Wednesday, June 28, 2006


By Rebecca Wanjiku

Africa’s participation in Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meetings is set to improve following a decision by the organizers to provide scholarships.

“In the 2006/2007 budget, ICANN has factored in provision for scholarships for Africa’s participation,” said Paul Twomey, ICANN president.

Twomey says there has been an increase in Africa’s participation but is quick to note there is need for an increase in numbers of participants.

There has been intense lobbying by Africans participating in the meeting for improvement of the number of participants from Africa. It has been argued that most Africans lack the financial capacity to travel to these meetings.

“It is true that some of our governments have no capacity to finance their officers to these meetings,” said Mouhamet Diop, a former ICANN board member.

Whilst finance may be the case, the continent suffers from its obsession with bureaucracy and red tape. Most governments release their officials if the meeting is by another government and on an official letterhead.

Maimouna Diagne from Senegal adds that some governments wonder what participation in the meetings is likely to yield for the governments.

“A government official is expected to demonstrate the importance of these meetings and at times it’s not easy. The invite is through email and it may not be as official as some governments want,” adds Maimouna.

Apart from the financial support, she says there is need for workshops and trainings to raise awareness about ICANN and its operations in Africa. She feels there is need for Africa to understand the role of the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) in ICANN and how they can participate.

In GAC, governments have a chance to discuss issues affecting them and how they can work together with the private sector. According to Mohamed Tarmizi, GAC chairman, it started being active in 1999 and was seen as a process of moving ICANN to another level.

Tarmizi says that in the meetings, members are encouraged to address pressing issues relating to internet and internet governance within the 110 member countries.

“How do we start discuss who does or does not govern the internet while a country has no broadband connection, has no undersea cable and satellite uplink is not working well. Within our informal networks, we try to encourage governments to work on their priorities,” Tarmizi adds.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


By Rebecca
When the idea of establishing a Regional Internet Registry (RIR), was floated in 1998, pessimists dismissed the idea arguing that Africa is incapable of sustaining the registry while others said that we need to take part in the digital race.

A year after AfriNIC was given full recognition and backing by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization has made major strides towards allocating Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and training.

“We have conducted training in Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria and Kenya. We are hoping to harness the human recourse so that we can have people to offer these services as new technology emerges,” said Adiel Akplogan, AfriNIC chief executive.

AfriNIC was recognized last April at a meeting held in Argentina. Previously, African Internet Service Providers (ISPs) had to work with other RIR in Europe and North America.

But Akplogan admits that technology consumption still poses a major challenge and is not as rosy as it may suggest. For instance out of 15 million IP address, Africa has only used up 6 per cent.

“I believe there is still lack of aware on the availability of such services. Some network operators in the region do not know they can come to AfriNIC and get the allocations,” said Akplogan.

While the slow uptake of uptake of IP address has been blamed on the lack of awareness, it is also argued that the prices charged are still high for a market that is still struggling with issues of accessibility.

Pierre Ouedraogo, from Burkina Faso says that the prices have been reduced to fit the African market given that before AfriNIC prices were dictated by other regions depending on the area of allocation.

“In 1997, I got the first IP address block from Europe; Burkina Faso has not exhausted these numbers. All Africans should believe in our movement, telecommunication agencies, governments and technology experts should engage in outreach activities to ensure as many people as possible are aware of the services,” Ouedraogo said.

There is debate whether Africa should proceed with allocation of IP version 6 or first exhaust the available version 4.

However, Akplogan and Ouedraogo feel that if a country has the ability to roll out IPv6, then it should not be restricted. They contend that it is easier to adapt to the new strategy since some had not even taken up the IPv4.

IPv4 has been in use since internet was discovered and there has been a push for a newer version that would adopt more features. IPv6 has improved functions, compared to version 4.

“It’s the future of the networks, have to follow technology evolution, what people are doing now, there is no need to wait” said Akplogan.

Akplogan admits that after the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) and the ensuing debate on Internet Governance AfriNIC has been forced to be focal point on such issues in the region.

“We need more resources to deal with different issues without neglecting our core business which is allocation of IP addresses,” Akplogan added.


Monday, June 26, 2006


At the tourist city of Marrakech, Internet stakeholders are gathered for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ICANN meeting.

Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jettou graced the ceremony and gave his government’s testimony of how Information Communication Technology ICT can leverage modernization and territorial administration.

“Through internet development, Morocco is well anchored to provide essential services locally and abroad,” Jettou said.

To demonstrate the development, Jettou noted that the country has provided four million employment opportunities compared to a million jobs created online in 2004.

This, he added, has been through concerted efforts between the government and other players of improving access, content and training.

In access and training, the prime minister says the government put aside USD 100 million to equip secondary school students with necessary skills. The project is expected to be rolled out fully by 2008.

“The government is using internet to provide essential services such as information on revenue collection, justice department and overall administration,” added Jettou.

ICANN board chairman Vint Cerf lauded the Moroccan government’s effort saying that the country was at a vantage point to provide services in French and Arabic.

“This meeting is going to discuss how non English languages can be effectively used in the internet. How morocco can effectively provide services beyond its borders using French, Arabic or other languages,” said Cerf

The use of non English language and not Latin alphabets is commonly known as Internationalized Domain Names IDN. The meeting is expected to report on progress in rolling out the project.

The project has been well embraced and championed by the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, French, and Arabs. The rest of indigenous African languages are still in conception stage and there is no clear way forward over financing or the term of the conception.

According to Paul Twomey, ICANN president, the meeting is geared towards open discussions on various issues affecting the industry.

“There will be discussions relating to the ICANN memorandum of understanding with the American department of commerce, which expires in September,” said Twomey.

The meeting is expected to be the theatre of protracted debate between governments and industry specialists on what amount of user information should be available for scrutiny and whether the disclosure may amount to violation of individual rights.

ICANN will hold discussions between government representatives and stakeholders and establish the way forward. Governments argue that the information would help in cases of fraud and other illegal activities while the industry wants freedom for users.

“There will be representatives from Holland, Japan and USA to add flavor to the discussion on the debate,” Cerf concluded.