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A DotAfrica generation soon to be born

Internet users in Africa will soon have as much as 21 internet domain names, including ".africa" to choose from.  This follows a decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board to expand the generic top-level domain space which comprises now of only 4 names, namely ".com," ".org," ".net" and ".biz".

The top-level domain registry ".africa" will be operated by DotConnectAfrica, a non-profit organisation with help from sponsor organisations and business people.

DotConnectAfrica’s executive director, Sophia Bekele, said the project is expected to boost regional integration and benefit the business community.

"Ultimately, we hope that the ".africa" domain will brand Africa and encourage increased participation on the Internet," said Ms Bekele.

The project is expected to be operational by next year. The profits derived from it will be reinvested in socio-technological advancement projects that could be beneficial to the continent.

“With over 900 million Africans, including stakeholders in government, private sector and NGOs operating in the continent, the potential for economic development is enormous," said Ms Bekele, who is also a former elected advisor to Icann.

However, adopting '.africa' as domain name could prove tricky because many still prefer to use the more generic ".net" and ".com" domains for their online identity. But the prohibitive cost of acquiring and maintaining these popular domains may encourage African Internet users to switch. Kenya's ".ke", for example, has already registered 15,000 users to date.

To tackle the cost issue, DotConnectAfrica is considering having second level names to make it affordable for individuals, charge more for corporations and have an exclusive section for government and related identities. Another strategy is to promote an African identity by working with respective country codes' top-level domain registries such as ".ke," ".ug" or ".tz."

The ".africa" initiative have been endorsed by the African Union heads of state but also the Council of African ICT ministers. They all acknowledged its benefits to the continent.

Source: All Africa