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ICANN unveils Africa strategy

African representatives want to be included in meetings during which crucial issues are discussed

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has unveiled a plan to increase participation from African countries after several years during which leading players in the region complained about feeling excluded from wider debates about the future of the Internet.

African representatives want to be included at ICANN meetings during which representatives from businesses and governments discuss advanced issues such as Domain Name Security Extensions (DNSSEC), IPv6 and the new Generic Top Level Domains.

The Africa Strategy Working Group was formed in June at the ICANN meeting in Prague and was charged with developing a plan to increase Africa's involvement in ICANN, identifying key priorities and budgets. The working group is chaired by Nii Quaynor, an Internet pioneer from Ghana while other members represent various regions.

"When we met three months ago at the ICANN meeting in Prague, I felt a sense of frustration at our inability to come together and move the Africa agenda forward," said Fadi Chehadé, ICANN CEO and president in a statement released Wednesday. "It's incredible what this working group has achieved in such a short period of time by engaging with many concerned groups and individuals through the multi-stakeholder process."

For the last decade, Africa has grappled with connectivity issues, the management of country code Top Level Domains, understanding the domain name business. Africa has also tried to come to grips with the so-called multi-stakeholder model, which entails the inclusion of a variety of players in the management of critical internet infrastructure.

"The issues affecting Africa are very different compared to other regions," said Pierre Dandjinou, a member of the Working Group, who spoke at the ICANN meeting in Toronto taking place this week. "It is good that the president has recognized and taken steps to address the situation."

The new Africa plan was drafted after consultations with the African tech community active within ICANN, in conjunction with AfriNIC, the regional registry. The working group has identified technical training, engagement with businesses and governments as the key priority areas.

"This plan comes at the right time when Internet business is growing in Africa and outreach is needed," said Alice Munyua, a member of the working group. "We need to have more ICANN accredited registrars in Africa -- the African Union is now involved in the dotAfrica new gTLD process; many governments would like to engage ICANN at various levels."


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