According to Lucky Masilela, CEO of ZA Central Registry (ZACR) NPC, there's a sense of renewal in the air and it's, therefore, the perfect time for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to ditch the .com and revert to .za domains like co.za to show their commitment to building South Africa.
ZACR NPC administers and manages a number of .za second level domain names, such as co.za; net.za; web.za and org.za. In 2014, the organisation assumed responsibility for administering the three ZAdotCity domain names of .capetown, .durban and .joburg.
“SOEs cannot help build the nation if they’re sending domain name fees overseas,” says Masilela. “A web presence ending in .za says to fellow South Africans 'we’re with you', and more than that, it communicates South African pride to the world,” says Masilela.
Masilela advises SOEs to keep their .com web addresses for the purposes of protecting their intellectual property in cyberspace, but says a .za domain really should be front and centre for South African SOEs. "It’s common sense, really. Imagine a US firm with a .co.za,” he says.
He urges SOEs to undertake an urgent audit of their web-based properties. “SOEs’ presence in cyberspace should look as proudly South African as their presence on the ground does with their South African flags displayed outside their offices.”
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Thomas Vollrath who heads up 1-grid.com, a local hosting business with a focus on SMEs, says the diversity in South African SOE domain names, from .co.za to .com and .aero, is a good thing.
"It reflects the principle of internet freedom, and the founding intention of the internet to allow equal access to information from anywhere in the world. Some SOEs do use .co.za – including Eskom and Alexkor - others, such as South African Airways and Prasa have opted for .com. Ultimately, the decision on the domain that works best for a company should rest with them and not be prescribed."
.com domain a standard indication of internationality
Vollrath is of the opinion that a .com domain has become a standard indication of internationality, carrying connotations of scale and status, while .co.za carries a feeling of national pride and locality. Both can make business sense – depending on the offering of the company.
"Using .com is not a betrayal of national pride, but a strategic move on behalf of a company like South African Airways, who hope to appeal to markets beyond the country’s borders as well as local ones. While South African businesses can reap big benefits from .co.za domains and even hyperlocal ones like .capetown, .durban and .joburg, those enterprises with a more international scope suit a top-level domain name," he says.
"We believe that a .joburg domain can really help a business based in the city to stand out, while .com can help a tech platform tap into overseas funding pools. We recommend that our clients have more than one domain in order to maximise their online presence."
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Vollrath says there should always be an eye on the balance of imports versus exports within SOEs in particular: "However, to argue that SOEs cannot help to build the nation if they send domain fees overseas is a limiting view and can be contradictory to their role in real economic growth."
"Ultimately, we believe that local SMEs are the building blocks of the nation – so, we feel the focus should be on educating these businesses on how best to represent themselves online," he concludes.