 38 aspirants in the process.
On the other hand, the opposition among them economist and perennial candidate professor Ibrahim Lipumba seem to be working  towards an alliance, Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi otherwise known as (Ukawa).
All eyes are now set on the opposition to see who their flag bear to wrestle Mr. Magufuli will be.

Reality Check

So is Tanzania really a model democracy as claimed or it’s just a case of a “darling of the West”?
To answer this, the question we need to pose is what makes an ideal democracy?
It is no rocket science that an ideal democracy is one that adheres to democratic principles such as respect to government and the rule of law, respect to dissenting political ideologies, inclusion of the opposition and civil societies in matters of national interest such as constitution making, accountability to the citizenry, and last but not least, setting a level playing field for free and fair elections.

In order to understand if Tanzania is anywhere close to achieving these, let’s have a critical step by step analysis of the status quo:
The fact that President Kikwete is leaving office means he’s indeed heeding to the set terms limits. That’s a big score considering in Africa, some presidents have scrapped term limits to declare themselves eternal rulers.
Tanzania should be hailed for having a smooth transition from one president to another. This virtue was instilled by the nation’s founding father the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who voluntarily retired in 1985 despite there being no term limits for presidents then–something seldom heard of in motherland Africa-Mandela would be the only other Africa president to quit the presidency after just one term even though he still had another at his disposal.

Respect to dissenting political ideologies, inclusion of the opposition and civil societies in matters concerning national interest, is however an area where Tanzania has scored miserably. More so, the constitution making process has almost single handedly been manipulated by the ruling party attracting criticism from the opposition that CCM is nothing but a “dalali” (Swahili for broker”).
A section of CCM sympathizers have often equivocally responded to this by terming the opposition as being nothing but “chinga” (Swahili for hawker”), desperate to sell anything and everything to attract the electorate.
Violent disruption of opposition rallies by the police and state machineries in Tanzania is nothing new. The notorious military youth wing of CCM has from time to time attacked opposition supporters in regions perceived to be opposition strongholds under the watch of the government; from CHADEMA’s stronghold in Arusha region, to CUF’s political tuff in Zanzibar.
This party militia is renowned for election violence and intimidation of those with dissenting political views.

On the other hand, the civil society is hardly as vibrant as it would be in ideal democracies-the ruling party has connived to develop sophisticated mechanisms to muzzle this fundamental constituency and the media.
Similarly, transparency and accountability has remained a fleeting illusion to be pursued.
The perpetrators of the Escrow scandal for instance are still scot free.  This 2014 multi-million dollar corruption scandal saw over 400 million U.S dollars transferred from the Bank of Tanzania, the country’s central bank, and distributed illegally among government officials.
The opposition’s vehement outcry on this biggest scandal in Tanzania’s history was simply wished away, with the government deliberately choosing to look the other way until international donors froze 558 million dollars in funding.
This move startled the government prompting the president to make a swift action and sack the top ministers implicated in the quest to acquire this vital foreign aid.

As the race to clinch the nation’s top seat starts shaping up, the other challenge is whether the elections will be free and fair. The electoral body, NEC is the most critical institution in helping CCM suppress the opposition.
This CCM’s side-kick guarantees an overwhelming CCM majority in parliament through questionable election formulae that seem to a lot the ruling party more than its proportional share of seats.
On the other hand, CCM employs dirty tricks, through legal and illegal procedures to ensure total disenfranchisement of those not in agreement with their views.

Final analysis

The West seems to present a skewed picture about Tanzania for reasons best known to themselves.
Perhaps they should be reminded to read Penelope Dyan’s satirical book “If You Put Lipstick on a Pig-You Will Have A Beautiful Pig”.
In the publication “Democratization in Africa: Progress and Retreat” (Tanzania’s missing Opposition), Barak Hoffman, and Lindsay Robinson note “Tanzania today is not a democracy, but a one-party hegemonic regime under CCM rule”.
If the founding father Mwalimu Nyerere were to make an advent today, would he be proud or utterly dismayed at the state of events in his beloved country? Your guess is as good as mine.