As Executive Director of DotConnectAfrica (DCA) and spearhead of the Yes2DotAfrica Campaign, it gives me great pleasure to send this end of year message at Christmas to our entire Pan-African constituency and global community of global supporters and well-wishers all over the world.
2011 was indeed a very interesting and unforgettable year. It had its share of natural disasters, environmental pollution, humanitarian emergencies, civil strife, armed conflict, economic crises, and some positive developments too.
For Africa, 2011 started with civil strife and revolution in North Africa that saw the overthrow of three Heads of States in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Political turmoil and armed conflict has resulted in societies in transition as the old order of dictatorship has given way to a promising democratic future.
Internet-based social media has been credited as an enabling tool in this process of social change as protestors took advantage of Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and other social networks on the Internet to mobilize themselves, report on the revolution and communicate with a global audience.
Japan witnessed a devastating earthquake and Tsunami which also caused severe damages to the Fukushima nuclear plant thereby causing radiation leakage and contamination.
Europe witnessed a deterioration of its sovereign debt problem and further crises in the Euro-zone as several countries sought to be bailed out of the financial and economic mess they found themselves. The credit rating of many countries had to be downgraded.
The need for greater financial accountability in an increasingly globalized world where ordinary people now have a stronger voice (in this age of social media) to express their grievances has spurned various protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street, Occupy London and Occupy Frankfurt.
Economic anxieties and debt have caused demonstrators to take to the streets to express their frustrations and ask for more accountability on the part of international and high-street banks which most people blame for their economic woes.These have had such a great resounding impact on a global scale that Time Magazine named the Protester as its 2011 Person of the Year.
Africa with its ‘usual problems’ seemed to be the most stable place in the world during 2011.
For those of us concerned with global Internet governance, June brought with it, the great news of the ICANN Board’s approval at Singapore of the expansion of the Internet through the adoption of a comprehensive programme to radically transform the Internet Domain Name system (DNS) and introduce new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), thus paving the way for the introduction and use of new names strings beyond the current ubiquitous DotCom, DotNet, DotEdu, DotInt, and other two-code country-level codes such as DotET, DotKe, DotZa, DotUK, DotFr, to mention but a few.
DCA was at Singapore to lend its strong support to ICANN and use the same opportunity to further promote the Yes2DotAfrica campaign and launch the Miss.Africa programme for female youth digital self-awareness empowerment. Following the approval of the new gTLD programme at Singapore, the next challenge was how to promote it to the wider global public.
From Singapore in South East Asia, DotConnectAfrica took its promotional message to Germany in Europe where it joined ICANN leaders and other global players to participate in the Munich Conference on New gTLDs organized by United Domains, and used the platform to share its experience on how to successfully ‘build a community around your TLD’. DCA’s presentation was well-received in Germany and helped to enrich the debate even as many were edified.
Next was Dakar, the capital of Senegal in Africa which hosted the 42nd ICANN International Meeting. At Dakar, DCA continued to show its strong support and faith in the ICANN-led process and was a silver-level sponsor of the ICANN International Gathering. DCA organized a superb dotafrica exhibition that was visited by the President and Head of State of the Republic of Senegal, H.E. Monsieur Abdoulaye Wade and other important governmental dignitaries including H.E Monsieur Moustapha Guirassy, Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology of the Republic of Senegal. Dakar presented DCA an opportunity to establish strong links and outreach to its growing Francophone constituency.
Major arguments during the year focused mainly on the sustainability of the multi-stakeholder model, the role of governments, and whether a new Internet governance architecture should be introduced to replace the current system. Against the backdrop that there are many people who have wrongly advocated for the restriction of the role of the private sector in Internet Governance, and see political sovereignty and Internet governance as one and the same, DCA believes that the present system should be maintained and consolidated and that more support should be given to ICANN to ensure a stable and secure global Internet that gives everyone a voice in its governance. ICANN should be allowed to deliver the new gTLD programme successfully without any interference from those who think the programme should be delayed or scrapped altogether.
DCA on its part continued to lead and shape the debate regarding DotAfrica, and through the leadership that it has shown in promoting and campaigning for the initiative globally, to consolidate its position as a leading front-runner to apply for the DotAfrica gTLD and win the mandate for the DotAfrica registry from ICANN.
During 2011 DCA made a strong case before ICANN leaders and executives, and successfully fought off an unwelcome plan to include DotAfrica in the List of Top-Level Reserved Names in order to make the string (and similar names in other languages) unavailable for any other applicant besides the African Union that sought special legislative protection regarding DotAfrica for its sole benefit. This would have frustrated the plans of genuine DotAfrica applicants such as DCA, and also the vision shared by many who want an inclusive and participatory DotAfrica serving the diverse needs and interests expected of a geographical Top-Level Domain and not something circumscribed for the benefit of a narrowly-defined Community.
DCA wishes to reiterate its belief that the mandate for DotAfrica should only be obtained through the globally-accepted ICANN new gTLD programme, and not through any separate process that would allow for the negotiation and delegation of DotAfrica outside the auspices and transparent oversight of the ICANN programme that enables any genuine prospective applicant to bid competitively.
In preparation for the new applications round that commences in early January 2012, DCA concluded an important Memorandum of Understanding with its international registry partner, and finalized arrangements for the hosting of a high-speed computer network with modern servers to support the registry infrastructure for DotAfrica. DCA therefore intends to make significant financial and corporate investments in order to establish an African-based registry to host the DotAfrica gTLD located on the ground in Africa for the benefit of Africans. This will assist in terms of employment generation and technology transfer, utilization and building of capacity and technical acumen, and retention of scarce foreign exchange within the continent.
As we take stock of the major highlights of our activities during 2011, overall, we are pleased with the accomplishments of the Yes2DotAfrica Campaign.
We are thankful to all our supporters – for the hope they have provided to enable us sustain our global promotional efforts, their constant encouragement and the strength we drew from that, even as we underscore the need for their continuous support in this last mile of our long journey, for the realization of the DotAfrica vision.
We ask that you continue to pray for DCA, DotAfrica and Africa during this Christmas period and beyond.
Once again, we wish you the very best compliments of the season.
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