African States Back Gambia’s Quest for Return of Dot Gm

African States Back Gambia’s Quest for Return of Dot Gm

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Representatives of African governments and civil organisations have given their strident backing for the Gambia’s quest for re-delegation of its country code top level domain (ccTLD), the .gm.

This came after the Gambia’s Information and Telecommunications minister, Hon. Sheriff Bojang told the delegates, among them Professor Robert Kahn, one of the founders of the Internet, that the country has been pursuing means of getting back the country domain for the past ten years without much success.

Addressing the meeting, Minister Bojang said: “The Internet is supposed to be a global public resource built on an open architecture but there are certain protocols which govern its operation that are major hindrances. For example, for the past ten years, the government of The Gambia has been trying to get our ccTLD re-delegated but to no avail. The current administrator of the dot gm is a Norwegian national who alone runs operation from his house in the Nordic country. The dot gm is the Gambia’s identity in cyberspace and it is our sovereign property and it is beyond absurd that due to some Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) processes we have been unable to get it back.”

Minister Bojang explained that The Gambia has all the requisite infrastructure; namely an Internet Exchange Point (IXP), a broad-based multi-stakeholders committee including civil society organisations, policy documents and have even hired consultants including an Internet Hall of Famer to work on the model registry in anticipation of the re-delegation. “We have even told the gentleman of our willingness to work with him in the transition phase but we have not been getting the good cooperation we expected from him. Now we had no option but to pay tens of thousands of dollars to foreign consultants to help us go through the IANA and the ICANN processes. This takes inordinately long and is having a very negative effect on the rollout of our e-government programme,” Minister Bojang queried.

Delegates from across the continent led by Nigeria and Algeria expressed solidarity with the Gambia’s predicament and demanded ICANN representatives present at the forum take note and act expeditiously. In response, the ICANN representative for the region said The Gambia along with eight other African countries are battling with ccTLD re-delegation issues and suggested means to facilitate the processes. The head of the Nigerian delegation noted that former Nigerian President Obasanjo summoned a national conference of stakeholders to demand the re-delegation of Nigeria’s domain name.

Minister Bojang said His Excellency the President Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh, Babili Mansa has given directives that the process be concluded within a reasonable period in default of which he will act.

The director of ICT at the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Ebrima Jobe, who is taking the lead role in the re-delegation process, said: “More progress has been made in the last nine months than in the past nine years with regard to getting the ccTLD back.”

Minister Bojang said that the current IANA stewardship transition has come at a good time as the African Union has prepared a declaration on Internet governance during a meeting in Bamako last month, four articles of which deal specifically with how to engage ccTLD registries operated by private individuals or entities outside national jurisdiction to transfer the registries and enable them to operate as public benefit bodies.