Back in August this year, we wrote:
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.
One of the main problems is that finding a company that will register a .co.zw domain without requiring a customer to buy another service like broadband internet and web hosting.
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Naturally, the .co.zw space is the one most businesses are interested in to put their businesses online. This space is managed by the Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers Association (ZISPA). We have had opportunity to speak to the ZISPA chairman on this matter. In the interview we had with him Troy Prinsloo said:
We’ve had to take some of the ISPs to task, where some of them have turned people away saying we’re not registering your .co.zw unless you take our broadband service. It has been an issue in the past but we’ve discussed it. It was the old ‘if you buy a loaf of bread, you have to buy a coke’. We had cases of that long back but we directed ISPs that they are not allowed to do that. They are not allowed to decline a registration based on taking up of other services. That was an issue long back but we resolved it quite quickly.
As our earlier article suggests, the issue is far from resolved. ISPs, the largest being most conspicuous, still won’t register a domain without the buy-internet-from-us condition.
We called both ZOL and YoAfrica (Zim’s biggest ISPs and members of ZISPA) offices this week and asked if we could register a domain. ZOL won’t let you register a domain unless you buy at least a dialup internet service. YoAfrica won’t register your domain unless you buy the hosting from them. We got the same story from AfricaOnline and iWayAfrica.
Of the 8 ISPs we called (and we didn’t check with all of them) yesterday, only ZARnet does not tie domain registration to other services.
We contacted the ZISPA chairman again today and told him about this. His comment was:
As Zispa we encourage ISPs to do this but don’t force them to do so, just as we don’t stipulate pricing,types of service offered etc. This is to promote innovation and competitiveness, which benefits end users.
Whilst ISPs will charge and administrative fee for registrations I personally don’t see the sense in turning away business. Some ISPs even waive this fee if other services are taken. While you may have found some to “require” other services before registration this is not the case across the board and I know for a fact that there are those who will register for around $10.
This statement is in conflict with the earlier message that ISPs “are not allowed to decline a registration based on taking up of other services”, but we think it is fair nonetheless: ZISPA should not force any ISP to do business it doesn’t want to do. As custodians of the .co.zw space they should just facilitate it efficiently for those ISPs, or any other company for that matter, that wants this business.
The point is that ZISPA can do more to make this process as easy, fast and as transparent as possible. They can surely make it easier. They can at least update the ZISPA website with current information on how a regular business or individual can register their domain and get their entity a place on the internet.
But to be fair, we don’t think this is just ZISPA’s responsibility alone. Any credible tech company can decide today to start registering domains, approach ZISPA and show them they are competent technically (like knowing how to configure DNS). ZISPA would let them.
We Zimbabweans love to complain that .co.zw domain registration is difficult and we point the fingers at ZISPA. How many of us have taken it upon ourselves to make this an opportunity and persistently work with ZISPA to become the most efficient registrar of the .co.zw space? Who has done this and faced resistance from ZISPA?
It’s not who is to blame. It’s what can be done.