Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Southern Sudan in Search of a Domain Name

The charismatic leader of the rebellion in the Southern Sudan, the late John Garang, campaigned for a united Sudan from north to south. Six years after his death, the largely Christian south is separated from the Muslim north. Last Saturday, July 9, Southern Sudan declared its independence and became the 193rd State of the planet. A historic day. 




Everything has to be constructed from nothing in this new state without institutions or infrastructure and a human development indexrank of 154 out of 169. 
Among the many challenges facing Juba: Internet. Southern Sudan is faced with a puzzle to establish a country code top level domain(ccTLD). In the 21st century, the state has a territory, a government and population, but also a domain name. Each territory has its own unique two letter extension that is  assigned by ISO. Example: ". ng" for Nigeria ".cv" for the Ivory Coast ".za" for South Africa; ". fr" for France ... The problem is significant for South Sudan is struggling find an extension that is both available and suitable ....
"We want our domain name to be '.ss' for 'South Sudan', but people are telling us 'SS' has an association in Europe with Nazis. We have applied for it anyway. "Stephen Lugga, the new country's undersecretary in the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services told Reuters

But southern Sudan has little choice because the various options of two-letter extensions are rare and that the new State can not use the ". sd" reserved for the Republic of Sudan. The extension ". rs" for Republic of South Sudan is already used by Serbia ". sn" is in use in Senegal while ". su" is still attributed to the defunct Soviet Union. As a result ". ss" appears to be the only choice possible for Juba. But it is the United Nations that will slice and add the Southern Sudan on the list of Member States. Then, the International Standards Organization (ISO), based in Geneva, will award the "country code" (ISO 3166-1) of two or three letters. These codes are generally used as a domain name.

Another possible far fetched option would be to file an application for a generic extension to ICANN based on ICANN's new generic Top Level Domain name program. Since June 20, it is now possible for brands, communities, regions and cities to apply for a generic extension of your choice. The current generic extensions include .com, .org . info .biz .asia .travel .aero(there are 22 in total) but with new program recently approved in Singapore it will be possible to apply for .eco .green .shop .africa .paris .london .nairobi .juba .canon .apple for the Apple brand. Thus, the Government of Southern Sudan may apply for extensions such as . juba (write English in the capital Juba) or . southsudan. or even .rss for the Republic of South Sudan although I guarantee that .rss will be a tough nut to crack. Applications for these new top level domains begin from January all the way to April and will cost South Sudan a minimum of $185,000 and the names will only be available in 2013.


This is just an out of the box suggestion but the reality is that every country has an ISO 3166-1 two-letter code and  ccTLD  and South Sudan cannot be an exception. As I discussed in previous posts, .SS is the logical way forward and all this noise about SS is just much ado about nothing. To a South Sudanese, SS is not a controversial name but just the initials of their new independent nation. The darker SS of the 1940s is not part of South Sudanese history. It would not be fair to deny South Sudan a legitimate code just because someone in Europe feel uneasy. Let's assume a militia in Central Africa with the initials NL committed a massacre, a cold blooded murder of millions, would the Dutch be willing to give up .NL just because it makes some Africans uneasy? Yes, that's how pointless the debate on .SS is.

As one of the commentators stated, why should South Sudan pay for the past crimes of Europe?