AFRICAN BUSINESSES SHOULD BUY LOCAL DOMAINS, SAYS MUTI

Internet

African businesses and agencies operating on the internet should promote their country code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) instead of paying foreign companies for .com, .net or .org addresses, said registry managers attending the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting in Vancouver.

"The money is needed in Africa and we may have no business buying the .com or .net when our .co.tz domain is undersubscribed," said Jacob Mtui, of the University of Dar es Salaam. .com, .org and .net are known as Top Level Domains (TLDs). Their registries are maintained by US based organisations.

Mtui argued that though the .co.tz, .go.tz and .ac.tz subscriptions are free, they have only registered 1,200 addresses in a country with a population of 34 million. He could not access the figures for the international addresses, but Mtui said the ccTLD has not been adequately promoted.

Sample this: the central bank of Tanzania's address is http://www.bot-tz.org and according to Mtui, it would have been a perfect promotion exercise if the central bank used its .go.tz domain name.

But according to Njeri Rionge, ICANN board member, the use of a Top Level Domain Name is a question of personal choice and preference. In her opinion, the choice of .com, .net or .org gives an organisation the global appeal.

Whereas the use of a ccTLD denotes the location of specific companies, Rionge said that some companies use TLDs and still maintain a ccTLD address for brand protection.

For example a well-known retail shop like www.uchumi.com can still maintain www.uchumi.co.ke to protect its brand from other people who may want to use the brand for other reasons.

Calvin Browne, director of UNIFORUM, the not-for-profit company that manages the .co.za domain agrees that a decision to use ccTLD or TLD will be based on marketing criteria because technically there is no difference between accessing a ccTLD or TLD website.

In the same breath, Browne said that companies or organisations can choose to either develop their own countries by providing income or take the income to other countries.

"Using .co.za will definitely increase local resources and increase employment. There is need to develop a sense of national pride. The more money stays home, the wider the opportunities for re-investment," added Browne.

Browne singled out giant corporations such as Liberty Life and Old Mutual in South Africa that have maintained co.za addresses yet their businesses are international.

However, Ann-Rachel Inne, Policy Analyst at ICANN argued that African registries have to ensure they have the technical ability to sustain businesses and that connection is not erratic.

"The infrastructure has to be favorable to business growth in case of business entities. For instance electricity has to be available and in case of power cuts, the registries have to have some back-up to guarantee continued internet operations," added Inne.

Highway Africa News Agency