ICANN 42 Dakar: Being a part of the registry of human knowledge

"Internet is the most perfect democracy.  Because in front of the computer Senegalese, Japanese, and American, they go to the same speed as the speed of light." President Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal

DCA had a challenging but excting task outlining our vision for DotAfrica during the historic ICANN meeting in Dakar the past week. Dakar inevitably was the capital of the internet in the last week of October and our team was impressed by the great interest in the dotafrica initiative in Senegal.
The meeting in Dakar was opened by Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, a champion of the information society in Senegal and a Pan Africanist who believes Africa should take a more prominent role in policy debates at the high table at ICANN. The president engaged the internet community more deeply on the issues of  DNS security, rights protections, inclusion of the developing world in policy making , the issue of dotafrica and the need for Africa to play a role during this new gTLD application round.

The theme of the speech, you can read it here, was not just one of the standard speeches drafted for heads of states, but a conversation, a dialogue on the stakes in the internet and how Africa can be a part of this "perfect democracy". It was a reflection on Africa's place in this "trillion dollar marketplace". In the president's words, "our continent is not at the heart of strategic operations of the Internet".
President Wade at ICANN meeting in Dakar Opening Ceremony
Warm welcome in the "land of the Teranga"
After a warm reception, in the true fashion of the Senegalese Teranga, we embarked on the task at hand. How do you sell domain names to Africa; not existing domain names, but future domain names? We were in the task of selling a future possibility that will give the African continent a unified identity on the cyberspace. So the first task was putting our vision in a clear language. .africa domain names will be the new ".com for Africa".

The interest was huge, many visitors to the DotConnectAfrica booth were interested in knowing where they can register .africa domains; could we suggest some registrars? How much would they cost? This is where African internet stakeholders and ICANN's new gTLD communication campaign should be focused on. While DCA has done consistent outreach to our community and region on dotafrica and the new gTLD program, there is still a very discernible gap in knowledge and awareness of the new gTLD program in Africa and there is need for more stakeholders in Africa and the diaspora to join us in the "heavy lifting".  There's need for an outreach campaign targeted at the developing world and in a language that we can understand, particularly in Africa. The new gTLD program is still a very "developed world phenomenon". 

Once again, there's fear that Africa might be excluded from a revolutionary change in the internet and the DNS. But having proposed the dotafrica Top Level Domain six years ago, one  of the oldest new gTLD initiatives in this application round, and having campaigned across the continent and seen the enthusiasm of Africa for a continental domain name in Dakar and elsewhere in Africa, at DCA we are 100% certain that Africa will include itself come January next year! It's time for .africa