Internet domain name ‘dotAfrica’ faces hurdles

2014-11-06 12:49 - Gareth van Zyl
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A dispute is holding back the .africa internet domain name with the earliest possible launch only looking likely for mid-2015, almost a year later than initially planned.

This week, South African city internet domain names .capetown, .joburg and .durban were launched to the general public after a four month registration period for trademarks and brand owners ended.

The ZA Central Registry (ZACR) is heading up the SA city internet domain name launches, but it has also technically signed a contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in March this year to roll-out the .africa domain name.

Initially, ZACR expected to begin the .africa launch phase during the middle of this year.

But an independent review panel (IRP) is evaluating an ICANN decision not to award Kenya’s DotConnectAfrica (DCA) with the .africa domain name. DCA was the only other bidder for the .africa internet name.

DCA failed to pass necessary standards that require at least 60% support from African governments, according to ICANN requirements.

"Our contract has been suspended because of this other parallel process," Dundas told Fin24.

"In a nutshell, on the 19 and 20 December there is a trial...a hearing date."

"We're not included: it's between ICANN and DCA,” Dundas told Fin24.

Sophia Bekele, who heads up the DCA bid for .africa, told Fin24 that her organisation’s appeal is not against ZACR being awarded .africa but rather against the process.  

“The delay that .africa has encountered is an unfortunate situation, but for the interest of truth, justice and transparency, it is better for Africans and other stakeholders to be reassured that the global mechanisms of internet governance as represented by ICANN are accountable for the public good and global public interest,” said Bekele.

The dispute is described as an “anomaly” by Dundas.

Dundas further told Fin24 that if ICANN is cleared for not awarding .africa to DCA, then it could only be launched in mid-2015.

Failing this, ZACR could look to legal action, said Dundas.

"We'll have to consider what our rights are," Dundas told Fin24.

The dotAfrica project forms part of the latest generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) names for the internet.

The name change forms part of the biggest shake-up ever in internet domain names, which include the introduction of the likes of .nike and .cocacola.

* Follow @GarethvanZyl  on Twitter. For more tech news, follow Fin24tech @Fin24_Tech.

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