Since launching its first project in 2022, the Coalition for Digital Africa has emerged as a major force in driving the digital transformation of the continent. Conceived by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Coalition now counts 10 partner organizations and is spearheading several key initiatives.
Surveying the Scene
In January, leveraging the methodology and results of a 2016 Africa DNS Study, a comprehensive study of the Domain Name System landscape in Africa was launched. Funded by ICANN and conducted by PowerSoft Africa, the study will inform the Coalition about future areas for growth and development, both locally and regionally, in line with the Coalition's guiding principles. The results are expected in July.
ICANN is also collaborating with the Association of African Universities (AAU) to promote Universal Acceptance (UA) in academic institutions. The joint goal is to increase the number of higher education institutions that are "UA-ready" and to update their curricula to teach students how to design and develop software applications to be UA-ready. The AAU and ICANN recently conducted a baseline study to evaluate the readiness of AAU member institutions and are currently recruiting for a coordinator position. An launch event and workshop is planned for mid-April in Accra, Ghana.
Building the Future with Infrastructure and Capacity Development
A major ICANN infrastructure project is the installation of two ICANN Managed Root Server (IMRS) deployments, which will support Internet growth across the continent. The first IMRS deployment, installed in Nairobi, Kenya, is already making an impact. Root server instances reduce the impact of cyberattacks and enhance the resilience of the DNS infrastructure by keeping root DNS traffic in the region. Prior to the installation of the cluster in Nairobi, 40% of the DNS queries to the root zone resolved by IMRS coming from the Africa region were resolved outside of Africa. After the installation, the number of queries resolved outside Africa was reduced to 25% of the total. A second IMRS cluster will be installed in another African location to be announced later this year.
ICANN is also collaborating with the Internet Society to enhance five Internet exchange points (IXPs) in Africa, improving Internet access by making it faster and more affordable. Led by the Internet Society, the project aims to improve the services, infrastructure, and business operations of five IXPs in Africa. From ICANN's perspective, the project enables interactions with service providers, helps ICANN increase DNS operator's knowledge of best practices pertaining to DNS operations and security, and encourages the deployment of authoritative name servers in IXPs. The Internet Society has already decided the selection criteria and is now in discussions with IXP operators across Africa. Two IXPs are targeted for 2023. They will be announced soon.
Developing Capacity and Increasing Security
Another important initiative focuses on enhancing the capacity of 10 African country code top-level domain registries to encourage the growth of the digital economy in their respective countries. Launched in June 2022, the project is a partnership between ICANN, the International Telecommunication Union, Africa Top Level Domains Organization, Network Startup Resource Center, and Association Française pour le Nommage Internet en Coopération. The group is currently conducting a needs assessment to provide tailored capacity development support to the selected registries.
In partnership with the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), ICANN is promoting the adoption and deployment of Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) in registries and registrars in 12 African countries by June 2025. This effort involves "roadshows" to raise awareness and build capacity for DNS operators, registries, and registrars to implement and deploy DNSSEC. The ATU and ICANN are organizing workshops in three countries in the first half of 2023, ultimately leading to the development of an enhanced DNS resource portal for Africa.
This is only the beginning. We are eager to start working on other initiatives that will support strategies for the digital economy and the expansion of the Internet in Africa. We are always on the lookout for like-minded organizations who would like to partner with the Coalition.