As uptake of .RW domain remains low, RICTA draws plan to increase Rwanda’s digital footprint
The country’s .rw domain name was registered in October 1996 but has only managed to get over 3,000 subscriptions. However RICTA (an acronym for Rwanda Information and Technology Association) has plans to change that.
In Rwanda web technology industry is growing and becoming more and more vibrant. However though steadily growing, one could blame the snail-paced growth of .rw domain registration previously on lack of Internet access and robust awareness about Internet issues. Today more than 30 percent of Rwandans have access to mobile Internet, the digital divide closing in as compared to a decade ago.
Skeptics still insist that the subscription to Rwanda’s top-level country domain name .rw (loosely translated as ‘AkadomoRW’) has potential to grow and as such improve the country’s digital footprint by two folds.
RICTA, which among other things is the body, mandated to register and manage’ AkadomoRW’ has set a target of 5,000 new subscriptions over the next three years. That literally makes it about 2,000 new domains by end of 2018, quite an ambitious plan that calls for collaborative efforts from other institutions related to development of ICT in the country.
For example the institution is working with the utilities body Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) to introduce competitive prices for hosting services in the market.
The .RW and its extensions such as (‘co.rw’ and ‘org.rw’ etc) have been struggling to get local and international subscribers, with many businesses still preferring to adopt the internationally acclaimed .com domain names.
The more the .RW and it corresponding extensions are registered the easier it is to map Rwanda on the digital sphere.
Attaching the Rwandan identity
However, what are the other benefits of registration of a .rw domain name more especially to Rwandans and Rwandan business owners?
“Attaching a Rwandan identity to your digital/online presence gives and allows the entire ‘Rwanda-n’ brand to reverberate on your online community. With a .RW domain name it’s easier for you to get local support because the service is offered by Rwandans for Rwandans. If something goes wrong, you can pick up your phone or drive to the service provider to have your issue fixed,“ says RICTA CEO Nkeramugaba Ghislain.
“Secondly the .RW domain name is easy to shorten with meaningful strings which are available at RICTA. If you looking for short/meaningful strings under .com, such as ‘law.com’ or ‘door.com’ or anything of that kind, it is quasi impossible to have and you likely to end up with ‘lawrwanda.com’ or ‘doorrwanda.com’. However, with .RW, some of those short/meaningful strings are already available,” he adds.
According to RICTA’s CEO Nkeramugaba Ghislain quoted in The East African, “Growth has been slow and we are trying to create awareness about the value businesses can get from using the .RW online presence.”
This year will embark on a ‘Doing Business Online’ campaign that aims at promoting Rwanda’s micro enterprises (SMEs) so that they can understand the benefits of doing businesses on digital platforms by registering a .RW domain name.
“For a Rwandan business to expand its operations it should at least have a transactional website (with probably a payment feature that allows to sell products and services online). There are more than 100,000 registered businesses, which can potentially adopt ‘AkadomoRW’. We are targeting to double .RW domain name registrations, and reach at least 5,000 active domains by the end of 2018.
Today a business registering on .rw is charged Rwf12,000 ($14) per year while registering on other local domain names like coop.rw, co.rw, .org.rw and ac.rw costs Rwf3,000 ($3) per year.
ICT analysts say that as the government promotes the “Made in Rwanda” initiative, advancing the country’s cyberspace identity is imperative.
Muhirwa Christian, the CEO of Broadband Systems Corporation — a local hosting company — said the reason local domains have low traffic is because businesses still find foreign hosts and domain names more advanced and provide better global exposure.
“We are trying to improve, but there is still a long way to go,” he said.
Muhirwa says local businesses are also still largely doing business the conventional way and do not have digital footprints. Many are yet to see the value of online markets. When the .rw domain was registered in 1996, its management was given to Interpoint, a Belgian company as the trustee. Its management was transferred to RICTA in 2012
By RICTA Staff (additional reporting from East African)