Update on Initial Evaluation Result for .Africa Application
The Initial Evaluation result for DotConnectAfrica Trust's application for the .Africa domain name string with prioritization draw number 1005 was released by the ICANN new gTLD Customer Service Centre on Thursday, 4th July 2013.
DCA's .Africa application passed all the Evaluation Panels including the technical, operational and financial evaluation criteria, but the Geographic Names Panel (GNP) Evaluation for the application was not completed. This led to the designation of an 'Incomplete' Initial Evaluation Result by ICANN as the reported status for DCA Trust's .Africa new gTLD application.
An official notification received by DCA Trust from the ICANN New gTLD Customer Service CSC Portal on 3rd July 2013 contained the following statement:
"This is a notification to inform you that the status of your application .AFRICA (application ID 1-1165-42560) will be updated to reflect the 4 June 2013 New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) approved resolution to adopt the "NGPC Scorecard of 1As Regarding Non-Safeguard Advice in the GAC Beijing Communiqu�." The status of "Not Approved" will be reflected on the Application Status page of the new gTLD microsite.
As a result of this resolution, we finalized the processing of your application based on currently available information. Unfortunately, this information was not sufficient for the Geographic Names Panel to complete the evaluation of your application.
All other panels performing Initial Evaluation of your application determined that the application passed each of these other panel evaluations. Because the Geographic Names Panel could not complete evaluation, the Initial Evaluation report for your application will reflect an
"Incomplete" result, and will be posted on the Application Status page."
Therefore, even though DCA Trust's .Africa application passed on the bases of all the evaluated criteria for the current new gTLD Application round, the Initial Evaluation result is incomplete.
DCA Trust understands that the GAC Objection Advice that was issued against its application and the subsequent NGPC decision has affected the processing of its application; thus, the 'incomplete' status of the Initial Evaluation does not truly reflect the outstanding result that DCA Trust has scored on the Evaluated Criteria.
In a preliminary reaction to the 'Incomplete Status' of the Initial Evaluation, DCA has already sought additional information from ICANN new gTLD Customer Service Centre, and will continue to follow-up with the proper official channels to restore the integrity of the Application Status of its .Africa new gTLD application.
In the interim, DCA Trust has noted that the competing application for the .Africa name string that was submitted by UniForum ZA Central Registry with prioritization draw number 307 has not yet passed Initial Evaluation.
Undue Political Interference in the Geographic Names Process
DotConnectAfrica believes that the issue of governmental support for the geographic name application remains a political one, and has nothing to do with the satisfaction of the technical, operational and financial requirements for managing a new gTLD registry.
In recent months, DCA Trust has put forward the proposition that the determination of the .Africa string should now be based only on the outcome of the main evaluated criteria; to wit, technical, operational and financial criteria, since the process of obtaining required governmental endorsements from African countries has been fraught and overtly affected by irregularities and unnecessary politicization.
The African country governments have been providing letters in support of the AU Position on .Africa which is in dissonance with the prescribed procedural format for endorsement as specified in the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook. Again, DCA Trust has always maintained that the involvement of the African Union Commission as part of the applying structure of the application submitted by UniForum ZA Central Registry has complicated and confused the entire .Africa new gTLD process; since an endorsing authority is also behaving as a co-applicant for the same string that it is endorsing. Moreover, DCA Trust had also argued that the letters of support that had been written by African country governments in support of the AU Position on .Africa should not be appropriated by UniForum ZA Central Registry as the letters of endorsement for its .Africa application. It is quite apparent that these issues have not been properly considered by the GNP Evaluation.
DCA Trust therefore believes that there has been an undue interference with the GNP Evaluation, including open advocacy by the Independent Objector for the ICANN new gTLD Program that DCA Trust's .Africa application should fail the Geographic Names Panel Evaluation; coupled with an unlawful threat to file a Community Objection against DCA Trust should its .Africa application pass the GNP Evaluation. No doubt such extraneous opinions and extraordinary threats by people who are not involved in the Evaluation would have unduly influenced the outcome of the GNP Evaluation of DCA's application.
DotConnectAfrica Trust Reconsideration Request to the ICANN Board
During the month of June 2013, the ICANN new gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) had considered GAC Policy Advice on a range of issues, including the GAC Objection Advice that was issued against DCA's application by the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee in Beijing on 11th April 2013.
The ICANN NGPC had accepted the Beijing GAC Advice contained in the GAC Beijing Communiqu� and publicly notified on 6th June 2013 that DotConnectAfrica Trust's independent new gTLD application for the .Africa name string would not be approved on the basis of the GAC Objection Advice. A copy of the NGPC Resolution No. 2013.06.04.NG01 accepting the GAC Advice may be found here.
DCA had reviewed the decision that was taken by the NGPC (termed 'NGPC Response to GAC Advice'), and noted that the process that led to the decision did not follow the rigorous procedure that has been outlined in the ICANN new gTLD Program Guidebook regarding the range of likely actions to be performed by the ICANN Board whilst considering GAC Advice. On the basis of this, DCA Trust disagreed with the decision of the ICANN NGPC and submitted an official written response along with completing the necessary paper work to request a reconsideration of the decision based on relevant articles enshrined in the ICANN Bylaws (11 April 2013 version).
DCA Trust's reconsideration request is pivoted on the fact that Section 3.1 of Module 3 of the Guidebook stipulates inter alia that:
"The Board may consult with independent experts, such as those designated to hear objections in the New gTLD Dispute Resolution Procedure, in cases where the issues raised in the GAC advice are pertinent to one of the subject matter areas of the objection procedures."
A copy of the completed Reconsideration Form submitted by DotConnectAfrica Trust to the ICANN Board Governance Committee may be found on the ICANN web site along with a copy of DCA Trust's reaction to the NGPC decision and request for reconsideration.
DCA Trust faulted the ICANN NGPC decision which did not consult Independent Experts on Dispute Resolution as per the Applicant Guidebook, and expects that the reconsideration of the decision will lead to a corrective action by the ICANN Board.
DCA Trust will continue to use the due process provisions enshrined in the ICANN new gTLD Program Guidebook and the ICANN Bylaws to seek accountability regarding its .Africa new gTLD application.