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Durban ICC hosts major internet protocol conference

A little over 40 years ago, a handful of academics began investigating the revolutionary concept of getting computers to “talk” to each other. From the early days proving the initial concept of ‘inter-networking’ four basic computers to today’s global information infrastructure, the Internet has always fundamentally relied on a system of naming and identifying the individual computers.

In order to communicate with another computer on the Internet, each computer needs a unique name or address. The organisation tasked with coordinating these billions of unique identifiers across the world is ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, without which, the global Internet would simply not function. In fact, the Internet owes much of its phenomenal growth to the architecture which assigns the computers’ unique names and numbers in the domain name system. Currently, the 47th Public Meeting of ICANN is underway at the Durban International Convention Centre from the 14th – 18th July 2013.

Although these Public Meetings have been held around the world since 1999, this is the first opportunity for Durban to host the event. Each year ICANN holds three public meetings in different regions of the globe to enable as many people as possible to attend in person. For those who cannot attend in person, remote participation is also available via live streaming audio and video, chatrooms, and online question forums. In order to encourage as much interaction as possible, there is also no cost associated in attending ICANN Public Meetings.

Besides providing technical operations of essential Domain Names System (DNS) resources, ICANN also defines policies for how the unique names and numbers of the Internet should run. The organisation oversees a number of integral Internet programs and explains its work moving forward in a style described as the "bottom-up, consensus-driven, multi-stakeholder model”.

The impressive week-long event is comprised of more than 200 different sessions open to individuals and representatives of the various ICANN stakeholder groups to introduce and discuss issues related to ICANN policy. These sessions offer the opportunity for face-to-face discussions and the airing of views among knowledgeable people dedicated to the continued stable and secure operation of the Internet. Over 1000 delegates from around the world are expected to attend the event which brings together experts and policy makers in the global internet domain industry.

Highlights of the event include an update on the generic top-level domain (gTLD) program, which will constitute one of the biggest changes ever in the Internet’s history. A gTLD is a domain name extension such as “dot-com” or “dot-org” and there are approximately two dozen in operation at the moment. This program was developed to increase competition and choice in the domain name space and soon there may be hundreds of new domain name extensions available. To date, more than 1200 applications for new gTLDs have been received by ICANN, including an application for the dot-Durban domain extension. The first of these new domains are expected to become available before the end of the year. “It is an exciting event for us, knowing that key decisions shaping the future growth and development of the Internet are being discussed in the Centre”, commented Julie-May Ellingson, Chief executive Officer of the Durban ICC. “The new domain extension dot-Durban holds untold potential for branding our city and raising its destination profile on a global platform” adds Ellingson.

According to a recent survey on world Internet usage rates¹, Africa currently has 163 million active Internet users which represents only a 15% penetration rate on the continent. Giving further insights into the future development of the Internet on the African continent is Dr. Nii Quaynor, often referred to as the “Father of the Internet in Africa”. Dr Quaynor will be hosting news conference with ICANN CEO and President Fadi Chehadé, Board Chair Dr. Stephen Crocker, and Vice President, Stakeholder Engagement for Africa Pierre Dandjinou. Over the past two decades, Dr. Quaynor has promoted the Internet’s growth across the African continent and has recently been inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame. He will answer questions about the growth and expansion of the Internet in Africa and how increased online access is expanding the massive business potential in this emerging global market.

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