Africa suffers 'web colonialism'

2009-10-29 14:17

Johannesburg - African country domain names are not growing into a strong force because of a lack of government support that has resulted in a sort of "Internet Colonialism" being practised.

Vika Mpisane, General Manager of .za Domain Name Authority and Chairperson of African Top Level Domain, said on Thursday there are fewer than one million African country domain name registrations.

But this figure must be seen in the overall context because, Mpisane observes, many millions of registrations are on non-African domains, such as .com, and .net.
"Had African businesses registered under their countries' domains, then a far different picture would have emerged."

Mpisane says the main reason for African businesses registering outside African domains is the ongoing challenge of local ICT infrastructure in Africa.

Clear government support needed

For a country domain to work, it is not enough to have the local internet industry to support it, but one should have clear government support and investment as well. "It is because of the lack of government support that a substantial number of African domains are not growing," he said.

He notes that an embarrassing facet is that some African domains are not even operated by local entities. There is still the problem - one can call it "internet colonialism" - where a person in Europe, America or elsewhere runs the domain of an African country.

The irony is that these people do not even stay in that country, are not citizens and are not accountable to that country's government.

"More often than not the cause for this is that certain governments were not willing in the first place to invest in supporting their domains, which is sad because when a domain is operated outside that country, the country misses out on an opportunity to develop skills locally," said Mpisane.

'Digital divide'

"Not only that, but the money made out of domain name registrations goes to people outside that country. If this trend continues, then Africa might as well learn to accept the digital divide.

"Africa needs to build its local e-commerce and develop the much-needed ICT skills. If a government does not take a leadership role and mobilise local internet community, it might as well accept that it is, and will remain, an internet colony and its master is likely somebody outside its borders."  
He added that it was of utmost importance that each country in Africa has its domain operated locally. "Experience in locally operated domains such as .za has shown that the country domain is an important enabler in getting more businesses and individuals to have their own websites ending with their country's domain, and also to boost local e-commerce."

In South Africa, .za continues to grow steadily and the growth is largely because the administrators of .za domains, such as, and are local entities. They have a better control over prices and this allows them to offer affordable registration fees.

  • Richelo - 2009-10-29 14:26

    Not sure what you call affordable, but, it is STILL cheaper to register a .com and many other domains, than it is to register a domain.

    If you want to see growth in the domain, make it cheaper, and make it EASIER!

    Registering a domain is still a lot harder than a .com.

  • noctus - 2009-10-29 14:40

    yawn.... another non issue, raised from an outdated and ignorant frame of reference...really there are more important things...jeez what else could we try to make an issue out of... colonialism...gmpf

  • David - 2009-10-29 14:45

    There can be no argument that African ICT infrastructure needs to be improved and that acquiring local skills is of vital importance. However linking domain registration or lack thereof to the state of local infrastructure is technically incorrect. Poor infrastructure may make a company elect to use offshore services. However it makes no technical difference whether you use a .com, .za, .mz etc domain as all can be configured to simply point to server in any location. Registration under a local domain will have no impact on the ICT infrastructure.

  • clint - 2009-10-29 14:55

    Interesting, but perhaps not quite the truth. The registration of .com over .za usually means that the owner wants to be recognised internationally, as do the, guys do too. I register both usually and trade off the .com with the feeding in.
    That way I cover all markets.

    .com is not seen as a US domain range, rather as the international domain of choice, along with .org etc. is cheaper, but not by much, and they are all so relatively cheap why not have both? If ZA was as big a market as the US with close to 300 million people generating the kind of wealth they do, then .za would be just as popular. It's not colonial so much, more like a global trend towards being 'everywhere'.

    Trending tells us local is the new Global Village, but the local still wants a global voice.

  • Vrye Denker - 2009-10-29 14:56

    I fail to make the connection between lack of infrastructure and what name you choose to give your website. After all, it is perfectly possible and legal to register a and have it hosted in Papua New Guinea. It is also perfectly valid to register a and host it in South Africa. This is like saying that government must give you money because your mother named you Thabo instead of Toby.

  • Uncle Bob - 2009-10-29 15:07

    I think Mpisane has lost the plot as one of the reasons the internet is such a success is that it's a global village and does not follow political borders and is the last "free country" that we have, I personally do not want the government to be involved in the domains/internet governance whatsoever. Secondly I have a few .za domains and the accompanying .com domains due to domain squatting, a problem which is quite severe and rife.

  • Free the Rand - 2009-10-29 15:12

    Good grief. Anyone who tried to start an internet trading business using Pay Pal to collect the proceeds from the sales cna tell the authorities what is wrong. This article is a self serving South African style bleat.

  • me - 2009-10-29 15:15

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA ...... that is the lamest excuse I have ever heard... stop the leaders from spending all your tax money on themselves and sending it to Switzerland, you lazy good for nothing excuses for human beings, and the all the African countries except Swaziland were completely colonial free when the internet came around, some for 60 years already, always a f%%£@ excuse ...

  • Ben - 2009-10-29 15:27

    I can not express the amount of regret i have in reading this piece. He's trying to make a issue out of absolutely NOTHING!!! Colonialism...urgh... Seriously?! This topic was never close to be big enough to get attention.

  • Grumpy - 2009-10-29 15:35

    @ David all the way down to Uncle Bob: thanks for pointing out some basic Internet facts. What disturbs me is that someone in Mr Mpisane's position sees nothing odd in using .za domain registration as a way to measure the digital divide. The two are completely unrelated, and using the one to define the other is like looking for apples with a magnet. Suggest he examines growth of IP addresses as a measure of Internet uptake in SA, not local domain registration...

  • bob gates - 2009-10-29 15:43

    who cares - half the afircan continent cant get a job or food, and ure worried about the net, cmon, seriously. get the country in a fit state without crime, corruption and black rasicm, and maybe worldwide web users will be interested in you domain name.

  • Liz Konzolo - 2009-10-29 16:00

    I think its more business-driven than country driven. Like there are those businesses that would be more advantaged by having a local domain (eg inbound travel)but others who need to play globally may be better of with .com.Is local necessarily cheaper? I don't think so.

  • Elvis - 2009-10-29 16:02

    Not sure how we are taking money out of africa by having non .za damain. Having a .com simply increases exposure and definalt increased business demand

  • Warren - 2009-10-29 16:19

    The man on the street would certainly benifit if was pointed via dns to a locally run isp, they would benifit with local only internet, were by if the site was hosted outside of SA you would have to make sure you had international bandwith. it would be great if could only be hosted locally then we could rely on domains run on local only intenet.

  • gnambeni - 2009-10-29 16:22

    In my view, there is always those kinds of colonial mindsets, even in SA if u observes nicely, the appearing actions of whites use to face waste than in SA. And in other African state things are much appalling than that, ppl had been preloaded in their sub-conches minds to love fr,uk etc more than how they would love an African names. And this is the whole idea of colonisations & advertisements. If you look nicely most of the time even with the existent of those local service but Government officials don’t feel to use their pride domain so forget the ignorant public or western company which is in Africa only to make money. So here i think there is a need of some formatting business, to format these zombies or hijack computer minds. also the skills and finance does not stand on the African side.

  • Felix - 2009-10-29 16:52

    What RUBBISH!!! Many of my clients wanted to buy "African" domains, until I told them what absolute ridiculously unaffordable prices these domains cost. Considering that domains are R50 p.a., and .com domain US$15.95 p.a., why do I (or my client) need to pay US$522 for an Angolan domain or US$3 850 p.a. for a Namibian domain. This has nothing to do with colonialism or infrastructure. It points to one thing only – An incompetent idiot (Vika Mpisane) who is trying to point the finger to someone else.

  • Wherewolf - 2009-10-29 18:10

    How can there be "colonisation" of something that is inherently an international entity?

  • Boerseun - 2009-10-29 20:37

    In RSA,it's high prices that is the real problem. everyone makes money, even government and that's why internet will never take off bigtime, like it should. I believe it should be free to really work.

  • Lyn - 2009-10-30 12:52

    I am proudly SA but wish we did not have the .za domain name. I know Saudi Arabia took the .sa before we could. It is a disadvantage to my business to have my domain name .za because people, especially American clients think I am from Zaire or Zambia!

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