The Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), was set up by the Federal Government to administer the nation's country code Top Level Domain, .ng, which is Nigeria's identifier on the World Wide Web. In this interview with Senior Correspondent, EMMANUEL OKWUKE, President of NIRA, Mrs. Mary Uduma, speaks on efforts to deepen awareness, get government businesses online and deepen adoption of the country's domain names and other sundry matters.
In the last one year, what would you say has been the level of adoption of the country's domain name, .ng?
First of all, the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), started in 2009 and we had only 2,000 domain names then. Over the years, we have been progressing. We have raised, not just funds, but the uptake of domain names have increased from 2,000 to about 60,000. That is a lot of achievement due mainly to the rate of adoption, understanding of the importance of the domain name and governments' support or interest in the scheme.
We recorded some milestones even in 2013. For instance, our registration grew by over 50 per cent in 2013 from what it was in 2012 and we are hoping that it will continue to grow. We are targeting more growth in registration, renewal and even new businesses. In 2012, we registered only 10, 000 domain names but in 2013, we had over 16, 000.
Let me break down the new registration and renewal figures for you. For new registration, last year, 913 were registered in January, 801 in February, 980 in March, 3, 609 in April, 1,788 in May and 1,406 in June. In July, August, September and October, 1,242; 1,188; 1,263 and 1,299 .ng domain names were registered while 1239 and 1253 were registered in November and December respectively.
If you add all these, you will get about 16, 981 domain names registered. However, 472 were renewed in January; 587 in February; 555 in March; 573 in April; 442 in May and 706 in June. Also, 646 were renewed in July; 750 in August; 537 in September; 777 in October; 614 in November and 912 in December, last year and the total of this will give you 7, 571. So, Nigeria's internet domain adoption and usage is gaining traction and we are committed to working with our registrars; they are our partners and channels, to achieve more progress in this regard.
What is the value that .ng domain name adoption offers the user?
The value of using .ng to individuals, businesses and governments is huge. In the first place, the local content policy of Federal Government starts with .ng. So, if you are a Nigerian and you want to promote the local content, you should be on .ng registry. That is the first thing. Secondly, the policy of the federal government is also promoting local content for businesses to be online and preferably on .ng. The more people find a business online these days, the better it is for the business owner and that is even where the world is going: e-commerce.
Also, .ng provides good visibility and progress for business. So, bring your businesses, bring yourself online by blogging on .ng. As we speak, there are many people making money on .com.ng because they registered .com.ng and they are making lots of money. Some are making as much as N100, 000 every day on .com.ng. So, the more you bring your businesses online, you blog on .ng, the more your progress. As an organisation in Nigeria, .ng is your identity on the cyberspace. It is your ICT currency. If you must trade on the cyberspace in Nigeria, trade with the currency.
Why are Nigerians reluctant to adopt .ng domain name as they still prefer .com, .co.uk and others?
Well, I think the reason is that Nigerians are sceptical about .ng domain name adoption, migration or switch over, is based on the obvious erroneous belief that all made-in-Nigeria products are not genuine. But, over the years, we have proven to those that have signed on to the domain name that it is as secured as any foreign domain name they might want to align to.
People are still itching for foreign domain names. On our part, we have gone to the extent of easing the registration periods; such that within 24 hours, you can get done with your registration. It is just like .com, but people are still looking at .ng domain with such posers such as 'What is that?', 'Am I sure it works?', 'Is it not 419 (fraudulent)? However, we are making breakthroughs, especially with the Federal and State Governments (through their Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), by saying they must be on .gov.ng. Every other business person would like to follow-suit.
We have, at various occasions, highlighted the importance of .ng; Nigeria's Country Code Top Level Domain name (ccTLD), , an Internet top-level domain generally used or reserved for Nigeria. In general, the awareness level is still low; that is why we are eager to educate, inform and mobilise the people. It was as a result of our advocacy that even the government embraced .gov.ng.
What effort is NIRA making to deepen awareness and adoption of .ng domain among Nigerians?
We are doing some interventions to make sure that greater awareness happens and part of the intervention is to make sure that it is easy to register on .ng so that within five minutes, you are registered.
As you may be aware, we started with massive publicity for the domain name by our 'Switch To .Gov.NG' campaign. The relevance of this campaign is manifested in the milestone we have achieved in government. Following the commencement of the campaign in 2012, a steering committee was formed for government switching to .ng, and we are members of that committee and we have been contributing a lot into the steering committee. We have also gotten to a final point of having a government portal, where all governments MDAs are connected and also where we ensure that all government workers have their official e-mails on .ng.
Today, it is gladdening to note that a number of MDAs have put various services online. A number of services have been enabled online since the plan. For instance, from less than 50 sites at launch in 2013, records have shown that we now have over 250 sites deployed on the services.gov.ng site, with over 100,000 .gov.ng e-mail addresses for government officials opened.
In the area of government adoption of .ng, I can tell you that now, the adoption is going total. We would have given a percentage for the level of adoption but it is going total now for all government MDAs. The next frontier of the campaigns is targeted at other levels of government, agencies, commissions, embassies and consulates making good use of their exchange channel on .gov.ng.
However, we have also observed that there are cases of some MDAs government that are yet to give in to .ng domain name, but that is going to change. As I said earlier, with a steering committee on 'Switch to .Gov.NG', there are programmes lined up to ensure, for instance, that every civil servant adopts a .ng e-mail at the workplace. The truth of the matter is that domain name switchover is work-in-progress and we are making progress. So, the efforts to deepen visibility for .ng are an on-ongoing exercise.
What are other initiatives that NIRA has put in place to ensure adequate awareness of .ng?
The opening of the second level domain registration in April 2013 has an initiative that has resulted in huge success. Other registrars across the globe have adopted the practice and seek to understand our challenges and approach.
NiRA participates actively at seminars, workshops and other event both in the ICT industry and outside it. We commenced sponsorship of the segment of a PCFIX on Eko FM, as well as the production of a bi-weekly e-newsletter. There is much more to be done though.
NIRA has actively collaborated with the NCC; Office of the Head of Civil Service for the Federation, the Office of the National Security Adviser and, of course, NITDA, in major stakeholder meetings and events where advocacy for the uptake of .ng took centre stage and we are going to continue in that direction in the years to come.
We also realised on time that the domain name industry is constantly evolving, and change must come from within us if our ccTLD must remain relevant, hence the introduction of new gTLDs call for a review of our position in the industry. As a result, the board, in the previous years, decided to open up registration of domain s directly under the .ng. As noted earlier, the opening up of the Second Level domain name registration entailed some policy change as registrants were, hitherto, accredited to register domains under specific Second Level Domains.
The policies reviewed were those pertaining to the restructure of domain registrations to the Third Level as found in the Domain Name Policy, the Registrar Agreement and the Fee Policy of NiRA. There were also some policy reviews, including the minimum registration period of premium domains and a downward review of the renewal fee.
The Federal Government has given states and local governments as well as MDAs August 2014 deadline to switch to .ng platform, do you see them meeting this directive?
Yes, in a bid to protect state apparatuses from deliberate and unintended abuse, NiRA came up with the deadline for state governments, ministries and parastatals as well as local governments in the country and they have up till August this year to host their websites on the country's domain name.
Apart from offering a cover to the assignees, the country will, through the process, set up and operate a unified ICT infrastructure platform that permeates through all tiers of government and its agencies. It is not news that the creation of the .ng domain-based websites and email addresses followed discovery that some civil servants have inadvertently transmitted sensitive government data and information through their own free email addresses which pose national security challenges. To meet the deadline, NITDA is collaborating with NIRA to ensure a smooth migration for the states and local governments to switch to .ng internet domain name. The decision was reached by the council involved to rally all stakeholders for holistic implementation.
Some people have registered on .ng but their domain names are offline, what are you doing to bring them online?
We are still bringing some intervention to the fore to ensure that those who have domain names, but have not been able to develop a website, are encouraged to begin to use their domain names. They registered with the registrars, but currently, they are offline. So, we want to make sure they are online again.
With a token (amount of money), they will join the league of website owners and users. We are coming up with various interventions that will encourage Nigerians including students, small scale businesses, artisans and so on, to register on .ng.