By Nigel Hickson, Vice President for Europe, ICANN
Over the past couple of years, ICANN has been working with community leaders on various programs tailored to raise awareness on the potential of the domain name industry and foster the development of new domain names related businesses in Africa and the Middle East. ICANN stakeholders in both regions have come together to develop the local expertise in the domain name sector to help facilitate the growth of this industry and strategically position them for business success.
This is one of the strategic areas ICANN has been focusing on. Building capacity is critical for this development, and so last year ICANN signed an agreement with Egypt’s National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA) at the ICANN London Public meeting last June, to establish a Domain Name System Entrepreneurship Center (DNS-EC) for developing the domain name industry in Africa and the Middle East. The DNS-EC aims to develop local capacities and engage interested parties from across both regions in the global domain name industry ecosystem.
Initial investment for the project is from both ICANN and the NTRA; ICANN, through partnerships with business and technical experts, provides the training and mentoring programs, and the NTRA incubates the Center for the first three years hiring a small team for operations.
A three-year project, it kicked off over the past eight months, with six workshops organised in four countries (Egypt, Tunisia, UAE, Qatar) covering business development, policy and technical best practices in the DNS sector. More than 100 participants from over a dozen countries (Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, UAE, Qatar, Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso and Djibouti) attended. Participants’ backgrounds varied from technical, to policy and business development professionals coming from ccTLD registries, registrars, hosting companies, government agencies and academic networks. Several community experts have already contributed to the project by providing the program with material and taking the time to travel and conduct the trainings. The project is already displaying success with some of the trainees of the DNS technical track recently participating as co-trainers in some programs.
Looking ahead, the NTRA is currently in the process of hiring a dedicated program manager to oversee the Center’s activities and develop its business. We will also see the launch of a legal track very soon. The legal track will specifically focus on legal issues pertaining to domains and domain name disputes.
Cognisant of the importance of this project at this time, ICANN will continue to build the network of experts in Africa and the Middle East and seek to capatilise on it where relevant in both regions. Additionally, we will facilitate internship opportunities for members of registries and registrars to work alongside DNS sector experts, in our continuous efforts to build sustainable capacity on the ground in both regions.