By Sakawdin Mohamed, MS, MPA
“Sovereignty for Sale: Why it’s never been more profitable to be a nation – state than in today’s non-nation-state world” by Daniel W. Drezner
Somalia is one of the young African countries to get connected to the Internet after the country established its first ISP in 1999. But today some preferred regions of the country have internet connectivity close to 73%, while Southern and Central Somalia has connectivity of 0-3%-- this is despite the booming of the Internet business and the existence of central government in which systematically encourages price discriminations and lack of regulations. Currently, a young Somali student or internet user in the South and Central Somalia or some parts of the North pay skyrocketing fees, and while the rest of the country pays less – this is the courtesy of few greedy government officials, and lack of governmental intervention.
The lack of regulation following numerous allegations of corruption and distrust of Somali’s government led huge vacuum and various applications for top level domain from Somalia’s independent regions and entities, which could all mean--- a government leading and permitting the existence of the chaotic situation. There are no license filings, public hearings, price regulation, or other governmental impediments, but wait- the government ministers are the beneficiaries of this chaotic situation! Those who could bid the highest and have the connections can certainly fill the infrastructure vacuum with the permissions from the most powerful minister. This is a situation of government that cannot fulfill its duties and fail to carry its main mandate. It is easy for one to scream for a regulations, but it is another when government officials or ‘technocrats’ fail to provide regulations, but rather introduce price discriminations and contract- out their duties to foreign agencies for a price.
As the result of greed, disengagement and lack of collaborations as well as lack of transparency- other regions in the country have opted out and started their own redelegation process. Case in point, the recent ICANN report of Somaliland’s frequent TLD delegation requests to ICANN (http://ccnso.icann.org/workinggroups/notes-drd-23sep10-en.pdf). This is because of Somali Ministry of Post’s apparent failure to respond to or undertake any discussions with the other regional members and other stakeholders, has led serious chaotic situations to set-in, and provided no option to other regional administrations. This is clearly a failure to promote dialogue among the interested parties and stakeholders; and could lead further race for ccTLD among independent establishments in Somalia.
To create harmony and responsive TLD administration, it will only be wise for the Somali Prime Minister, ICANN/IANA representatives and the ICANN’s Counsel for International Legal Affairs to mediate and establish dialogue among key stakeholders, and remind the current ccTLD administrators that they serve as a trustee on behalf of, and in service to, all Somalis despite their regional differences; and that as a trustee, the Ministry of Post must act fairly and in the best interests of the entire local Internet community including other independent regions, be responsive to the members of Somali internet community, and engage in dialogue about issues relating to the ccTLD.
In order to avoid the unnecessary ccTLD competitions in Somalia, current Somali governance must undertake direct dialogue with their counter parts and other internet stakeholder in an effort to resolve their concerns and to attempt to reach a mutually acceptable set of managerial arrangements for the .so ccTLD.
We hope this revelation will serve and push Somali officials to consider other stakeholders in the region. This should also serve an indication that TLD task is too great for fragile governmental entity to handle that has other delicate tasks (such starvation, terrorism, insecurity, institutional-building etc) to deal. This is a step first missed and should have been analyzed. Somalia’s redelegation process should have been transparent and discussed with various stakeholders from the get-go.
In addition, there is currently no governmental plan, budget or support from the international community to train or involve Somali IT experts and the Diaspora for the development of the country’s ICT infrastructure. But a review of the Somali media reports clearly shows contracts being issued and denials of existence of contracts. Nowhere in the current budget passed by the parliament was any reference made to allocation assistance that will be used in managing the ccTLD as a “national resource”. The government declared the ccTLD as a” national resource”, but did not allocate budgetary funding for its operations.
Somalia needs to look inward rather than outward when it comes for ICT development for. Localization of the .so Domain would have been an ideal starting place for hosting Internet content that is indigenous to Somalia. But without a local or internal stakeholder support and input, the Somali ccTLD will continue attract low internal registrants; there will a minuscule registered Domain names for the ccTLD.
Currently, .soTLD administrative role is improperly managed in the country at the same time the technical tasks and contact are being administered outside the country. The current registration process and procedure are delegated despite the fact that it is not as responsive as preferred by various internal stakeholders. Most Somalis have no input in the operations and running of their ccTLD. The Somali internet community and the users would like and want a responsive governance that would ensure – (1) fair level for an honest competition and Internet development for the benefits of all categories of users; (2) transparent practices in the management and administration of ccTLD.
As someone, yearning to see the TFG to succeed and be countable to the Somali people – Somalis and government ministers should promote active participation that fosters both government accountability and social accountability. As the Somali nation has no other alternative beside the current secular government, we must commit ourselves to a higher degree of engagement for all stakeholders or possible stakeholders. The problem currently faced by Somali cannot be solved by one minister or one person only, but a collective engagement and inclusion of all participants from North to South as well as fairness in all processes including the new technologies or ICT.
Sakawdin Mohamed, MS, MPA
Articles by Sakawdin Mohamed:
President Sharif: Somali’s Hope of Eliminating Tribalism and Clan-based Terror Groups
The Ultimate Solution of the Somali Leadership Crisis