Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Validated domains for do-gooders: A registry and a community for NGOs

We asked Brian Cute, CEO of Public Interest Registry [PIR], the company with control over the new .ngo and .gno top-level domains, a few questions

Published: Sep 9, 2014 06:37:07 AM IST
Updated: Sep 10, 2014 11:11:48 AM IST
Validated domains for do-gooders: A registry and a community for NGOs

Forbes India: There are other sites that vet and/or list NGOs. What are they not doing that PIR and GlobalNGO will do?
Brian Cute:
The .ngo|.ong community will have access to an exclusive suite of services not offered elsewhere today.

It will provide NGOs of all sizes and reach with access to an exclusive domain name and membership to an online community with a website and searchable global directory to improve visibility, raise funds and connect with other NGOs.

.ngo|.ong community members can choose to be included in the directory with a customisable online profile page for their organisation. This profile details their mission for partners, donors and the public, and can link to their website, connect with their social media channels, and collect donations. NGOs have control over their own profile pages.

The validation process is a key differentiator reassuring Internet users worldwide that websites with .ngo or .ong domain names represent lawful, independent and not-for-profit organisations.

In addition, the fundraising as part of the .ngo|.ong global community—especially for smaller NGOs or groups from underserved regions—will make the .ngo|.ong directory unique.

Finally, the NGO community is truly global and no other directory treats it that way.  Today’s directories do a good job of servicing regional needs. The .ngo|.ong community will be inclusive of all NGOs that meet its criteria, no matter their geography, sector or size.

Could you explain the genesis of this initiative?
The .ngo|.ong domain initiative is a Public Interest Registry initiative.

Public Interest Registry has managed the .org domain name and served the public interest and not-for-profit organisations for more than a decade. So when the Internet’s primary governing body, ICANN, approved the expansion of the Internet’s naming system in June 2011, it gave us the opportunity to introduce a whole new platform to address some of the pain points of the community, notably visibility and fund-raising.

My colleagues at Public Interest Registry and I set out to gather feedback from the international NGO community to determine whether these domain extensions would be beneficial. We travelled all around the globe to meet with NGOs about their online challenges and held dozens of informational sessions. The response was overwhelmingly positive and in favour of these two new domains to illustrate an NGO’s authenticity. This outreach continues, as we aim to ensure that our plans for .ngo|.ong reflect the needs and desires of the global NGO community.

How has this initiative been funded?
The project is solely funded by Public Interest Registry.

Will this TLD also accept non-Roman characters in domain names?
At launch .ngo|.ong will support Roman characters only.  Other character sets (including Devanagari for Hindi) will be phased in over time.

How does the verification process go? And how were these requirements and criteria drawn up and agreed upon?
Public Interest Registry has worked closely with the global NGO community to develop a validation process for NGOs seeking to register .ngo|.ong domains.  For the purpose of validation, we use seven criteria to define an NGO:

  1. Focused on acting in the public interest.  Members of the NGO community work for the good of humankind and/or the preservation of the planet and do not promote discrimination or bigotry. 
  2. Non-profit-making/non-profit-focused entities. Members of the NGO community do not recognise profits or retain earnings.
  3. Limited government influence.  Members decide their own policies and activities and are independent of direct government or political control.
  4. NGO staff/members are independent actors.  Members of the NGO community should not be parts of political parties, and participation in the NGO must be voluntary.
  5. Active Organisations.  Members of the NGO community are actively and regularly pursuing their missions.
  6. Structured.  Members of the NGO community operate in a structured manner.
  7. Lawful. Members of the NGO community act with integrity within the bounds of law.
Before becoming community members, NGOs will be required to confirm that their organisation meets these criteria and that they are an authorised representative of the organisation. After this confirmation, the NGO will undergo the Public Interest Registry validation process. Registrants will have 60 days to complete this, during which time their membership will be placed on server hold.

Different countries will have different rules for what an NGO is. GlobalNGO may not consider some of those definitions valid. And some countries may not agree with GlobalNGO's definitions. How will that be dealt with?
Public Interest Registry worked closely with regional NGO communities around the world to develop globally applicable eligibility requirements for .ngo|.ong domains.  While we understand that there is no single, agreed-upon set of criteria for defining NGOs worldwide, the .ngo|.ong membership criteria are based upon common characteristics recommended repeatedly by NGOs during our extensive global outreach program over the past three years.

We encourage NGOs worldwide to help us ensure the .ngo|.ong community consists only of genuine NGOs and will have a process in place through which the community can challenge the inclusion of particular organisations.

Is it only NGOs in the pro bono / development / charitable / philanthropic space?
ngo|.ong will be available to all organisations that meet all seven of the validation criteria. The community will represent a diverse range of missions and causes.

Many organisations claim NGO status, but their critics claim that they are not exclusively involved in development work (like the RSS in India). Would such organisations qualify?
We cannot comment on specific examples. Every applicant will go through the validation process when applying. In addition to the validation process, the community will be able to challenge the inclusion of any organisation.

Would a rich philanthropic trust doing development work, like the Gates Foundation for example, qualify?
Each applicant for an .ngo|.ong domain name must meet the seven eligibility criteria and complete the validation process. Validation will be granted on a case-by-case basis according to the information submitted during the validation process.

Would a social entrepreneur working in the development sector qualify, even though s/he intends to make profits in the future and/or may have received funding that is not from the public of philanthropic sources?
Members of the .ngo|.ong community must be non-profit-making/non-profit-focused entities.