According to the Communications Authority of Kenya, Kenya has some of the highest internet and mobile phones penetration rates in Africa. This has been touted as one of the factors that have led to growth of the digital economy in Kenya, and widespread growth of tech startups all over the country. The statistics are something to celebrate about as this places Kenya on a favourable spot as vibrant economy. However, there is one key indicator that tells a different story. This is the adoption of Kenya’s country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) .ke, which is the official domain name used in Kenya.
Domain names refer to names such as .com, .org, .net, .uk, and .de. These are domain names that denote an internet address, or even used in email addresses. The two letter domain names such as .uk, .rw and .ss are reserved for countries, with the mentioned one being for the United Kingdom, Rwanda and South Sudan respectively. These domains are useful since they help identify businesses in the countries where they operate. Using one also helps websites to rank highly in search engine (Google) results, increasing the chances of one finding clients or getting businesses online.
.KE is the domain name for Kenya, which is the online identity that shows some affiliation to Kenya. .KE domain names are offered by KeNIC through various domain registrars, and there are various variations of the same as shown below:
Nigeria and South Africa
In a recent stakeholders forum held in August 2019, KeNIC CEO Mr Joel Karubiu said that their target is to have one million .ke domain names by the year 2030. This number looks astounding, but it is a very small number when you consider that with almost a similar population to Kenya, South Africa already has 1.2 million registered .za domains (the Country code for South Africa). Nigeria follows with about 142,000 .ng domains that were registered by July 2019. As of today, Kenya has about 92,000 registered .ke domain names.
Why are there less than 100,000 .ke domain names yet we see more and more people doing business online? There are several factors that can explain that, but it is evident that Kenya is punching below its weight when it comes to the number of .ke domain names registered. One of the reason for this is that a number of people still prefer to use other domain names such as .com and .org, since it is claimed that they have an international appeal. Kenyan domain names therefore find themselves unfavorably competing with international domain names, resulting in lower adoption.
On the other hand, the cost of .ke domain names has been said to be prohibitive, especially when it comes to small businesses. At KES 1200 per year (on average), the cost of maintaining a .ke name ends up being higher than a .com domain (average 1000 per year), thus lacking a competitive advantage when it comes to price. This makes the .ke brand lose to other top domain names, and this is a trend that can be reversed by addressing the price.
The other thing that affects the uptake of .ke domain names is the fact that many people and businesses still do not have websites. For many small and micro enterprises, there lacks a value proposition for having websites or branded emails. This could be due to a feeling that a website may not benefit their business, lack of knowledge on how to effectively use a website, or the prohibitive costs associated with initial set up of a website. The fact that many also acquire domain names but do not renew them possible implies that they never find value in the websites they create. This shows that there is a need for creating awareness on how the digital economy works, and offering affordable services that will attract even the smallest of businesses to get online.
For Kenya to thrive as a regional ICT hub, we need to see more and more stakeholders come together to ensure that the barriers to uptake of .ke domains are dealt with. This will involve KeNIC pricing the domain names favorably and creating awareness on the need for the same. Other stakeholder should also ensure that the costs associated with having websites are broken, by offering websites at affordable prices.