About 17 years after the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) was formed, birthing the country’s code top-level domain (ccTLD), the .ng share of the nation’s identity on the Internet remains very low. The .ng is Nigeria’s identity on the World Wide Web (www).
Checks showed that the .ng is 0.000504353 of the world’s 365.5 million registered and functional ccTLD. This is in spite of the country’s over 200 million estimated population and more than 100 million Internet users.
For emphasis, a domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet protocol. The right to use a domain name is delegated by domain name registrars who are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – the international organisation charged with overseeing the name and number systems of the Internet.
Findings showed that apathy towards .ng, especially from companies that are registered in Nigeria and also from governments’ Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs), have continued to increase capital flight out of the country.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), commercial banks, eCommerce firms and hospitals are among entities that run on foreign domain names in Nigeria.
Besides, while so many businesses have been birthed and registered in Nigeria, most of them are yet to have online presence, which further compounds .ng woes. Many of the registered entities leverage social media platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp to improve connectivity and access.
Further check on the African region showed that South Africa, with a 60.4 million population, has 1.25 million registered and active .za; Kenya’s population put at 53.7 million, has 93,446 registered .ke. Nigeria, estimated to have over 200 million population, have just 184.341 registered domain names, almost 17 years after.
An analyst said it might be difficult to put a figure to how much Nigeria is losing as a result of low patronage of the country’s domain name because there is no empirical research yet to determine that, “however, I can say that the country is losing millions of dollars.”
So many factors have been adduced for the slow traction earned by .ng since inception. These include Nigerians’ preference for foreign product, high cost of the domain name and the unwillingness of some registered Nigerian businesses to move online.
For instance, while web owners in the country often blame their choice of a domain name on web developers who choose on their behalf, developers have hinged their decisions on the fact that the cost of registering the country’s domain name is higher than that of a generic domain .com being managed by Verisign.
The Guardian gathered that while a .com domain name can be registered for as low as N2,000, a cheap .ng registration is sold for N11,000, while the premium ones are as high as N1 million.
Speaking on challenges and efforts to promote the .ng, President of NiRA, Muhammed Rudman, told The Guardian that the agency is doing everything possible to populate the domain name, even outside the country.
Rudman said the greatest challenge has been that people don’t take things that are Nigerian seriously, “whether it is shoes, clothes or other items. We are not proud of our own products. There is this perception that Nigerian products are inferior and sub-standard to others.
“The most important one actually is that everybody is used to .com. By default, we are focused on .com. Anybody who wants to register now registers in that domain and this has been happening for some years now. So, .com has been a dominant player all these years based on the adoption it has garnered.”
While advising businesses in Nigeria to take advantage of the internet to achieve better sales, Rudman urged them to explore the opportunities in the .ng namespace.
“Using the .ng domain extension for personal and business websites and online platforms offers tremendous benefits. Using the .ng domain name for your website provides the opportunity for businesses to reach the Nigerian market more easily.
“If your business is intended for the Nigerian market, using the .ng domain extension improves your local search engine optimisation (SEO) and helps your audience to discover your business easily on search engines,” he said.
He added that the association was committed and dedicated to rewarding the entrepreneurial drive of Nigerians that have been successful online and contributed to the growth of Nigeria’s economy.
Unlike before that MDAs use .com or .org for registration, the NiRA boss said there has been huge compliance from MDAs, as they now use .gov.ng for their presence online, “but that is not to say every one of them have complied.”
He said NiRA will be collaborating with FG to see that every company registered in Nigeria by default has a .ng domain name.
“We would like to push all Nigerian companies online and ensure their subsequent adoption of .ng, which will give global visibility. Nigerians should be eager to do this.”
Rudman called on prominent Nigerian-owned businesses, such as Konga and banks that are still on .com to switch to .ng.
In one of his media interviews, immediate past President of NiRA, Sunday Folayan, described the Nigerian domain name as one of the most unique names on the Internet.
According to him, “if you look at domain names like .tv, most people think it is for television registration, which is not. It belongs to Island Tuvalu, but you see television stations registering with it.
“So, with .ng, we have a unique string that appeals to a cross-spectrum of people all over the world. The .ng domain name can be sold everywhere, not only in Nigeria.”
Lead Consulting Strategist, DigitalSense Africa, Remmy Nweke, blamed the lack of traction on the lack of political will on the part of the government.
Nweke said most political classes have organisations and businesses, which they own, but that is not on .ng. He said FG itself should service .ng by believing in it and discouraging capital flights from the service.
“INEC is still not on .ng. As companies register in .com; .org; .net, they are creating jobs and opportunities for another economy. We must change this trend this year,” Nweke stressed.
The Director/Chief Operating Officer, Upperlink Limited, an ICANN accredited registrar, Akinsanya Adesola, agreed that figures that .ng currently projects are poor compared to Nigeria’s population and a number of Internet users in the country.
He admitted that as at the time the domain name was made available to the whole populace, it was very expensive, “but I can say that several regimes at NiRA have worked hard to ensure the price is reduced drastically.”
He reemphasised the fact that Nigerians are unpatriotic, with many having a preference for foreign products at the expense of made-in-Nigeria options. He also stressed that unstable policies in Nigeria is another factor.
“There are uncertainties about policies. Imagine the Twitter ban. Government forgot that so many businesses run on the platform, and within a day, it was brought down. It is because of some of these things that SMEs prefer to go abroad because they are sure nothing abrupt will happen in terms of policies,” he stressed.
According to him, registrars are always eager to register businesses on the .ng platform, “but some organisations would insist on wanting to register on .com; .org, among others, claiming that they want to be on the global stage. But, we do sensitise them about .ng. Some agreed to do .ng, while others insist on foreign domain names.”
On the way forward, Adesola appealed to the government to come up with policies that will mandate businesses that want to do business in Nigeria to adopt the domain name, especially those from abroad, saying it will drive .ng adoption.
Indeed, several reports have shown that countries across the world are making billions of dollars from the sales of ccTLD, which are national identities in the Domain Name System (DNS). Germany, for instance, is reported to have sold 20 million of its ccTLD .de and, according to global prices, each is sold for at least $100. Also, Tokelau, a tiny island with a population of about 1,400 people, is said to have sold 21 million units of its ccTLD, .tk, and that alone is seen as the economic mainstay of the island nation.
As of October 2021, information gathered from NiRA showed that it registered 6,580 new .ng, renewed 4,551, and restored 25. The statistics further revealed that during the period, there were 135,849 third-level active domain names, while 48,492 were the second level, in all, there were 184,341 domain names in the country.
As at the same period in 2020, there were 7,031 registrations, 3,842 renewals and 93 restorations. Then, active domains (third level) were 152,869 and the second level was 19,843 with the total being 172,712.
According to VeriSign Inc., a global provider of domain name registry services and Internet infrastructure, the first quarter of 2021 closed with 363.5 million domain name registrations across all top-level domains (TLDs), a decrease of 2.8 million domain name registrations, or 0.8 per cent, compared to the fourth quarter of 2020.
It further disclosed that domain name registrations decreased by 3.3 million, or 0.9 per cent, year over year.
The American firm said the .com and .net TLDs had a combined total of 168.0 million domain name registrations in the domain name base at the end of the first quarter of 2021, an increase of 2.8 million domain name registrations, or 1.7 per cent, compared to the fourth quarter of 2020. The .com and .netTLDs had a combined increase of 7.3 million domain name registrations, or 4.6 per cent, year over year.
VeriSign said as of March 31, 2021, the .com domain name base totalled 154.6 million domain name registrations, and the .net domain name base totalled 13.4 million domain name registrations.
According to it, new .com and .net domain name registrations totalled 11.6 million at the end of the first quarter of 2021, compared to 10.0 million domain name registrations at the end of the first quarter of 2020.