Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill: briefing

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SELECT COMMITTEE ON LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISE

LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISE SELECT COMMITTEE
12 June 2002
ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS AND TRANSACTIONS BILL: BRIEFING


Chairperson: Ms C Nkuna (ANC)

Documents Handed out:
As passed: Final version of amendments passed by Portfolio Committee [B8A-2002] [.pdf file]
As passed: Consolidated version of the Bill with amendments [B8B-2002] [.pdf file]
Presentation to Select Committee: Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill
ICANN - The Case for Reform -
http://www.icann.org/general/lynn-reform-proposal-24feb02.htm
Presentation of the AFNIC -
http://www.nic.fr/english
IANA Report for Japan -
http://www.icann.org
IANA Report for Canada -
http://www.icann.org
Promoting Development of Information Society in Finland:
http://www.ficora.fi/englanti/esittely/n2483.htm

SUMMARY
The Director General of Communications briefed the Select Committee on the Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill that the Committee will be voting on 18 June 2002. It will be debated in the NCOP chamber on 21 June. After the briefing, DG Ngcaba answered the Committee's questions and addressed media criticism concerning the establishment of a .za Domain Name Authority and Administration.

MINUTES
DG Ngcaba briefed the Committed on the issues and objectives surrounding the Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill. He discussed the history of the bill and the enormous amount of input that the department has collected in the process of formulating the bill. The ECT Bill will benefit consumers, government bodies, and businesses by promoting e-business, encouraging e-government services, and establishing protection for private information and e-transactions.

The DG lamented that the media has taken issue with the Domain Name Authority and Administration. The ECT Bill establishes .za Domain Name Authority, a section 21 company, and stipulates the objects, powers, and function of the Authority under the responsibility of the Minister. The Authority will be managed by a board of nine people who will determine whether a web site should be categorised as .gov, .ac, .org, or .co. An independent panel of five people selected by the Minister will determine the nine who sit on this board.

The media has taken the side of Mr. Mike Lawrie, who individually administers .za at the present, and Namespace. They forward the opinion that the Minister should not be allowed to choose the panel or have ultimate authority over .za.

The DG passed out information from various web sites about how other countries administer domain names. He pointed out that France, Japan, Finland, and Canada all use similar systems to the one the ECTB establishes for administering domain names. In addition, he noted a report from an NGO called ICANN that recommends this system of administration. The DG asserted that this is not an unconventional, unheard of system the department is recommending, and he is disappointed that the media has failed to report this part of the story.

Discussion
Ms. Dlulane (ANC - Eastern Cape) asked how the Bill would stop hackers and if the Bill had met with opposition in the National Assembly.

Ms. Themba (ANC - Mpumalanga) asked why this briefing is taking place so close to the voting, because she feels she had not been given enough time to acquire adequate knowledge to make an informed decision concerning this bill.

Mr. Setona (ANC - Free State) asked how the Bill would affect SSMEs? He noted that the IT situation in places like the Free State constitute a worse case scenario and he wanted to know what the Bill will do to help educate people in these areas. He inquired as to the media's suggestion for nominating the Domain Name Administration Panel.

Mr. Kolweni (ANC - North West) inquired into the attitude of the business community concerning the Bill.

DG Ngcaga responded that cyber-crime and computer fraud is a problem just like check fraud or any other kind of crime. Of course the Bill cannot stop crime, but it can establish a system for punishing people who use computers to commit crimes. He noted that the DP did not support the bill, but everyone else did. Over 59 submissions were received to amend the bill, including one from the US government, over a six week period, and the department did everything it could to work these submissions into the bill. He believes this bill adequately represents many interests including the business sector.

The DG apologised for the timing of the briefing. He hoped that a future workshop can be organised to allow the Committee a closer view of his department, especially the department's work on cryptography.

The DG believed that the Bill and the Internet in general can do a lot to help small businesses. People who gain access to the Internet gain the ability to make business transactions with people from around the world. This can be a great source of income to people who make crafts in rural areas.

The media had taken exception to the Domain Name Panel being nominated by the Minister, and it asserts that a joint nomination system should be implemented. The DG reiterated that the system the Bill promotes is similar to systems used in other countries. Domain Name Administration is very important as a matter of national policy, so he believes the government must play an important role in its administration.

Meeting adjourned.

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