EXCLUSIVE: ICANN in charm offensive to win over Africa

Read time 3min 40sec
ICANN will support Africa's Internet ambitions, says G"oran Marby, president and CEO.
ICANN will support Africa's Internet ambitions, says G"oran Marby, president and CEO.

Africa is establishing itself as a pioneer of Internet ideas that have been replicated across the world, says the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

In an exclusive interview with ITWeb, G"oran Marby, president and CEO of ICANN, said he is impressed by the recognition of the Internet's importance to Africa's transformation.

ICANN is a global non-profit organisation (NGO) that is responsible for co-ordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces of the Internet, ensuring the network's stable and secure operation.

It performs the technical maintenance work of the central Internet address pools and DNS root zone registries for the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.

The NGO looks towards creating a stronger association with the community in Africa, including governments in the region, to help increase awareness and participation in ICANN's work and the Internet policy processes under ICANN's remit.

Marby pointed out that ICANN so far has been impressed with the various initiatives undertaken by African governments, academia, industry and other stakeholders to connect the continent.

"What impresses me is the recognition of how important the Internet could be to the transformation of Africa. I would want to give recognition to the work you are doing in Africa, and the ambitions that you have. We will try and support you in the best way we can," he noted.

According to Internet World Stats, Africa's population stood at about 1.2 billion in 2016. It states there are about 340 million Internet users on the continent. As at June 2016, Africa had a 28.7% Internet penetration rate, while the world average is 50.1%.

"The African continent has shown great ambitions to connect people to the Internet. We are working with African countries to help them continue with their journey," Marby noted.

ICANN says it is happy to note the tremendous progress that has been realised so far, with Africa establishing itself as a pioneer of various ideas that have now been replicated across the world. ICANN will continue to raise awareness and work on capacity-building in Africa, it adds. At this stage, the organisation is evaluating the impact of its four-year Africa strategy and will build on it.

Pierre Dandjinou, ICANN's vice-president for global stakeholder engagement in Africa, says Africa needs to be better integrated within ICANN. He adds the NGO will seek to promote African leadership to occupy leadership positions at ICANN and effectively contribute to policy development.

"We shall also seek to support the evolvement of the African Internet ecosystem so that registries and registrars could thrive and hasten the uptake and use of domain names which could further support applications and content development," he notes.

"ICANN provides means for interoperability of the many networks that constitute the Internet on the one hand, and also facilitates management of these tools such as the domain name system (DNS) which any entity needs to maintain. ICANN has so far deepened its engagement with the managers of such systems in Africa through capacity-building and spread of best practices."

Dandjinou points out that ICANN's engagement in Africa was inscribed within the ICANN Africa strategy that was designed by Africans four years ago.

That strategy, with its key objectives, programmes and projects, is the platform for collaborating and supporting Africa's efforts, he explains.

"So, ICANN's ambitions for the continent for the future will evolve around what is already in the framework of co-operation and can be framed as capacity-building in better management of the DNS and full participation of Africans in ICANN's work.

"While the last three years have been spent on initiating concrete projects such as roadshows, the Africa DNS forums, capacity-building at the levels of different African communities, such as the governmental advisory committee, business sector, academia and users at large, we will further seek to deepen engagement and support."

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