Kenya has cut by a third the cost of acquiring the .ke domain and plans to make it compulsory for new companies seeking registration to have a website as part of efforts to get at least half of local enterprises on the country’s domain name.
The Kenya Network Information Centre (Kenic), the body in charge of the .ke domain, also plans to make it possible to register for the domain name at any Huduma Centre countrywide.
The agency is now offering domain name registrars the .ke name, technically known as country code top-level domain, at a wholesale price of Sh650 per entry from the earlier Sh1,000; with a recommended retail selling price set at Sh1,000.
Kenic is banking on the lower price, wide registrar network through Huduma Centres and the proposed regulatory changes in company registration to triple the number of .ke names from the current 58,273.
“Adoption of competitive pricing and strategic partnerships with Huduma Centres will help us get half of registered companies take up .ke domains,” said Kris Senanu, chairman of Kenic board.
This is the second time Kenic is cutting .ke domain prices, having cut wholesale prices by a third from Sh3,000 to Sh1,000 in January 2015.
“We’re also in talks and are lobbying the government to have every company registered in Kenya compelled to take the .ke domain including multinationals setting up shop here,” Mr Senanu said in an interview.
There are currently a total of 43 licensed registrars to register domain names on behalf of applicants. Safaricom, as an Internet service provider, also registers .ke domain names and provides hosting services.
Kenic took charge of the .ke domain in 2002 when Kenya had less than 1,000 domains. Administrators of the .ke domain, prior to the setting up of Kenic, were Kenyan techie Shem Ochuodho and American Randy Bush.
In 2012 the number of registered .ke domains stood at 24,000 and has since more than doubled to the present figures.
Kenic said it plans to close this year with about 62,000 registered domain names. Mr Senanu attributed the growth to aggressive marketing and branding initiatives to boost awareness such as the ‘‘We are .ke’’ campaign meant to woo individuals as well as small and mid-sized enterprises to take up the domain name.
The .ke domain is available in variants known as second-level names such as .co.ke for companies, .ac.ke (higher learning institutions), sc.ke (lower and middle colleges), .or.ke (non-profit organisations), .me.ke (personal names), .mobi.ke (mobile content), .go.ke (government agencies), .info.ke (information), and .ne.ke for network devices.
Kenic reckons that increased uptake of the domain would have a spiral effect of creating jobs in sectors such as web design and content development.
“The more domains we sell the more local content is developed to sit on these domains, the more the youth get into business through the development of this content and therefore a direct impact on job creation,” said Mr Senanu.
Domain names and websites make a business case for Internet providers and value to the Kenya Internet Exchange Points and data centres which host the information.
The .co.ke name accounts for 93 per cent of all registered sub-domains, according to data from Kenic.
However, the advent of social media sites such as Facebook poses a big challenge to the uptake of .ke, as some SMEs create business profiles on the site for free.
“Initially, our biggest competition was .com. It was cool to be .com. Today the biggest challenge is social media,” said Mr Senanu.
This means Kenic has to show value, especially to small business owners, why they should set up .ke domain names rather than set up pages on Facebook. “To be taken seriously as an entrepreneur or start-up, you need a domain name, not a Facebook page. You also need a proper e-mail not Gmail or yahoo,” Mr Senanu said.
There are also concerns about data security and frequent downtimes on the .ke domain. Mr Senanu said the agency has an ambitious target of “guaranteed 99 per cent uptime on the registry.”
Kenya was ranked third in Africa in terms of country domain uptake, trailing South Africa (1.06 million) and Nigeria (60,000) as at end of last year.