Friday, May 18, 2012

Using Nigeria’s domain name for economic growth

Using Nigeria’s domain name for economic growth

Of what use is the country code Top Level Domain name, .ng to the economy? It can boost Gross Domestic Product (GDP), drive broadband growth and stimulate economic development, say experts, ADLINE ATILI reports

WITH commercial activities on the Internet on the rise, domain names such as .com, .ng, .uk, .za, .gh, among others, have become part of the standard communications and marketing tools used by businesses to identify themselves, products and activities. Besides boosting the presence of businesses on the Web, experts say domain names, such as the nation’s .ng have the potential to boost the economy as well as ensure rapid uptake of broadband Internet.

An Internet domain name is the address on the Internet. According to the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), the body charged with the management of the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), .ng is the two-character country code reserved for, and used by Nigeria in consonance with the unique identities upon which a global Internet is predicated. This is, otherwise, referred to as Nigeria’s ccTLD.

A ccTLD, NIRA said, is used or reserved for specific countries, sovereign states or independent territories in the Domain Name System. ng, like our currency, the naira and the +234 country code, is the official Internet Council for Assigned names and Numbers (ICANN)-approved ccTLD for Nigeria, the body stated.

An Information Technology (IT) expert and Managing Partner of TransitIT, an IT consultancy firm, Mr Femi Akinyemi, said domain names were developed to make it easy for people to find things on the Internet. He said the importance of website domain name and its identity is as important as the identity of a human being.

He said: “In the Web world, there are millions of websites. You can imagine how much difficult it would be for the Internet user to find a site without an appropriate name or information. But a domain name makes it all very easy. Basically each website has a unique IP address which is very difficult to remember; therefore it is replaced by a domain name to easily remember and find by people. This is the name you type in the address bar of the Internet browser such as Internet Explorer.”

Akinyemi noted that in the world of electronic commerce (e-commerce), having a domain, especially a local one, will often give the buyer more confidence when making a purchase as they consider the site to be local, therefore governed under the same laws as the buyer. This makes it easier to follow up and sales and make complaints if any problems occur during the purchase of the product. It also helps to settle any nerves if the buyer is able to see a street address that they recognise, rather than a foreign address.

He said that a local domain name would also enable a business owner identify potential and existing customers in any part of the country, their needs and culture. In addition to improving e-commerce, experts say local top level domain names can stimulate economic development in all sectors of the economy.

Chief Executive Officer of One Network, Mr Shola Bickersteth, said adoption of the nation’s ccTLD name has far-reaching economic and societal benefits on the economy in addition to significantly lowering costs for Internet users.

He berated organisations and individuals who use domain names such as, .com, .za, in their websites and email addresses, saying there was no comparison between Nigeria and countries that have discovered the inherent benefits of keeping Internet traffic local.

He said: “Most countries now relate their development in terms of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to the number of domain names and impact of such on their GDP. Tokelau is a small island with population of about 1,500 but with a GDP that has risen higher than Nigeria’s because of investment in ICT. The country is among the world’s top 20 domain names with corresponding high GDP.

“The United Kingdom has about 11million domain names; this means one in every five citizens use the country’s domain name; South Africa is 1:100. The same cannot be said of Nigeria which has only 40,000 registered domain names that is ratio 1:12,000. In Nigeria, for us to hit the global average, we need at least 800,000 registered domain names and for ratio 1:5 to be achievable, we need 30million.”

He criticised organisations and government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) who host critical company and government information at servers located abroad, saying aside revenue repatriated to offshore organisations who own the servers and datacentres, security of critical information and database was at stake.

“A lot of government agencies, banks and other organisations host sensitive information in servers located abroad. This poses serious security risks not only to the organisations but to the nation at large. If those servers are infiltrated, there would be serious problems,” he said.

To address this, he called on the Federal Government to make it mandatory for government officials to use only .ng domain name in websites and email addresses and deny individuals without such, critical government services such as National ID registration, international passport and company registration.

He said in developed countries such as Germany and some parts of the United Kingdom, by law, citizens cannot use any other website except the country’s domain name (.ge in the case of Germany).

On how Internet users can access some websites blocked due to cybercrime issues, Bickersteth called on Google, Yahoo, telecommunications services providers and Internet Service Providers to host their servers and datacentres in the country so that traffic can be routed within the country and be recognised by Internet Protocol addresses of the parent organisations abroad.

Meanwhile, NIRA is putting a lot of effort into boosting the economy by N250million annually, through adoption of the .ng domain name. NIRA said it would spend N11million on infrastructure upgrade as part of measures to achieve its target of registering 250,000 .ng ccTLD domain names by 2013.

Chief Operating Officer of NIRA, Mr Ope Odusan, said the upgrade was critical to facilitating growth of the nation’s domain name, “which is Nigeria’s unique identifier or signature on the World Wide Web, as approved by the ICANN, adding that this would contribute N250million annually to the economy.”

According to him, “With a vision to benchmark the .ng registry with world-class registries and maximise efforts to increase the uptake of the .ng domains to 250,000 within a short period, it has become paramount to make the technical infrastructure of the registry more robust.”

He said plans have reached an advanced stage to invest N11million in equipment upgrade for the achievement of the target, adding that such infrastructure investment would focus on network subsystem and server upgrade, power systems upgrade, redundant bandwidth provision and customer support system.

Highlighting NIRA’s business goals for the year, Odusan said the Internet body would increase .ng domains by 50 per cent; ensure stability and security of .ng ccTLD; organise the ‘ Campaign’ in five more geopolitical zones in the country, as well as organise Internet awards by the fourth quarter of 2012.

He said: “With the Switchto .ng campaign, our target is to have 250,000 registered domain names in the .ng registry for government MDAs, businesses, educational institutions, and individuals who use the Internet daily. This would contribute N250million annually to the economy.”

According to him, “Rather than registering our emails, websites and other Internet presence in foreign domain names, and hosting our Internet presence abroad, where our information could be tampered with, it would be more beneficial to us as individuals, businesses and as a nation to adopt the .ng domain name.”

He stressed that to achieve its business goals, NIRA would review and update relevant policies concerning the registry, registrants and registrars; strengthen industry engagement; improve complaints and dispute resolution mechanisms, as well as develop a Memorandum of Understanding for registry operators.

On how the .ng domain name would drive broadband growth, Odusan said government services under the .ng domain like electronic payment of salaries, application forms for government services will encourage faster adoption of broadband Internet services. Speaking in the same vein, President of NIRA, Mrs Mary Uduma, said if more Nigerians on the .ng domain name integrate the Internet, broadband services, computers and various mobile telephony devices into their daily lives, the country would witness an information revolution that would impact positively on all segments of the economy.

She added that adoption of .ng could rake in huge foreign exchange earnings for the economy and make possible 50 per cent growth rate in Internet usage over the next decade.

She said: “With enabling regulatory policies, it is possible to achieve an average of 50 per cent growth rate in Internet usage over the next decade. This would translate to more Nigerian content on the World Wide Web, thereby counteracting the pervasiveness of 419 scammers; .ng could attract 50 per cent of this figure. The advantage of the sheer size of our population makes the figure enormous.”

She enjoined corporate Nigerians to tow the path of being identified by the truly Nigerian brand on the World Wide Web with pride. According to her, the usage of .ng by credible Nigerians and corporate citizens will facilitate the needful change in the current battered image of the country on the Internet.

Mrs Uduma opined that a wide adoption of .ng by Nigerians shall constitute a good tool in the effort to project the good people of Nigeria and the nation, noting that, “Our collective adoption of the .ng will be a strong tool in reversing the adverse publicity projected by foreign media.

She noted that: “The ‘bad image’ war will be won on local and international fronts when institutions of government; credible, real and legal persons and entities in Nigeria, adopt the use of the .ng, not just from a consumerism perspective, but by generating Nigerian content on the Internet.”

She urged the National Assembly to enact policies that would enforce the adoption of the .ng domain name and emails for government-to-government, government-to-business and government-to-citizen transactions, to engender economic growth and vitality.

“Our prayer to the government is to put in place a legislative mandate that would compel the adoption of a government policy to recognise only .ng domain name and emails for government-to-government, government-to-business and government-to-citizen transactions.

She listed the challenges of the .ng domain name to include: the dent on Nigeria’s image due to the activities of scammers, ignorance and lack of awareness, perceived instability of the system, dearth of funding and inadequate government mandate, saying a holistic approach was needed to explore the .ng ‘goldmine.’

“Our objective is to engender the deployment of the Internet to bring immense economic growth and vitality to the nation. Also, that the .ng be integrated into the re-branding project of the Ministry of Information and that there should be an enforcement unit for the use of .ng domain and emails,” she said.

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