The organization that managers Kenya’s Top Level Domain (ccTLD), the .dot KE domain name has been in the news lately with Daily Nation writing, “Kenya’s Internet domain market is set for a shakeup” here and here. The looming overhaul is the intention of CCK to step down from being one of the two trustees that oversee the operations of KENIC and open up dot KE registry to commercial bodies other than KENIC.
Already CCK has come up with a number of draft documents and proposals for the intended shakeup in the sector. The public consultation paper on licensing and regulatory framework for dot ke domain name registry services by CCK has this to say in regards to opening up ccTLD to commercial entities;
Given the requirements of the Act [Kenya Information and Communications Act] and Regulations [Kenya Information and Communications Regulations, 2010], 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….
The licensing framework for Dot KE Domain Name Registry and the proposed structure of a delegated regulation model will ensure that the Commission plays a regulatory oversight role as envisaged in the Act and Regulations while at the same time transferring the management of the Dot KE Domain Name Registry to a commercial entity.
It is envisaged that having the Dot KE Domain Name Registry operated by a commercial entity will spur the required growth in the Dot KE Domain Names and thus the adoption and development of electronic Commerce (e-Commerce) and electronic Transactions (e-Transactions) related services.
CCK seems to have finally acknowledged the fact that KENIC has not been performing since its inception in 2002. KENIC has managed to register slightly above 26,000 domain names under dot KE domain name extension, translating to about 2,200 registered domain names every year. The reasons for under performance has majorly been attributed to poor management. From a customer’s perspective, this and several other challenges need to be addressed in order “to spur the required growth in the Dot KE Domain Names”.
First Challenge – Cost of Dot KE Domain Names
For some reason Dot KE Domain Names is remarkably expensive. To register and maintain a Domain Name with a Dot Com or Dot Net extension (International Domain Names), one pays roughly $10 per year. However, if you were to register a Dot KE Domain Name you’re required to pay $25 per year, a figure that is 150% more expensive compared to the former. Even though it is easy to get desired Domain Names under Dot KE, people would rather use ambiguous names for their websites but save the additional $15 demanded by KENIC.
The lack of interest in Dot KE Domain Names has led to KENIC making losses. In 2012 for instance, KENIC registered a deficit but was able to recover in the financial year 2012/2013. However, any organization running a lean system such as managing a country’s ccTLD ought not to make any losses (deficit) as personnel and systems required for optimal operations are quite few. KENIC for instance has only 5 employees.
If KENIC lowered the cost of registering a domain name to approximately $7 per year and targeted to operate at least 200,000 Domain Names, then KENIC would be talking of an annual revenue of at least $1.4 million (Kshs 120 million) up from the current average of $650,000 or Shs 55.6 million.
Second Challenge – Preference for International Domain Names
There was a time when having a Dot Com Domain Name extension meant your website would be easily remembered by people. But today all the easy to remember names have been taken up in the Dot Com extension and the only way to use your preferred Domain Name is to opt for a country’s Top Level Domain Name. For instance techtoday.com could have been taken but techtoday.co.ke could still be available.
Although techtoday.co.ke could still be available, someone who intends to register a tech website would still fumble with words until they get a suitable .com Domain Name instead of opting for techtoday.co.ke. The preference for a .com Domain Name is mostly a perception issue related to the phrase “dot com generation”. But if registering techtoday.co.ke was twice as cheap as registering techtoday.com, then the many who opt for .com would find it rational to change their preference and opt for a local Domain Name.
Other than cost, some people have suggested that commercial websites that currently register with .co.ke should be allowed to use only .ke. This is will make it easier for people to remember websites and also reduce the typing effort for those who have to type in complete URLs to access specific websites. For instance one would find it easier to remember and type in www.techtoday.ke instead of www.techtoday.co.ke. Other second level domain names e.g. .ac.ke, .or.ke, etc can remain as they are.
Third Challenge – Management
One plague that has attacked KENIC is proper management. Despite being 14 years old, KENIC has had 5 CEOs and fired workers unceremoniously. In 2012 Dr. Bitange Ndemo complained about the managerial issues at KENIC in regards to laying off workers and said;
Even in the Government, firing employees has several steps that must be followed to ensure security of tenure. This came as a surprise, yet we are supposed to be stakeholders. We must all respect the spirit of the Constitution, especially in such a multi-stakeholder agency.
One of the reasons that must have led CCK to proposing a number of changes in Kenya’s ccTLD licensing and management structure is the poor operation and managerial issues at KENIC.
Other than experiencing problems at the top level management including problems with the board, KENIC has not adopted any marketing strategies to ensure that most websites registered by Kenyans or in Kenya adopt the Dot KE Domain Name extension. KENIC is not engaged in any promotions nor advertisements for its services anywhere other than having a website through which someone can register a Domain Name.
Hopefully having a number of private/commercial firms managing and operating Dot KE Domain will help solve the problems created by KENIC.
Fourth Challenge – Issues raised by TESPOK
On 30th January 2014 Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK) released a Press Statement on “concerns over the manner in which the Kenyan government is proposing to handle the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK), [formerly CCK] transition out of KENIC- the .ke domain manager.” In the Statement, TESPOK said “there is a need to ensure a smooth institutional transition and service delivery” adding that “CAK should not feel that they can proceed to change the operations of [KENIC] without due consultations.
To help CCK and industry’s stakeholders transform the management of Dot KE efficiently and profitably, CCK has published draft documents for public input. You too can be of help by going through the CCK’s documents posted here and sending in your recommendations and comments. Hopefully TESPOK will consider your inputs as adequate public participation during the transition.
We do hope that the overhaul of KENIC will help the country enjoy smooth “adoption and development of electronic Commerce (e-Commerce) and electronic Transactions (e-Transactions) related services” even though TESPOK has vowed never to support commercialization of KENIC.