The Africa DNS Forum turned five this year, and what a journey it has been. Held from 26-28 July 2017 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and hosted by TZNIC, we sought to choose a theme that captured the signifance of this journey: "Taking stock of the Africa DNS Industry and planning ahead."
Having reached such an important milestone, I feel that now is an appropriate occasion to not just take stock, but also praise the African Internet community on its efforts throughout the years. It is their hard work and continued participation that has made the Africa DNS Forum into an annual pilgrimage for the regional DNS community. Like any relationship, five years is a major milestone, and the forum is no exception. It continues to provide a rich and effective platform for the exchange of ideas that are aimed at furthering the growth of both the DNS and Internet industry in Africa.
The first ever edition of the Africa Domain Name System (ADNS) forum took place at the International Convention Center (ICC) in Durban, South Africa, from 12-13 July 2013. This was just a few months after I assumed my new role as ICANN's Vice President of Stakeholder Engagement for Africa. The forum was co-organized by ICANN, the Internet Society (ISOC), and Africa Top Level Domains (AfTLD) as a pre-workshop to ICANN47, which was also being held at the ICC from 14-18 July 2013.
After Durban, the ICANN organization, the ICANN community, and our global partners kept the momentum going by making the DNS Forum an annual event with subsequent iterations taking place in 2014 (Nigeria), 2015 (Kenya), and 2016 (Morocco).
Over the years, the AFDNS forum has lived up to its expectations, identifying key national and cross-border issues that continue to challenge the growth of the industry, such as:
- Registry and registrar strategies (domain name growth, competitive environment)
- Legal issues (dispute resolutions, cross-border domain registrations)
- Registrar accreditation (ICANN accreditation and ccTLD accreditation in a borderless environment)
- Automation (technical capacity and the resiliency of registries, payment gateways, etc.)
- Governments supporting the growth of ccTLDs
This year's forum participants were noticeably more informed and prepared.The deliberations on the issues mentioned above were rich, honest, and practical. Delegates understood the need to bring on more stakeholders, and engage with new audiences that have traditionally been ignored but still impact businesses, either directly or indirectly.
We also had a full session during the forum dedicated to key findings from ICANN's 2016 Africa DNS Market Study, which was published in June 2017. One of the main recommendations, a DNS Observatory in Africa, was discussed amongst the participants, with unanimous consensus from those participating that AfTLD should take ownership of the project and spearhead its establishment.
The study demonstrates that we are moving ahead in reaching the key objectives of ICANN's Africa Strategy. I strongly believe that together, we have laid down a strong foundation for the DNS industry in Africa. However, a lot still remains to be done, especially at the national level.
It is my hope that this fifth anniversary of the Africa DNS Forum will inspire all of our regional partners to continue in their efforts towards transforming the African DNS industry. For our part, ICANN promises to remain a commited partner throughout this journey.