Friday, November 4, 2011

Why KENIC will not be marketing .KE Domains

I have been reading through the IGF transcripts to get a sense on some of the issues close to my heart; the IGF was structured in such a way that you had to learn to prioritize on which meetings to attend. Many a time you found yourself torn apart between two very interesting workshops.
One of the workshops I missed was one on the ccTLD ecosystem in East Africa, a very insightful workshop attended by players in the region and even Vint Cerf. There was an issue on whether ccTLDs in the region should be involved in developing the internet in the region and this soon splintered into finer points on whether ccTLDs should even be involved in promoting/marketing the ccTLD domains.

  According to a presentation from KENIC, the registry believes marketing will overburden it, so it's concentrating on building partnerships with big businesses like Google and organizations like Kenya Education Network and Elimu Portal for the growth of the .KE ccTLD namespace. But even these organizations are complaining that the .KEs are too costly. Google is rolling out "Get Online" programs around the world and in many countries, including India, users get free domains. In Kenya, SMEs coud only get subdomains in the fourth level of Not  a good way to brand your business!

So if KENIC feels marketing is a burden, who should the burden fall on? Who will do the marketing and teach Kenyans on the importance of having a .KE? The Government? The registrars? The newspapers?  Of course not. KENIC must reach out to end users. Registry growth is always driven by end users who have access to affordable domains and can apply their savvy to develop those domains into viable businesses or sources of content. Kenyans must be able to buy as many domains as they would like to own for various uses including domain parking, domain investing, development, blogging etc and this will only happen if they can afford the domains in the first place and also if they understand the importance of having their content on that ccTLD.

Look at the French Registry AFNIC and the level of promotion that it does. Or even DENIC. Promotions go hand in hand with good pricing and they are a factor in driving the growth of the registry. But a registry that';s too focused in developing governance models without looking at the commercial aspects of the business is bound for slow growth.

I think focusing too much on building the "multistakeholder model" without the common man in mind, without consideration of end users, it's just too academic and detached from reality.

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