Sophia Bekele

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Sophia Bekele
Sophia Bekele San Francisco.jpg
Sophia Bekele in San Francisco California, 2013
Born
Sophia Bekele Eshete

OccupationBusiness Person, Corporate Executive, Consultant
Years active1990–present

Sophia Bekele Eshete (Amharic: ሶፍያ በቀለ; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) is a woman of Ethiopian ancestry. She is an international entrepreneur, and corporate executive, governance and risk management specialist, policy advisor on ICT, commentator and philanthropist.[1] [2]

As an entrepreneur, Bekele has founded and run various companies and initiatives. She is presently the founder and Executive Director of DCA Group based in Mauritius and Kenya. She is the founder of a 6 year "Yes2dotAfrica" global awareness campaign, for re-branding Africa using the .Africa internet domain name[3] [4] [5] and CEO of tech start-ups, CBS International in California and SbCommunications Network (SbCnet) plc, based in Addis Ababa. [6] [7] [8] [9] Aside from her entrepreneurship ventures, Bekele maintained a career track record of constant professional activity working for multinational Fortune 500 Companies in the US.[10] [11]

She has frequently been quoted in the media for her views, as well as spoken regularly on international forums[12] [13][14] [15] and made public affairs commentary through published articles [16] [17]

Early life and Family[edit]

Bekele is the daughter of Ato Bekele Eshete Wolde Michael a founder and former Board Director of United Bank,S.C and United Insurance,S.C in Ethiopia and Sister Mulualem Beyene Engida, a medical nurse. She attended a private Catholic high school, then traveled to America to acquire her higher education. [18] [19] [20] [21]

Higher education[edit]

Bekele has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Analysis and Information Systems from San Francisco State University and a Master of Business Administration from Golden Gate University.[22] [23]

She is a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Control Specialist (CCS), and certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT), certifications issued to professionals who demonstrate competent knowledge and proficiency in the field of IS Audit, Security & Enterprise IT governance principles and practices.[19] [24]

Honorary mentions[edit]

In 2018, Bekele received a Champion of Development Award by the AfricaLink Solidarity Awards in Switzerland for her work on Miss.Africa Digital program, which enables young women and girls to benefit from training opportunities or financial grants administered via annual competition. [25] [26] [27][28] In 2017 the UN ITU and UN Women also recognized her for the same, as Miss.Africa was named finalist by the Equals in Tech Awards. [29] [30] The same year, the CIO East Africa recognized Bekele as an "Industry Trailblazer" and "Internet Governance Pioneer [31][32] In 2013, she was named as "leading ladies in Africa’s ICT sector" by Bloomberg TV[33][34][35][36], in the same year she was listed among the "50 Trailblazers – A future made in Africa" by the UK’s NewAfrican Magazine, an IC Publications group, which published a "Collector’s Edition" that coincided with the continent’s 50th anniversary celebrations of the African Union”. [37] [38] In 2005, Bekele was presented with a Paul Harris Fellow award for her contributions in the various works of International Rotary Clubs [19]

Public Service[edit]

Bekele has provided public service to various organizations throughout her career. In 2018 Bekele was appointed to be advisor to the EurAfrican Forum Board. [39] In 2005 she was elected to serve on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Council of the gNSO (Generic Names Supporting Organization), a body that advised on global internet policy on domain names.[40] [41] In 2008 Bekele co-founded and served as a director on the Internet Society ISOC San Francisco chapter based in San Francisco [42] Bekele served on the UN-ICT Taskforce and UNECA-sponsored African Information Society Initiative (AISI) in 2002 where she represented the private sector in discussions about ICT and the economic development of Africa [43] [44] in 2003. She was appointed on the UNECA sponsored East African Representative to the African Regional Network (ARN). Bekele was an advisor to the Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development (UNGAID) in 2009. The same year she served as advisor to the joint initiative of United Nations Public Administration Network and International Telecommunications Union (UNPAN/ITU), representing the private sector in discussions about Public Private Partnerships (PPP), e-government and MDG implementation.[45], She was elected for two terms to serve on the Golden Gate University’s alumni Board.[46] [47] [48] [49] [50]

Career[edit]

Bekele was recruited out of college by Bank of America and later held managerial positions with UnionBanCal Corporation and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Her initial field of expertise was Information Security.[51]

Entrepreneurship[edit]

In 2006, Bekele founded DotConnectAfrica, a private Trust organization, which she formed to champion Internet access in Africa and serve as a platform to realize charitable projects aimed at giving back to the community such as the miss.africa and the generation.africa program to empower girls and young people in Africa in the field of technology.[52][53][54][55][56][57] She soon set up DCA Registry to apply for the .africa Internet Top Level Domain Name at ICANN in 2012.

As part of her entrepreneurial career, Bekele has set up and run CBS International, a California based company, focused on technology transfer to emerging economies. The company provided international technology procurement, project-based capacity building, technological project management, internet/intranet systems integration and Internet related solutions. Concurrently she set up and run the SbCommunications Network, plc, (SbCnet) based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which specialized in systems integration, technology integration and support services. Through her two companies, she has won and successfully commissioned these international contracts for building large scale projects such as the information technology infrastructure for the Organization of African Unity (AU) General Secretariat and an e-government Internet-working project initiative, sponsored by UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) for the Ethiopian parliament, House of Peoples’ Representatives and House of Federation. Both projects involved the implementation of a complex fiber-optic-based campus wide area network and an integrated data networking infrastructure. Her companies CBS International handled technological inputs and services procurement from US, while SbCnet provided strategic technology integration services and field management[58][59][60]

International Domain Names (IDNs)[edit]

During her tenure at ICANN from 2005-2007 and the Council of the GNSO (Generic Names Supporting Organization), Bekele was among those who initiated a policy dialogue over IDNs as well as developing the framework for leading a language group to introduce IDNs under which new Internet Domain names in Arabic, Cyrillic, Russian, Chinese and non-Latin alphabets will become available, thereby providing non-English/non-Latin language native speakers an opportunity to access and communicate on the Internet in their native languages. This global IDN group, called International Domain Resolution Union (IDRU) gave a testimonial to Bekele's work over IDNs.[61][62] The IDNs are now introduced by ICANN under the auspices of the current new GTLD program[63][64][65]

.africa[edit]

In 2006, while at ICANN, Bekele turned her focus to initiate and champion the .africa – a new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) for the Africa geographic name[66] [67][68][69]. The project has been introduced and is now delegated for operation under ICANN’s new gTLD programme.

Bekele started the DotAfrica initiative following the important experiences gained from her work as gNSO advisor to ICANN. Bekele made a clear case for a DotAfrica (.africa) gTLD for Africa within ICANN and also the global Internet Community on behalf of the global African and Pan-African constituency. She soon led the .africa initiative with DotConnectAfrica introducing it to the Pan-African inter-governmental organizations – the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union Commission (AUC) and received endorsement for DCA.

Enterprise Technology Magazine called her "Sophia Bekele: Champion of .africa initiative" [70] CIO East Africa calling her views "controversial" on who should run gTLDs, saying "Sophia Bekele has been in the news if not for promoting DotConnectAfrica’s bid for the DotAfrica geographical gTLD for the past three years, then in a controversial statement about the same":

As the CEO of the DCA Registry Services Limited based in Kenya, Bekele had led a multi-national team of experts to prepare and submit an application for the DotAfrica (.AFRICA) generic Top-Level Domain. DotConnectAfrica has already submitted an application in May 2012 for the .africa (pronounced as ‘DotAfrica’) geographic name string to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) [71]

Miss.Africa Digital[edit]

In 2007, Bekele initiated and launched the Miss.Africa Digital program as a gender-focused initiative targeted mainly at female youth audiences throughout the African continent. The program is intended to increase girl’s personal involvement in early technology use and adoption with a view to improving their digital self-awareness and empowerment, and bridging the economic divide through employment or entrepreneurship [72] [73] The initiative was first launched and publicized during the ICANN gala event in Singapore and continued to ICANN Dakar [74]. In 2015 Bekele then launched the Miss.Africa Annual Seed Fund competition program, which runs Africa-wide, and provides grants to women and girls that have submitted original projects in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The grant assists these women to launch or further support their own initiatives. It was recently recognized by the Equals in Tech Awards, which is run by the United Nations ITU and UN Women and was named finalist amongst global competition. [75] [76]

Overcoming Challenges[edit]

Bekele's eight year .africa journey was not without challenges over the issues of accountability and transparency on the bid for .africa, including the African Union Commission(AUC) who allegedly disavowed the first endorsement they gave her organization DotConnectAfrica in 2009 to apply for the .africa gTLD,[77] to subsequently request for the same directly from ICANN, at the ICANN 42 International meeting held in Dakar Senegal from 23–28 October 2011.

AUC requested ICANN to include all similar name strings ".africa", ".afrique" and ".afriqia", in the list of "reserved names", to afford special legislative protection to the AUC to own these strings so as to make it unavailable to anyone, through a method of bypassing the formal application process of the ICANN's new generic top level domains (gTLDs). Bekele opposed to the AUC's request as it became known later that ICANN could not reserve the names for the AU, however ICANN did recommend to the AUC to use Government Advisory Committee to raise concerns that an applicant is seen as potentially sensitive or problematic, or to provide direct advice to the Board, so as to change the outcome of the gTLD.[78] AUC implemented the advice during the GAC objection period at the detriment of DCA and subsequently went ahead to directly endorsed another firm from SouthAfrica to apply to ICANN, who was also supported by its own AU Dotafrica Task Force.[79][80][81]

According to the public part of their application, the South African company submitted a "non-community" application to ICANN naming AUC as a “co-applicant” and giving the .africa registry and intellectual property rights to the AUC in a separate contract[82] These were later challenged through the DCA Vs ICANN IRP case overseen by the constituted .africa International Tribunal. On 9 July 2015, the .Africa IRP International Tribunal in its final declaration[109] ruled that DCA Trust, was the prevailing party. The Tribunal also recommended that ICANN continue to refrain from delegating the .AFRICA gTLD and permit DCA Trust’s application to proceed through the remainder of the new gTLD application process. The Tribunal further declared that ICANN is to bear, pursuant to Article IV, Section 3, paragraph 18 of the Bylaws, Article 11 of Supplementary Procedures and Article 31 of the ICDR Rules, the totality of the costs of this IRP and the totality of the costs of the IRP Provider.[83][84][85][86][87][88][89][90][91][92][93][94][95][96][97][98][99]

Following July 2015 IRP ruling, Sophia Bekele's organization DCA Trust took ICANN to court over the way it handled the IRP declaration, on April 12, 2016. Following this, a United States District Court, Central District Of California - Western Division has granted a Preliminary Injunction for DotConnectAfrica, the decision for case no. 16-CV-00862 RGK (JCx) [PDF] [100] The ruling detailed among other things that The balance of equities tips in favor of granting the preliminary injunction.[101][102][103][104][105][106][107][108][109][110][111][112] This also follows a March 4, 2016 ruling which her organization was granted as an Ex Parte Application for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), Interim Relief [PDF Case No: CV 16-00862 RGK (JCx)][113] that ICANN should hold off from delegating the .AFRICA top-level domain (TLD) to the competing application sponsored by the AUC - ZA Central Registry (ZACR).[114][115][116][117][118][119][120][121][122][123][124][125][126]

Since then, the case has been remanded from Federal court due to lack of jurisdiction. The Judge stated that in the event that DCA ultimately prevails in this action, the gTLD can be re-delegated. [127][128] [129] The case will be set in a jury trial in 2019 [130]

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