Over the past couple months, we’ve covered efforts by the governments of Zimbabwe (post) and Benin (post) to bring their ccTLD management practices in line with international standards.  We can now add Rwanda to the list of African nations that are making their domain name a greater priority.

The efforts are being led jointly by RICTA, a non-profit that operates the .rw registry, and Rwanda’s Ministry of ICT and Innovation.  The campaign dubbed Nahisemo.RW (I choose Rwanda) puts forth both a cultural argument and a financial one:

“We encourage Rwandan businesses with global footprint to localise their domain names and also have that pride that they are a Rwandan brand,” said Paula Ingabire. Minister of ICT and Innovation.

Apart from national pride, Igabire’s remarks suggest that choosing .rw would boost the profile of Rwandan digital commerce in general. The registrant of a .rw domain is helping to build a positive perception of Rwanda, which will eventually be to their benefit as an operator in the country.

To that end, there is also a more straight-forward economic argument.  RICTA’s mission is to “represent the interests of the internet community” in Rwanda.  As .rw domain name registration fees are collected by RICTA, a higher income from this source would by extension increase the budget for new initiatives to make the Rwandan Internet a better place to do business.

RICTA’s figures suggest that about half of domains registered in Rwanda are under the .rw extension (4000/8000).  According to commentary by the local outlet KT Press, the reason for this low penetration is largely due to higher-prices for hosting services bundled with .rw domains:

An .rw domain purchased from RICTA costs around 6.5 USD and can be found in the 10-12 USD range at retail websites.  However, KT Press’ investigation found that a package of .rw domain + hosting from a local vendor costs twice as much as a .com domain + hosting package from an international vendor. As users in Rwanda tend to purchase both services together, it’s irrelevant that .com and .rw registration cost nearly the same, as the user’s total expenditure is much higher with the .rw option.

The Nahisemo.RW initiative will tackle this trend on two fronts:  First, RICTA and Ministry personnel with visit with Rwandan companies directly to convince them to use the .rw domain.  Second, there will be discussions with local webhosting companies to suggest lowering prices and to propose measures to make domain/hosting products more easily understood by SMEs in Rwanda looking to get online.

.rw has been available through Toweb’s service for many years, albeit at a much higher price than mentioned above.  Accredited registrars currently pay 208 USD per year for a .rw registration and there’s no reason to believe that RICTA will lower that price as a product of the Nahisemo.RW initiative.

For the time being, we’ll wish our colleagues in Rwanda the best of luck in their initiative and hope that the .rw domain becomes a more interesting product locally.  Of course, if any future projects take aim at increasing .rw domain registrations worldwide, you can expect an announcement with all the relevant information.