May 2006

ccTLD in Afghanistan

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ccTLD supportive software CoCCA enables the best practice environment and views policy development, core technical functions and commercialisation as discrete administrative functions to incorporate Afghanistan into developing domain

Every country is denoted on the world map by its name. Likewise, every country is represented in the proverbial cyber space by what is known as a 'Country Code Top Level Domain' (ccTLD).   In the last three decades, the world community formulated and joined the world wide web (www), while Afghanistan was in the throws of war and domestic turmoil. With the stability returning, Afghanistan has been joining various regional and global organisations to assume its rightful place in the community of nations.

To assist the transitional government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ICT project stepped in to help re-establish Afghanistan's Internet presence in the global arena.  By working with the Ministry of Communications (MoC), UNDP's role was to restore a DNS service, to build technical and administrative capacity within Afghanistan, and to 'shift technical operations to a community-based management structure inclusive of multiple sectors within Afghanistan when feasible and appropriate'.

Afghanistan in the domain
On January 8th 2003, UNDP's efforts paid off and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) assigned the .af (dot af) ccTLD as the unique designation in cyber space for Afghanistan. The Internet domain name system is considered a public asset, and the .af ccTLD is the asset of the people of Afghanistan and is under the sovereign control and administration of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.  The MoC is designated as the Manager of .af ccTLD along with technical support through national staff of UNDP.

Since the assignment, UNDP has established systems and processes to assist the MoC with the management of .af. To date, UNDP has established comprehensive governance, administrative and control policies and has finalised plans to officially launch .af and online registration. The launch will occur during the National ICT Conference, planned for first quarter of 2006.  Marketing campaigns will encourage businesses, NGOs, foreign agencies and individuals, who operate in the context of Afghanistan to register their domain names. Revenues from registration will be used for sustainability of the required infrastructure and human resources in MoC to manage this very visible responsibility.  

Even before the official launch, the demand for .af domain names has been very high. To date, 350 domain names have been registered and are operating. Government agencies and the newly formed parliament have gained web presence with .af domain name.  

Capacity building software
To satisfy the technical reader, the .af ccTLD is using a shared registry software called CoCCA Registry software. This software supports the best practice environment and views policy development, core technical functions and commercialisation as discrete administrative functions – even if carried out by the same entity. Like all good open source software, CoCCA software is constantly enhanced and has been in use for over four years by a variety of small ccTLDs around the globe. The decision to select this software for .af was based on its proven stability, open source code and adaptability to variety of computer operating systems. The software utilises proven and readily available open source software packages such as PostgreSQL database and Resin Java interpreter. The software is written in New Zealand with voluntary financial and other contributions from CoCCA.

With the support from the local staff from MoC and close coordination with the ministry directorates, the .af ccTLD is currently administered and supervised by the UNDP ICT project team. After the official launch of .af, UNDP feels confident that the trained local MoC staff will have the capacity and skills to successfully assume full responsibility for managing this important function and resource in Afghanistan.  

As the next exciting feature, Internet users in Afghanistan will enjoy using one of the most advanced features in domain name registry

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