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Internet protocol body advocates increased Ugandan involvement

Ugandans can make better use of the internet with increased awareness of the simple technical opportunities, writes FRANK KISAKYE.

The internet connects more than three billion people from all corners of the globe but have you ever wondered what keeps the internet stable and secure? Or have you ever paused to think how domain names are created or how websites acquire endings such as .com, .ug or .biz?

That is the work of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global body charged to manage internet protocol numbers (IP addresses) and domain name system (DNS) root.

It goes beyond that to monitor the security and activity of the internet. Thus, ICANN plays a specific, technical role, acting in the global public interest as the trusted steward of these unique identifier systems of the Internet. With every email, video chat, or online purchase, ICANN is touched in one way or another.

Everything about ICANN may be technical but last week, the team from ICANN was in the country for the weeklong Africa Internet Summit (AIS) at Sheraton Kampala hotel. The multi-stakeholder conference on information and communication technologies brought together industry members and the global and regional Internet community for a series of seminars, workshops, tutorials and panels.

It is at the same occasion that ICANN sought the need to create more awareness among Ugandans to build capacity as well as make the internet as resourceful as possible, both in knowledge and business.

ICANN has been actively seeking to help raise awareness and build capacities around the domain name system, and the Internet in general. Globally, the Internet penetration in Africa is just 37 per cent, which is way below the global penetration rate of 57 per cent.

Internet content is still very low. Internet impact on the African Economy is still very poor. Internet access is among the many other obstacles Africa has to overcome with respect to its integration into the global digital economy, including the domain name business.

ICANN intervenes

On this backdrop, Pierre Dandjinou, ICANN vice president for Africa, noted that statistics show that Uganda has little internet penetration, something caused by limited awareness.

“ICANN offers a platform for local communities and business to have tailor-made domains that may attract more clicks and views but I’ve noted there are very few such domains here and this affects the way people visit such sites,” he noted during a media roundtable discussion on June 13.

“There is need for more awareness and there are also opportunities for Ugandans to join ICANN through a series of tutorials that are freely available online.”

These opportunities may come in form of web-hosting as well as domain-name registration.

He added: “Africa’s digital potential is rising, which makes it imperative for the continent to claim its voice in the global Internet governance and protect its interests and with this in mind, ICANN is committed to providing equal opportunities to inform the region’s different communities about the domain name industry and working with them on how best to not only strengthen Africa’s online presence but also improve their participation with ICANN. Uganda is no exception.”

Luna Madi, a communications director at ICANN, observed that until recently, few people outside the technical community knew what a domain name was, much less how to obtain or use one.

“You don’t need to study IT at university to be well-versed with the technical aspects of the internet and with the dramatic expansion of the Internet as the medium of choice for instant, global communications, many more people today are aware that domain names help users direct email traffic, locate websites and establish an online identity. Ugandans should join the bandwagon,” she says. “ICANN provides basic information about what a domain name is, how an Internet user can obtain and maintain one, and related information of interest.”

Meanwhile, Lillian Nalwoga, the president of Internet Society Uganda Chapter, noted that that ICANN is a very important global partner. “We need to have this dialogue about the Internet now, and not later; as Africa is not outside the realms of the Internet. Every policy made about the future of the Internet concerns us, too. So, we need to join the decision-makers, and not stay as bystanders.”

fkisakye@observer.ug

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