The party was eight years in the making but the Internet visionaries of Africa finally got to dance. At a board meeting in Argentina in April, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international government-private sector partnership that ensures the operational stability of the Internet, recognized African Network Information Center (AfriNIC) as the regional Internet registry. AfriNIC, www.afrinic.net, will serve the continent and its Indian Ocean states. It will be responsible for
Previously, numbering resources for Africa and its Indian Ocean states were managed by Europe’s RIPE Network Coordination Centre, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre. AfriNIC is the fifth regional registry after these three and the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry. AfriNIC CEO Adiel Akplogan hails it as “a starting point” for increased participation by Africa in the global Internet technical cooperation system. “It is also a positive step for the continent towards the management of the Internet. Having their own registry is proof that Africans want to look seriously into the evolution of the Internet,” he says.
In a true test of continental integration, it was to be managed by a board whose members would be elected from six identified subregions: Northern, Western, Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. Its various operations were distributed among three countries, with technical operations in South Africa, backup and disaster recovery in Egypt and training coordination in Ghana.
When the time came to celebrate, a jubilant Akplogan recalled the men of vision who paved the way for AfriNIC. “We cannot celebrate this great moment without expressing our thanks to the pioneers of this project who worked on the very first proposal in 1997,” he said, citing Quaynor, Barrett, Abdel-Baki and Bellamine by name. “We can tell them today that we have made their dream a reality.”
Without its own representatives on the GNSO, some argue, Africa would be hard-pressed to influence any policy decision affecting the way, say, gTLDs are managed. Highway Africa News Agency quotes a senior GNSO official as saying ICANN is missing the opportunity to understand the requirements of African users.
ICANN is now taking steps to address the lack of communication between itself and the vast majority of Africa’s Internet users and potential users. The GNSO says it will hire a liaison officer who will be charged with forging greater links with Africa and finding out what Africans want in terms of Internet policies.
I’m betting that Africa will have a very strong say. Yes, I’m betting that the emergence of AfriNIC is rock-solid evidence that, when it comes to Internet affairs, the continent’s men and women of vision are not on bended knee.
|By Rosalind McLymont|