By Macharia Kamau
The Communications Commission of Kenya has proposed an overhaul of the management and administration of the “.ke” domain name in a bid to grow its popularity and uptake.
The telecoms industry regulator is now planning to relinquish its board position at the Kenya Network Information Centre (Kenic), which will transform the centre into an independent entity, with CCK playing a regulatory role.
The proposed changes are expected to see Kenic change from a non-profit organisation to a commercial entity.
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The profit aspect is expected to propel the firm that will administer the domain name into marketing
Kenic has had limited success in marketing the name in Kenya, partly due to governance issues.
There are currently about 30,000 registered Dot KE domain names, despite Kenic having been in place for more than a decade, and there being a ripe market with hundreds of thousands of Kenyan businesses that could take up the name.
“The proposal is to change the current arrangement of administration of the Dot KE Domain Name Registry Services by Kenic into a delegated regulatory structure, similar to the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) model,” said CCK in a statement.
The regulator has asked stakeholders to give their take on the framework that will govern the domain name.
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MNP is undertaken by a private sector firm — Porting Access Kenya — whose income is partly pegged on the number of numbers that port from one network to another, and hence has an obligation to market the service. However, MNP has had limited success itself.
“It is envisaged that having the Dot KE registry operated by a commercial entity will spur the required growth in Dot KE domain names, and thus the adoption and development of e-Commerce and e-Transactions-related services,” said CCK.
Kenic gets rights to administer the Dot KE domain from the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global Internet governance body. The centre is a multi-stakeholder body and draws its membership from the Government, telecommunications firms and lobby groups.
The organisation has, however, been plagued by boardroom intrigues, with board members once resigning en masse citing frustrations.
There has also been high turnover of chief executives. Kenic has had seven CEOs over the last six years, some of them holding office for just months, signalling the possibility of deep-rooted governance issues within the body.
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While Kenic does not sell the Dot KE name directly to users but instead uses resellers (or what it calls registrars), it has an obligation to popularise the name and even point out points of purchase for local firms that would want to have the domain name.
The 30,000 Dot KE domain names in use are dismal when compared to other countries like South Africa with a close to a million registrations for its Dot ZA domain.
A recent survey by the South African Domain Name Authority (Zadna) — the equivalent of Kenic — showed that over 80 per cent of South African businesses prefer using .za in their Internet identities to .com.
Most companies and individuals in Kenya have opted for domain names like .org, .net and .com.
Kenic charges registrars Sh2,000 plus value added tax for co.ke, or.ke and ne.ke domain names. And then Sh1,000 for mobi.ke and info.ke.
It charges Sh500 plus VAT for me.ke, go.ke, ac.ke and sc.ke.
Registrars or resellers of domain names factor in marketing and distribution costs, and then sell them on to individuals and companies.