Wales Online - The Government’s Contribution
For over six years dotCYM has been working to ensure that Wales and the Welsh community worldwide will not miss the next chance to have its own top-level domain (TLD). This will allow websites to have a .cymru address such as www.example.cymru instead of www.example.com or www.example.co.uk. They have worked with individuals and organisations in Wales and from every corner of the world that are excited about the new possibility of top-level domains for small communities such as theirs. The only place where they have found resistance and lack of interest is with the Welsh Government. Civil servants have shown no interest and Ministers have been advised that this is not an issue of importance. dotCYM has always attempted to work closely with Government officials but this has proved to be impossible.. The Government has now decided that it’s only interested in providing the letter of support that is needed as a part of the application. Other applications such as .scot, .gal (Galicia), .eus (Basque Country), .bzh (Brittany) all collaborate closely with their governments because they understand the importance of playing a role in the running of their TLD. The Greater London Authority has taken charge of the .london bid.. dotCYM were in a meeting at the City Hall in Paris when the mayor of the city announced that €1m would be invested in a community TLD for the city, .paris.
dotCYM and its thousands of supporters - public and private bodies and individuals - think that this exciting initiative would be an important addition to Wales’ infrastructure. It would add value to business, promote Welsh culture and language and help the tourism industry stand out from the rest of the UK.
It has taken ICANN, the governing body for names on the Internet, years to start the application process for new TLDs. During all these years of discussions and arguments and fighting between different groups such as large corporations, trademark owners, governments and domain sellers, there was only one group of TLDs that had the support of the vast majority – the cultural and linguistic TLDs. There is worldwide support for these TLDs, a development that would add much needed diversity to the Internet.
There is great debate about the benefits of .sport, .movie, .bank, .health and hundreds of other TLDs but after working for years on a TLD for the Welsh community, working closely with the Scots, Bretons, Galicians, Basques and Catalans, lobbying ICANN and the EU, discussing with the UK Government officials, attending ICANN conferences in Egypt, Puerto Rico, Portugal, France and Belgium, the only resistance found to a cultural TLD was by the Welsh Government and its officials.
But why should a government take an interest in its TLD - the country and community’s brand online - and in Internet governance in general? The UK Government take an interest in these issues and plays an important part in the development of the Internet. For example,
- There are UK representatives working with all large bodies that help shape the Internet including being an important member of the Governmental Advisory Committee at ICANN.
- They have a close relationship with Nominet, who own and run the .uk TLD, because they appreciate the importance of the country’s name on the Internet.
- As a result of problems with Nominet’s Board in 2008/2009 the Government added a clause in the Digital Economy Act to allow the Government to take control of any TLD in the UK if it was not run to the Government’s satisfaction. They would not have done this if they thought that the country’s TLD was of no importance.
- There are numerous events in Westminster every year to discuss every aspect of the Internet, such as security, governance, new TLDs and the .uk TLD.
It could be argued that since the UK Government is taking such an active role in these issues and they represent Wales as well, then the Welsh Government doesn’t need to concern itself with such issues. In fact, a top-level domain isn’t a devolved issue. Responsibility for deciding which company applies for and runs a TLD for Wales ultimately resides with Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, in London.
dotCYM believe that this is no excuse for lack of ambition and imagination by the Welsh Government.
Why aren’t TLD issues devolved from the UK Government? Has Wales asked for devolved power with the Digital Economy Act regarding TLDs? Why hasn’t Wales ensured that it’s on the ISO3166-1 list of countries so that it could have its own proper two-letter county code TLD? The Aland Islands (.ax) with its population of 30,000 and Faroe Island (.fo) with its population of 50,000 have one; why doesn’t Wales with 3 million people?
dotCYM invites Edwina Hart, the Assembly Minister for Business, Enterprise and Technology, to change the Government’s policy and start working with instead of against dotCYM for a TLD for the Welsh people. By working with dotCYM, Wales can use and add to the expertise already abundant throughout businesses, universities and government in Wales to create a hi-tech innovation ecosystem that will serve Wales and offer specialist services to the international market.
The other option is to farm all the work out to Nominet, based in Oxford, as the Government are considering doing. They’ve created an Advisory Committee in Wales to give themselves a Welsh façade. They may even start a company in Wales as extra camouflage to try to fool the Welsh that their TLD is owned and run by a company indigenous to Wales. Is this the message Wales wants to give people who are willing to use their knowledge and passion to work hard for years for the good of Wales – don’t bother, we can find a wealthy company in England to do it for us? Do we start to compete or do we sell ourselves short once again? Do we let a company foreign to Wales with a monopoly in the market to buy their way into Wales and kill the Welsh competition or do we work together to ensure that Wales retains ownership and control of its own TLD?
dotCYM believes Wales must compete. The Government should and must take an interest and a role in the TLD for Wales and the Welsh community worldwide. Declaring a lack of interest and refusing to support a Welsh social enterprise that has been working for six years on this issue while inviting the large corporation from outside Wales which already has a monopoly in the market to compete against them is not acceptable. Scotland are supporting Dot Scot Registry, who will apply for a .scot TLD, because they want to support home grown initiatives and keep control of their own TLD. They would not dream of approaching Nominet as the Government officials in Cardiff did after the elections.
Welsh Government officials with the necessary interest and abilities must be given the responsibility to work with dotCYM and the myriad Welsh and international bodies with which dotCYM are and will be working, to ensure that they understand TLD and Internet governance issues fully.
The next time dotCYM goes to an ICANN conference they must be accompanied by a Welsh Government officer who will represent Wales and make Wales’ issues heard.
When the next round of applications for TLDs comes round, the Welsh Government and the Welsh bodies involved with the Welsh TLDs will be able to offer their expertise and experience to help other minority cultures and communities that seek the same visibility as Wales online.
TLDs are not devolved issues and until Wales proves its maturity in these issues the UK Government must ensure that control stays in London. How Wales handles its new TLD will be a litmus test for this maturity. dotCYM are worried that Welsh Government officials who don’t understand the complex issues surrounding TLDs and have no interest in them are giving the Ministers incorrect advice that shows a lack of confidence, ambition, interest and ability.
dotCYM will continue to work for the Welsh community worldwide in the hope that they will finally be able to start collaborating closely with the Welsh Government on this very important issue.
Time is of the essence and there’s only one opportunity. Once Wales gives control of its TLD to Nominet, it will never regain control of it.