President, Nigeria Internet Registration Association, Muhammed Rudman, in this interview with Emma Okonji, speaks on the need for collaboration and trust to make Nigeria’s domain name registration and hosting widely acceptable. Excerpts:
The Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), recently organised its first dot NG web hosting conference in Lagos. What is NiRA’s interest in it?
This is the first of dot NG web hosting conference organised by NiRA, and the idea is to promote dot NG among Nigerians, which is the country’s identity in the cyberspace. We have been selling and promoting the dot NG domain name across Nigeria, and people are actually buying it and adopting it, which is good for the country because the money stays within the Nigerian economy. But we realised that there are other value chains around the dot NG like the web designing after the purchase of the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) name, and hosting of the data of the domain name by indigenous hosting companies. We realised that the hosting is the substantial part of the online business, yet Nigerians are not benefiting from it because they pay the foreign hosting companies and the money moves away from Nigeria, which amounts to capital flight. This, of course, puts more strain on the Nigerian currency and it also makes access to the content very expensive since we export data contents that are later returned to the county. Based on these identified lapses, NiRA decided to bring all the key stakeholders in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector that are into hosting services, to sit down together and discuss ways of ensuring that Nigerians are no longer hosting outside the country. We were able to bring together, the Registrars of dot NG, the resellers, the web developers, hosting companies, data centre operators, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and every other stakeholders that are interested in domain business to enable us discuss and chat the way forward for Nigeria and this is critical to help Nigeria move out of the current situation where various local data generated from Nigeria are hosted outside of the country.
What is Nigeria losing for hosting data outside the country?
Honestly, I cannot quantify the amount of loss Nigeria is incurring as a result of data hosting outside the country, but I know that the losses are huge and it has both economic and security implications. For the economic implication, Nigeria is losing money to foreign economies where several data generated from Nigeria are being hosted and for the security implication, it exposes our data to vulnerability and hacking.
Most online crimes are traced to Nigeria, even when Nigerians are not involved in such crimes. Could this be as a result of the weakness in Nigerian domain name system?
The tracing of such crimes to Nigeria has nothing to do with the Nigerian domain name system. The truth is that most of the online crimes are committed outside of Nigeria, but because most Nigerians are using pirated software that are downloaded from the internet, and they do not have strong anti-virus running in their systems, hackers capitalise on this to hack their system from outside of Nigeria and launch all manners of emails on the hacked Nigerian systems to commit online fraud, without Nigerians knowing. So because the hacked Nigerian systems were used to perpetrate the online crime, it could be easily traced to Nigeria through the Internet Protocol (IP) address system, and that is why cybercrime rate is recorded high in Nigeria, whereas Nigerians are not actually the ones committing all of the crimes.
Trust has been an issue in local hosting of domain name. What is your view about this?
Nigerians have to learn to trust Nigerians and begin to imbibe the culture of hosting their data with Nigerian companies who are hosting data locally from their data centres located in Nigeria. Of course I know that there are security challenges at the beginning, but this is not peculiar to Nigeria, as other countries also face security challenges. The more we begin to trust the local hosting capabilities of Nigerians, the earlier we begin to overcome our security challenges as a nation. It is good we trust companies hosting domain names locally in Nigeria and give them the opportunity to grow efficiently.
Nigeria is ranked high in global internet usage rating, yet the IP resources of Nigeria is lower than other countries with lower internet ranking. Why is it so?
It is true that the global internet usage rating of Nigeria is high, yet out IP resources remain lower than other countries who have lower internet rating, and the reason is that most of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Nigeria are not taking a lot of IP resources from the regional internet registry, which is African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC) that allocates Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and the ISPs tend to do a lot of Network Address Translation (NAT), which has to do with using private IP addresses that will be later translated into public IP addresses. What happened is that these ISPs have very few public IP addresses and they will stylishly use the private IP addresses for connectivity and later translate them into public IP addresses. The implication is that the resources of the public IP addresses that were assigned by AfriNIC, which is the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) that assigns IP addresses, will continue to reduce because only few public IP address are used by ISPs. They use more of their private IP addresses for connectivity, which they will later translate into public IP addresses and the bulk of the revenue will be going to private IP addresses instead of the public IP addresses, because internet users who subscribe to the ISPs will be using the private IP address of the ISP instead of the public IP address assigned by AfriNIC. So the monies paid by the internet users are diverted to the ISPs because the ISPs are directly connected to the internet with their private IP addresses that will be later translated into public IP addresses.
Nigerians are yet to migrate from Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), yet IPv4 has been saturated according to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global body responsible for IP address space location. What are the issues?
The issues are clear. The telecommunications operators (Telcos) are using a lot of private IP addresses, which are later translated into public IP addresses and since it does not affect their revenue stream, they are comfortable with it and they are not willing to migrate from IPv4 to IPv6. But I think it is better for government and the end users to compel telcos to begin to consider migration from IPv4 to IPv6. If that is done, the ISPs will begin to consume more public IP resources with their public IP addresses and their customers who are the end users of the internet will be directly connected to the internet through the public IP address system, and this means more money for AfriNIC and the Nigerian economy. The implication is that one private IP address can be assigned to multiple users by the ISPs and telcos, and if any one of the multiple users decides to commit online crime with that IP address, it will be difficult to trace him or her since several people are on the same single private IP address. So if telcos and other ISP providers migrate to IPv6, they will have enough public IP addresses to assign to their customers, since IP addresses on the IPv4 have been saturated.
So what is the position of NiRA concerning the saturated IPv4?
Our position is that ISPs and telcos offering internet services should migrate from IPv4 to IPv6 and have enough public IP addresses to allocate to their customers. Globally people are migrating to IPv6 and if Nigeria is left behind, the implication is that by the time Nigeria will be ready to adopt IPv6 in the future, by that time, our learning curve will still be low and not compliant with the rest of the world who must have gone deep into IPv6 by that time. So, the earlier that Nigerians adopt IPv6, the better for the country and the Nigerian citizens. So it is better to follow the trend on IPv6 with the rest of the world to avoid future challenges.
There are discrepancies in the pricing of dot NG domain name, where some registrars sell at premium and others sell based on negotiated bargain. What is NiRA doing about this?
At NiRA, we have different categories of the dot NG domain name registrars like the Platinum, Gold, Silver and Standard registrars, and each registrar is getting domain at different rates and so we do not have a cap limit on their sales of dot NG domain name. With these on ground, pricing is not uniform and registrars are at liberty to sell at any rate to customers. But the disadvantage of this is that our domain name pricing may be higher than what our competitors from other countries sell to their customers. What we are trying to do is to put a cap on the pricing of dot NG domain name but this must be in consultation with all our registrars and they have to agree with NiRA, and I think it will encourage more Nigerians to buy the dot NG domain name.
Given the low penetration figure of dot NG domain name registration in Nigeria, what is NiRA doing to populate the dot NG domain name?
Populating the dot NG domain name in Nigeria is more of advocacy. At NiRA, we want to get more registrars and ensure that we are available in all the states in Nigeria. We need registrars and resellers of dot NG domain name in all the states of the country, to make it readily available to all Nigerians. Again, we are thinking of reviewing the price for dot NG domain name so that more Nigerians can afford it.
How does NiRA address the issue of regulation of registrars and resellers to ensure that they conform to the rules of dot NG domain name sales and penetration, including the local hosting of dot NG domain name data?
We have standards and guidelines for registrars and registrants of dot NG domain name but we do not have a cap price guiding the sales of dot NG domain name in Nigeria, and this makes the registrars to have different pricing in dot NG domain name sales.
How does NiRA intend to collaborate with software developers and of what impact will such collaboration create?
The collaboration between NiRA and all stakeholders on dot NG domain name, cuts across board because no single entrepreneur can successfully do it alone without collaboration. Yes collaboration is key but trust is also important in dot NG domain name. Since people do not trust each other, they find it difficult to collaborate, which is key for business growth and expansion. With collaboration, businesses can actually leverage the economy of scale for business expansion.
How does NiRA addresses customer support service in domain name registration?
Issues about customer support service is the business of the registrars. As NiRA, we will identify the gap and challenges and ensure we help in addressing any challenges that may emanate. We engage with registrars every year to identify their challenges and help them to grow in the domain name business.