Huge challenges of effort, resource and communication over fixed mind-sets
On her .africa journey, she believes that a lot of progress has been registered during the past six years, especially managing a global promotional campaign to raise awareness about .africa and new gTLDs and the work of ICANN in general; and to also explain to people and different organizations how Africa and Africans would benefit from the introduction of the new gTLD. However, this has also posed a lot of challenges in terms of effort, resources, and communicating the .africa message to enable her to overcome fixed mind-sets.
Lack of awareness of ICANN process by African Governments
She laments that even today, in spite of huge efforts made to promote and communicate the benefits of .africa many African government still do not know about the new gTLD program, and the work of ICANN.
Confusion of AUC's role and authority in .africa
Sophia thinks that many people are still confused about the role of the African Union Commission regarding its level of authority to delegate the new gTLD outside the approved ICANN program. She cited the example of the AU Ministerial Roundtable that convened in Dakar, Senegal in October 2011 to request that ICANN should reserve the .africa name and its equivalent in other languages to enable the AU give this to a 'structure' that it would identify and appoint. Sophia thought that this was an illegitimate request that was made against the approved new gTLD program guidelines for which reason she was compelled to raise the issue with ICANN leaders and executives. Sophia thought that the AU request would make the .africa name string unavailable so that no one would be able to apply for it, and would have also given the impression that ICANN was giving preferential treatment to the AU within a global multi-stakeholder community.
Campaign against Special Interests groups who want .africa for themselves
Sophia said that she was not against the AU as such, but was fighting special interests who she thinks were actually manipulating the AU to act illegally outside the ICANN program simply for the benefit of these special interest groups who want to takeover .africa for themselves. She also cited how a 'shadowy group' suddenly emerged from nowhere and tried to use .africa to foster an illegal Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) scam out of South Africa, which she was also forced to campaign against. Sophia sees the defeat of that potential BEE scam and the illegitimate partnership underlying it as one important success that DCA Trust achieved.
ICANN and not the AU should decide who operates the .africa registry
On one hand, she has to fight against the notion that the new .africa gTLD should be delegated by the AU outside the global ICANN process, and that anyone appointed by the AU as registry operator should automatically manage .africa as a fait accompli. Sophia insists that only ICANN should decide on who should operate the .africa registry following the evaluation of the applications submitted by applicants based on published criteria. She believes that the process should be governed by merit and the final decision should rest with ICANN.
AFTLD and/or ccTLDs should not have mandate over .africa
Another challenge that she has encountered is the notion that the African Top-Level Domains (AfTLD) organization which supposedly represents African country-code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) should be given the mandate over .africa. Sophia thinks that the individual African countries already have their two-code country Top-Level domains, and that ccTLDs should not manage new gTLDs. She has however, proposed to undertake cross-marketing efforts with these ccTLDs and also channel some of the surplus proceeds from the new .africa towards capacity building of African ccTLDs.
Funding Challenges, in particular over a controversial project.
Another major challenge that she cited is funding the entire investment. The application fee alone for the .africa new gTLD that her organization paid to ICANN is USD 185,000.00 plus another USD 300,000.00 that was used to provide a guarantee for the Registry Continuity Operations Instrument to protect users and registrants against registry failure. She has also expended an equal amount in promoting the .africa new gTLD in addition to monies that would be used to establish the registry technical infrastructure. All these are forward expenses that have to be paid even before the new gTLD is delegated by ICANN. She has made all these investments in order to satisfy her initial commitment to the ITU and ICANN and other international bodies that she will invest more than 1million dollars for the establishment of this initiative and ensure its success.
Cope with Oppositions & Objections to DCA application.
In spite of these challenges, she also has to cope with opposition and objections to her application, and cited that in recent months, she has been engaged in fighting off different objection threats, either from the Independent Objector or Governmental Advisory committee warnings that have been issued against the new gTLD application submitted by her organization.
Ensure accountability, transparency and the rule of law is upheld.
She believes that the greatest challenge for her really is how to ensure that the process has the necessary transparency and accountability mechanisms, and has even appealed to the United States Congress in Washington D.C. to appoint a congressional Ombudsman that will look into any irregularities and any allegations of illegality regarding the implementation of the new gTLD programme.
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