Mali is offering its country code top level domain (ccTLD), .ml, to the 20 million Internet users in Malaysia, capitalizing on the popular use of "ML" as an abbreviation for the Southeast Asian nation.
Internet use in French-speaking Mali, in West Africa, has been low. It is one of the world's poorest countries, and has a high level of illiteracy.
Meanwhile, Malayisa has recently prioritized ICT to ensure it contributes 17 percent to its GDP by 2020, up from 11 percent now. The .my domain is its assigned ccTLD. But high registration costs, required paperwork and bureaucratic rules slow down the process for Malaysian individuals and businesses to obtain .my domain names, according to officials at AGETIC, the government organization that runs the IT infrastructure in Mali.
Malaysia is offering .ml domain names to Malaysians for free for a 12-month period. Those interested can obtain .ml domain names via the Freenom or Dot ML websites. Dot ML is a privately funded joint venture between AGETIC and Freenom, a Netherlands-based free domain provider. Freenom's mission is to bring people online and help countries develop their digital economy, according to its website.
AGETIC officials say there had already been been a large increase of registrations from Malaysian users for the .ml domain in the last year.
The manager of the .ml top level domain, Hawa Diakité, said Mali is leveraging European and Asian partnerships "to gain quicker access to the global market."
With the introduction of .ml domains in Malaysia, Mali is the first African country to look abroad for domain name distribution.
"This will help us grow .ml and will bring free and easily accessible domains to other nations where the demand is high," Diakité, said. "Domains are in unlimited supply and as long as the Internet users find a meaning or a use for them, there are no reasons to limit them to one market only."
If the .ml offering is successful, Mali will offer the domain to users elsewhere, AGETIC officials said. They are currently looking at Manila and Milan as possibilities.
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