Thursday, July 9, 2020

BOCRA urges aspiring businesspersons to use domain names

As business continue adapting to the COVID pandemic as well as complying with safety measures and protocols, some Batswana entrepreneurs have over the course of the past three months turned to social media to connect with customer needs.

The social media platforms are easy to use and everybody is online which itself is a great opportunity to connect with people near and in far off places. However, some of these people open accounts on these platforms without creating websites, which itself can be an asset the business owners and generate revenue from advertising.

Botswana Communication Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) Director Corporate Comms and Consumer Affairs Aaron Nyelesi explained that “although social media platforms are free, and relatively easy to set up a business page on one, a domain or a website is often taken more seriously and are more professional (depending on your target market/audience).

“What is worth considering is the fact that your business is ultimately at the mercy of these platforms as they can make changes that could affect your business reach whenever they want,” he said.

“For instance, should the platform decide to go premium, you or your clients might end up having to pay for stuff such as paying to play a video or access other content. In essence, social media should be used as a marketing tool whereas a domain/website is the hub of your presence online. Use social media as a marketing platform to drive traffic back to your website. Use that traffic to grow your email and customer list so you can communicate with them anytime, anywhere and on your own terms,” Nyelesi said.

One such manner people can improve their business presence on the internet is learning about domain names. Domain names are user friendly strings used to identify a website or an email online instead of using a complicated sequence of numbers called Internet Protocol or IP addresses. Put differently, a domain name is like having a virtual plot online and this means that users online can identify your business and/services.

Domain names are sold to registrants through registrars usually for email and/or websites purposes. It is then added to an authoritative name server which answers internet queries pertaining to that particular domain. The domain name system which is the foundation of the internet is governed in such a manner that it promotes fair access and freedom of content.

Although many social media platforms are based on the traditional American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) characters, many initiatives and efforts have been carried out by the internet community at large to make domain names available in many languages other than those based on the Latin script.

This means that a registrant is able to upload content that is relevant to locally targeted audience that understand the language without the need to translate and possibly loose the true essence of the message being relayed.

BOCRA has stated that Botswana currently has 9223 registered domains and 66 registrars. The most common categories are the Commercial entities (co.bw), Non-profit organizations (org.bw) and Academic institutions (ac.bw) also have a fair registration.

Explaining the significance for domain names to be identified by countries such as .bw, .uk and .za, Nyelesi said “In this era of cyber-attacks, organizations are at risk of cyber-squatting, hijacking and intellectual property theft with the possibility of diverting your traffic to malicious or fake sites. Using a country code top level domain lowers these risks. BW domains are monitored for phishing attacks and any domains that are susceptible to such vulnerabilities are automatically taken down.”

“Another advantage of using a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is to grow online presence for a country, and big numbers could greatly affect decisions made globally about the internet. Driving traffic to a ccTLD also improves the economy of the country as domains of this kind are a brand of the country online. In addition, managers of ccTLD reside within the country, making it possible to resolve queries within a limited amount of time,” Nyelesi said.

However challenges BOCRA has encountered with Domain Names include a significant decline in domains deleted or taken down, due to the lack of renewal is still a concern. BOCRA advises the public should always be on the lookout for expiry dates of domain names and renew them on time. When a domain name expires and is ultimately deleted, it means your email or website seizes to function, and for some, this temporary online absence means loss of traffic and ultimately loss of money for businesses that provide services that may be on high demand.

Nyelesi highlighted: “.bw domains are a national resource. The .bw is the right local domain extension that lets people know immediately, who You are Online! The authority has not yet introduced maintenance fees to encourage the uptake of bw domains by the public. Based on our population, the current registered domains are just a fraction of what they should be. As the world and Botswana is driving towards a digital economy and the 4IR, domains are becoming a necessity. Our goal is to have 20,000 names by 2021.”

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.