Nigeria: Enforcing Nigerian Domain Identity in the Public Sector

opinion

... Nigerian businesses registering .ng domain names have the immediate benefit of being ranked first on search engines when they conduct an online search. Using it and maintaining a good search engine optimisation (SEO) for the website will, over time, lead to an increase in local traffic.

Recently, I read about the inauguration of a 14-man enforcement committee to monitor the implementation of the National Second Level Domain Policy across all ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) both at the state and federal levels by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and was astonished why after six years Nigeria government is still advocating for the compliance of the local .ng domain.

The Federal Executive Council's (FEC) drive toward economic diversification and commitment to the development of a robust digital economy resulted in the approval of the National Second Level Domain Policy on February 16, which required the use of the Nigerian Second Level Domain by all government-owned websites and official emails.

I was surprised when a diplomat issued his card for confirmation and on it read '.co.uk' and our top public officials were not aware of the use of .ng in their ministries.

It will also be surprising to many that Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) is the registry for .ng Internet Domain Names and maintains the database of names registered in Nigeria.

The .ng is the internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Nigeria. Nigeria's domain name system identifies Nigeria-related websites and is currently available for registration in the following variants, with most of them being restricted to Nigerian entities such as biz.ng, org.ng, gov.ng, edu.ng, and so on.

Many Nigerian business platforms still struggle with the indulgence of .ng, not aware of the immense benefit it will offer to boost their business outlook both local and international.

For instance, Nigerian businesses registering .ng domain names have the immediate benefit of being ranked first on search engines when they conduct an online search. Using it and maintaining a good search engine optimisation (SEO) for the website will, over time, lead to an increase in local traffic.

A strong online presence is essential. Your prospective customer will likely conduct a web search when looking for your product or service, and a website that is relatively easy to find and navigate will greatly increase your chances of making a sale, which .ng provides.

It was also disturbing to receive the report by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) that the number of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) across the country dropped by about two million between 2017 and 2021.

The 2021 MSME survey revealed that there are 39 million MSMEs in Nigeria, which is a significant drop from the 41 million reported in the 2017 survey report.

Now, think of the amazing impact on these MSMEs if a significant number used the .ng domain for the development of their websites, with the national identity and all the attendant benefits.

For international trade merchants, .ng is a strong provider of mobility for online presence. Whether they decide to switch hosting services, relocate to a different country, or switch to using their in-house server, the domain name stays with them, allowing them to build their brand without having to start all over.

Another interesting fact is the use of .gov.ng for government organisations (MDAs), especially at the state and local government levels, where about 80 per cent of administration websites and mail addresses lack the .ng validation.

While Nigeria seeks to dominate the digital economy through it's online presence, however the use of generic domains and personal e-mail for business and correspondence by MDAs compromises their identities, security, and global reputation on the internet.

The use of .ng in all state and local governments will make a very good first impression as being patriotic, credible, and a crucial tool for meeting the needs of citizens and connecting with the community.

The slow connectivity that many local governments complain of can be resolved by the local domain identity, .ng. There is usually a delay associated with any website that utilises a foreign string because of URL demand for the web page to load. By using the .ng string and also hosting websites locally, these organisations can enable their websites to operate faster.

Therefore, MDAs should serve as good examples for all in using the .ng domain at all levels. To build Nigeria's digital presence in the global space, MDAs should stop using domains from the internet providers or mail providers.

In contrast to registering a foreign domain, the .ng domain is affordable and payments are made in naira. This will save businesses and the country huge amounts of foreign exchange.

What amazes me is that Nigeria has the highest number of tech hubs in Africa, with South Africa coming second. Yet South Africa has over one million domains in the .co.za registry, while Nigeria has only about 100,000 domains in the .ng registry.

Many federal and states government institutions fancy the use of other national domain name applications like .co.za, .com, .co.uk, .com.gh at the expense of the .ng domain which still suffers poor recognition.

NITDA as the authority that manages and administers Nigeria's ccTLD (.ng) has taken the bold step to inaugurate a 14-man enforcement committee to monitor the implementation of the National Second Level Domain Policy and ensure compliance to actively increase registration on the .ng domain.

This is a commendable effort by NITDA as it works closely with relevant organisations to ensure that all government entities have access to dedicated domain names.

Also, service providers are encouraged to support this initiative by ensuring that any government domain they register conforms to this directive to ensure the general adoption of the .ng. domain.

It is expected that the new policy will significantly enhance the public's confidence in the authenticity and security of information accessible from government-owned websites.

Furthermore, the application of .ng domain websites or email does not invalidate our already existing emails or website addresses. They can be synchronised with .ng appropriately and utilise the existing application with no complications or delay.

The cooperation of all Nigerians is highly necessary for the increasingly important adoption pf the use of the .ng domain, which will help advance the country's digital transformation and economic fortunes.

Zeenat O. Sambo writes from Abuja.

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