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The difficulties of registering a local domain in Zimbabwe

   

The need to have local Zimbabwean content on the internet has been widely discussed. The main idea being that the internet will become more relevant to locals if it has content people have traditionally consumed on platforms like TV, radio, newspapers, books and so forth.

The capacity of our local ICT infrastructure to enable the creation and hosting of this information locally has also grown over the years. There are more people using the internet too, especially with the introduction of mobile broadband by a number of operators locally.

One of the main drivers of local content is local people being able to easily register a domain in the .zw space. Being able to find information on how to do this, being able to easily contact a registrar and get a domain registered without difficulty, and being able to proceed with the task of creating and making information available. This process is not straightforward locally.

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The Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers Association (ZISPA), whose task it is to manage the .co.zw space, have a website they don’t update so you can’t really rely on it for current information and procedures. TelOne, the organization in charge of the .org.zw space also doesn’t have registration information easily accessible.

If you do decide to check the domain registration procedure page on the ZISPA site, it has information that non-tech people cannot understand (“DNS servers” and such other terms) and therefore excludes a lot of people. For help with the procedure, people then have to go to ZISPA members, the ISPs. Now, the membership list on the ZISPA site was last updated on 9 August 2007 and some of the ISPs listed there don’t exist anymore, so even that route won’t yield straightforward answers.

We have received several complaints by technology professionals and other people who just want the process to be easier. Most have resorted to registering international domains (.com ones that is) after having giving up on what they find to be needless procedures demanded by the ‘system’.

We have held an interview with the current ZISPA chairman, Troy Prinsloo, and will post extracts from the interview here in the coming days. He generally acknowledges some of the problems with the current setup and explains how some of the issues (especially those associated with the delays in getting a domain registered) are unavoidable.

Yesterday, we decided to play customer and call some of the well known local ISPs to request domain registration services. We called 9 of them. All but 2 (Webdev and ZARnet) won’t let you register a domain without you buying another service from them. The service can be anything from a dialup account, a broadband account or web hosting account.

We didn’t check with all ISPs in Zimbabwe but the ones we called are the most known and we believe are representative of the prevailing environment.

We have put the results of the enquiries we made in the table below:

ISP Domain Registration

As for how long it takes to register a domain, the least amount of time we could get is 2 days. The personal experience of this writer is it can take up to 4 days sometimes, and that ISPs generally cannot guarantee you anything in terms of time. I have personally been told something along the lines of “Hey, we can’t say. we’ll just forward the documents to ZISPA and wait for a response. 2 to 3 days maybe. 1 day if you’re lucky!”

Clearly, a lot can be done to improve the process and make it as available and transparent as possible. ZISPA can start with updating its website and providing information that makes it easier for non-techies and techies to register domains. More players should also come in with some innovative solutions to make the process faster, easier and even cheaper.

We would like to know what your experience has been registering a domain in Zimbabwe. Please share in the comments below.


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