If there’s one thing that’s giving intense headaches to Rwanda, a country that’s determined to become the regional ICT hub by 2020, is the fact that its country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) name (.rw) is still in the hands of an individual — a foreign citizen to put it right. “It’s shameful that our country’s ccTLD is managed by a custodian,” says Justin Rugondihene, Director of Internet, Media and Postal Affairs at RURA.
Rwanda’s ccTLD was registered and reserved by Frédéric Grégoire, a European man, under his Switzerland-based company, NIC Congo – Interpoint, during the dawn of the dot-com bubble (1995-) when the World Wide Web hadn’t reached many African countries yet. He registered it through Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a private organization that’s responsible for the coordination of the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers — addresses used by computers to know where to find each other. At the time, registration was first-come, first-served.
It was in 2005 that Rwanda, through then RITA (now RDB/IT), took the first initiatives to approach ICANN for a possible redelegation of the domain name to Rwanda. RITA, the government’s organization, wasn’t the right institution to pursue the process due to ICANN’s recommendations that the domain name must be managed by a private institution. That’s when RICTA, Rwanda Information and Communication Technology Association, was born; with mandates of redelegation and management of .rw domain.
RICTA followed the requests until ICANN arranged negotiations between both parties, RICTA and Frédéric Grégoire, but, according to RURA, the latter imposed a series of impediments that the country doesn’t have enough infrastructure and skills to manage the domain. And RICTA, because of lacking enough budget, was sometimes absent for the meetings (in Geneva, Switzerland). All this, among others, led the negotiations to becoming fruitless and later lying dormant.
They were resumed at the time of Ignace Gatare, then Minister in President’s Office in Charge of ICT, who said that for Rwanda, a country with goals of becoming the regional ICT hub (with no domain), the redelegation process must be a priority.
Rwanda is the only country that doesn’t manage its own top-level domain.
Minister Gatare brought together RDB/IT and RURA for a meeting about the redelegation and it was decided that RICTA, for the matter of consistence, must be supported financially so that the redelegation process runs faster. RURA provided seed money through its Universal Access Fund while RDB/IT gave offices at Telecom House. Everything — equipments, personnel, letters of recommendation from the minister, support of local ICT community… — has been done just to once again find Grégoire sticking to the same old claims.
Frédéric Grégoire gives the domain name to citizens of Rwanda completely free of charge. The process is strikingly straightforward and simple: Go to http://nic.rw, attach a copy of the passport (to prove your citizenship) on the email that was sent to you after filling the form earlier, and your .rw top-level domain name will be opened in less than 6 hours. No matter all that, the country is always concerned about the security and management of its own domain. After all, this is the property of Rwanda.
The good news is that Frédéric Grégoire has cooled down, agreed to re-attend the meetings and the bilateral discussions are running smoothly. ICANN has done technical evaluation and been satisfied by the correct expertise it found, and the application (for redelegation) to ICANN has been made in December 2011. It was later approved.
If all goes as expected, Rwanda will be handed over its top-level domain name not later than October 2012.
RICTA has sophisticated equipments, engineers, coordinators and professional personnel. This is the same institution that manages country-code second-level domain names (ccSLD) of .co.rw and .com.rw for commecial entities, .ac.rw for educational institutions, .org.rw for NGOs, .id.rw for individuals, .as.rw for associations and .gov.rw for the Government of Rwanda — it won’t be difficult for them to manage the .rw ccTLD.