Rwanda takes back its domain
- Published on 11 June 2012
East African country Rwanda looks set to become the last country in the world to gain control over its own web domain, after a seven-year dispute with Frederic Gregoire.
Gregoire has held registration rights for Rwanda domains since 1995 under his Swiss-based company NIC Congo – Interpoint.
Gregoire registered the domain name at the start of the dot-com bubble in 1995, at a time when the internet had yet to reach many Africa countries and Rwanda was still recovering from genocide.
His continued control over the domain name has been a particular source of embarrassment for Rwanda, which aims to become a regional technology hub by 2020, but remains the only country in the world without control of its domain.
The handover, which looks set to take place later this year, would complete a long process that began in 2005.
“It's shameful that our country's ccTLD (top-level domain) is managed by a custodian,” said Justin Rugondihene, the director of Internet, Media and Postal Affairs at Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA).
Gregoire registered the domain name through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organisation charged with coordinating the internet’s domain names, in 1995 when registration was based on a first come, first served basis.
He has been providing the domain name to Rwandans for no charge, simply by filling in an online form. The entire process takes just six hours, but Rwanda has decided that the country must manage its own domain in order for it to be totally secure.
The process of obtaining control of .rw began in 2005 when the Rwandan government approached ICANN to discuss the transfer of the domain name into the country’s control.
ICANN recommended that private institutions should manage domain names, prompting the formation of the Rwanda Information and Communication Technology Association (RICTA).
At the time, Gregoire had doubts over the infrastructure ability of Rwanda to manage its own domain and talks stalled.
Given recent improvements in ICT in the country and the government’s commitment to making Rwanda a technological hub, the transfer of registration now looks set to finally take place.
Former minister in president’s office in charge of ICT, Ignace Gatarem led the discussions and sourced funding for the process through the country’s Universal Access Fund. Doubts from Gregoire and ICANN over the lack of expertise in Rwanda have been allayed and the approval of an application for transfer has been approved. The handover is expected to take place no later than October 2012.