Never have we heard of a meeting which focused on DNS issues nor a workshop to tackle issues on DNS for so many years in Zimbabwe. Hearing of such makes one wonder what suddenly happened to our Zimbabwean DNS industry that we now think of holding a DNS entrepreneurship workshop. Thanks to the ICANN initiative to try and improve the domain names uptake in the African region. This initiative targets DNS Business focused workshops in at least 10 African countries in the pilot phase and fortunately Zimbabwe was one of those countries chosen and also among those to hold the workshop before the end of 2015.
Every individual who had been interested with the Zimbabwean DNS industry will attest to the fact that the management of the Zimbabwean name space needs a lot of improvement. Could the DNS workshop be a sign that we now recognize the value of the DNS industry and we are now committed to improve it?. From the sentiments echoed by the .ZW Name Space managers and the Ministry of ICT, Yes, it seems it has finally dawned on us stakeholders that we are neglecting an important aspect in our ICT frameworks.
Thanks to Bob Ochieng the ICANN Africa team who facilitated and sponsored the workshop with the support of our regulator POTRAZ, this really enlightened the various stakeholders in the Zimbabwean DNS industry on the opportunities available within this industry. From the GoDaddy, .KE and .ZA cases it really dawned on the different stakeholders that the DNS market has a lot of potential business opportunity. Here are some of the points he highlighted on and the way forward for the Zimbabwean DNS market.
The African DNS Market Overview and the Zimbabwean Scenario
Bob highlighted a number of issues that points to the low uptake of Domains in Africa. He highlighted that the total number of domains registered in Africa are a little over 1.5 million domain names in a Region with 54 countries. However of the 1.5M domains S. Africa takes over 1m registrations and the remaining is shared by the rest of the African countries. The total number of ICANN accredited Registrars in Africa is only 9. Also he noted the number of applications for the new gTLDs from Africa were only 17 out of the total of 1930 applications made. The Zimbabwean domain registration statistics shows that there are 20, 000 .co.zw registered domains, 450 .org.zw domains and 276 .ac.zw domains and a few .gov.zw. It shows there is a lot we need to work on to build it to better levels.
So what could be wrong with Africa that we are in such a state in our DNS market? We can’t say it’s because of population as Nigeria with a population of over 170m has roughly 60, 000 domains registered, comparing it to Netherlands with a population of around 16m but have over 5.5m domains registered. Africa with a population of a billion and internet users above 300m should have a sizeable number of registrations. Some of the issues he highlighted which contributes to the low level of domain uptake included the following;
- Poor technical infrastructure to support the domain registrations
- No automated systems (Poor customer experience)
- African countries do not take the DNS market seriously
- No value added services on top of domain registrations
- No data to help measure our success (Without proper data / statistics:we are moving with our eyes wide open in the dark )
- Long registration time / turn around time, for example some take 3 days to register a domain.
- Exorbitant prices and a local view of our markets (The DNS Market is global)
- Uninformed citizens on the ability to register ccTLDs
- No awareness and education on DNS as a business
- Absence of proper monetization models, with some domain extensions being registered for free
The current scenario in the Zimbabwean DNS market is that the extensions are managed by four different Registries. It was resolved that all the domain extensions be consolidated in order to be managed by one entity. Some stakeholder consultations will be carried out to come up with a final solution on who will manage the domain extensions and the best practices to be adopted to better our DNS market. The Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services alluded that a DNS draft document will be prepared and comments will be sought from all stakeholders in the Zimbabwean DNS Industry through a multi stakeholder consultation process.
Consolidation of the domain extensions under one roof will make it easy to implement security measures on our DNS like the implementation of DNSSEC. Also to note is there will be staff dedicated to the management of the DNS which makes it better than the current scenario.
My Piece of Mind
The article would not be complete without airing my views on what areas we need to work on in the Zimbabwean DNS Industry.
I concur with everyone else that the registration process be automated and this automation must come with the following which are missing in the current system.
- An online public and accurate WHOIS database
- Automated domain transfers from one registrar to another
- Automated name server changes
- Automated renewals and deletion of domains not renewed to free the name space
A proper pricing structure is also instrumental to the betterment of our DNS ecosystem. I believe the pricing structure should be as follows;
- The Registry charge an amount for every domain registered rather than the free model and the per month subscription model being used by the different registries.
- Have a uniform price for both the Zimbabwean Residents and Non-Residents
Performance metrics are always good to gauge our progress on a month on month and year on year basis. As Bob said, “If we do not act based on Data we are walking with our eyes wide open in the dark – you can’t see anything!”. Performance metrics must be made available online showing the number of new registrations and deletions.
In conclusion, I believe with the right technical infrastructure, intensive marketing campaigns, world class customer service and education and awareness programs we can scale our DNS market to the levels we desire it to be.