Recently, ICANN, the organization that controls the highest levels of the Internet naming system, made it possible for groups to apply for new TLDs – new names to the right of the dot – that would join the likes of .com .org .edu. Along with the many commercial entrants were a number of applications that could have real development impact, including .Africa (for which there are competing bids) and .Zulu (applied for by a US firm).
There was also significant controversy surrounding the fact that of the nearly 2000 applications, only 17 were from the African continent.
Who should own .Africa?
Should the new online space be run by a commercial entity or NGO? Is it important that it be run by an African group, and if so, why? And what if any is the appropriate role for international organizations like the African Union or others?
And what about a future community application, like a .Hausa or .Kiswahili? Who should have the rights to operate generic names? Just to make it more murky, Africa.com is owned by Teresa Clarke, an American business woman.
Will .Africa have international development impact?
Regardless of who owns it, can a .Africa accelerate the economic and social advancement of the continent? How will this top-level domain — or new TLDs — increase digital investment or help Africans navigate the wilds of the Internet? Or is it just a handy way to extort domain name registration fees from pan-African companies? Could it be that country level domains, like .ke or .ng already provide for Africans online, or will a .Africa put them out of business?
We’ll have hot coffee and Krispe Kreme donuts for a morning rush, but seating is limited at IREX’s headquarters. So RSVP ASAP to be confirmed for attendance – once we reach our 20-person capacity there will be a waitlist.