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Cost of domain registration hampering Africa's internet ecosystem

Cost of domain registration hampering Africa's internet ecosystem

Research initiated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) shows that issues such as the price of domain name registration, affordable internet access and policy enforcement continue to impact the continent's US$52m per-year domain name market.

Findings of the 2016 Domain Name System (DNS) Market Study, incorporating all 54 African countries, was presented at the ICANN 59th Public Meeting taking place in Johannesburg this week.

Authors of the report say the study is the first of its kind carried out on the domain name market for the entire African continent and will serve as a guide for future research into the field.

Loren Braithwaite Kabosha, Chairperson of South African Communications Forum and a member of the group of consultants who helped to compile the Report , says Africa's internet ecosystem presents unique challenges.

"In terms of the registrant market, there are over five million African domains, ccTLD and gTLD (as of May 2017). We estimate a value of 52 million US dollars per annum for the African DNS market. In terms of the key success factors from our analysis of the ecosystem, we looked at what were the key factors for the development of the DNS market. First was infrastructure to facilitate affordable access to the internet. It is not only about access, it's (about) affordable access. Next is having sufficient literary and that is not just digital literacy. Policy, regulatory or governance frameworks need to promote and not throttle development of the market. There is a need for gateways to ensure easy payment of fees and the finding with regards to pricing is that free is not better - it is the ease of registration and confidence."

Africa's small domain

The research included a 'Country DNS Success Index' which lists countries in relation to the health of their DNS markets.

South Africa ranked the highest, followed by Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Tunisia.

William Stucke, ‎ICT Policy, Regulation and Technology Expert at William Stucke Associates, who also assisted with compiling the study on behalf of ICANN, says the African DNS market is very small with about 4.4 domains per thousand people compared to the figure for Europe of 103 domains per thousand people.

"The market is however growing fast in some places, even if it is not in others because there are too many hindrances to growth. Essentially, we need to simplify, automate and expedite domain registration processes as statistics demonstrate the value of that. Some countries need to lower the cost of ccTLD domains which is 84 dollars on average. With an average of 84 dollars compared to about 10 dollars for a .com domain, in many places people would rather buy a .com domain rather than a ccTLD domain. The problem with a .com domain is that it won't be hosted in your country and you won't get the benefits of a growing infrastructure for your country."

Stucke offered his perspective on the prohibitive nature of registration costs.

"South Africa and Kenya are the two most successful countries according to the index that we developed. These two countries are very similar in many ways as both have about 50 million citizens and both use EPP and it is easy to buy a domain name, both have more than a hundred accredited registrars, both have a vibrant internet market and they are early adopters of IXPs and exchange points.

The differences are that Kenya actually has a higher internet penetration than South Africa, however if you look at the .com versus ccTLD, Kenya has registered more .com domains than .ke domains whereas South Africa has four times as many .za domains than .com. Why is this? The answer is very simple - Kenya charges five times more than South Africa for a ccTLD domain with the result that South Africa sold twenty times as many ccTLD domains. It means South Africa has made four times more money than Kenya although the price is much less. This is an important point. Bring your prices down as a registry and registrars to encourage the sale of domains."

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