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Infrastructure and Community Development 11 May 2022

Strengthening Africa’s Domain Name System

Israel Nyoh
By Israel NyohFormer Communications and Outreach Manager - Africa

In 2013, the Internet Society, in partnership with the Africa Top Level Domain (AfTLD) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), launched the Africa Domain Name System (DNS) Forum. The goal was to improve the technical and governance operation levels in African country code top-level domain (ccTLD) registries and to foster Internet resilience.

The first ever event took place in South Africa, and it gave birth to a vibrant DNS community across Africa. Ever since, they’ve been working to advance the domain name industry and domain name registrations across the continent.

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a global database that translates domain names (such as www.internetsociety.org) to Internet addresses that are used by computers to talk to each other. DNS also provides other information about domain names, such as mail services.

Nearly a decade after that first event, the annual Africa DNS Forum has achieved a lot, arming the African DNS industry with new knowledge, technical know-how, and industry support to boost its capacity and compete with the rest of the world. In 2019, the Africa Registrars Association was formed in Dakar, Senegal, and over 90 percent of African ccTLDs are now automating to its registry systems.

Here are some of the other gains the Africa DNS Forum has helped foster:

Capacity Building

The forum led to the launch of the DNS Fellowship Program by ICANN, a placement program where African registries could learn about the business side of DNS from other mature and prosperous registries around the world. It’s made an impact—over 95 percent of African ccTLDs now have an automated registry system that can support IPv6 and DNSSEC. They’ve also automated the registration process and are helping their registrars and resellers learn how to do the same.

Growing Registrars with ICANN Accreditation

ICANN accreditation is a quality stamp that increases registrars’ reputations. Before the Africa DNS Forum, there were only five ICANN accredited registrars in Africa. Now there are 12. It’s great progress, but there’s still more work to do. The aim was to have 25 by 2020. Few have been able to make it through the system, underscoring the importance of the Africa DNS Forum.

Increased Cross Border Domain Registrations

Barrack Otieno, general manager of the Africa Top Level Domain, says African registrars are reselling domains for other countries across the continent. “This is happening because people are meeting and talking to each other, and has also spurred registries to change their policies to accommodate people from other countries.”

National DNS Platforms and Fora

Another success is the formation of national DNS platforms and fora, which are at the heart of the DNS Africa work towards digital transformation. In 2021, DNS platforms held events in Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, and Zimbabwe, and there were DNS fora in Botswana and Kenya.

Angela Matlapeng is an engineer who works as a ccTLD administrator at the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority. She says the national DNS forum in Bostwana brought new capacity building opportunities at grassroots level.

And Joel Karubiu, chief executive officer of Kenya Network Information Centre, says the national DNS forum brought together key stakeholders to help them better understand the importance of DNS and its impact to the Internet ecosystem.

Africa’s domain name industry is growing, and you can play a role in shaping its development.

Technical communities are at the heart of a sustainable local Internet ecosystem. Learn how you can take part.

Image copyright: ©Nyani Quarmyne

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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