The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, has unanimously passed the first reading of a government Bill on electronic transactions, intended to regulate the use of electronic systems in trade, finance and other areas.

The Bill also institutes sanctions for offences committed in cyberspace, and attempts to protect consumers against cybercrime. According to the government, the Bill will create a legal framework for electronic transactions, allowing security and flexibility.

Edson Macuacua, the chairperson of the Assembly’s Commission on Legal and Constitutional Matters, said the Bill “intends to fill a vacuum concerning electronic trade, including consumer protection, digital certification, regulation of the ‘mz’ domain, and protection of personal electronic data”.

This is all uncontroversial except for the government’s sudden decision to change the way the ‘mz’ domain is run. The ‘mz’ Internet domain is currently operated by the Computer Centre of Maputo’s Eduardo Mondlane University (CIUEM).

Indeed, it was the university, through the CIUEM, which registered the “mz” domain with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), back in 1992. Since then the CIUEM has been running the “mz” domain without any significant mishap, and without any complaints from the users.

There seems no good reason for throwing the management of the domain into a Bill dealing with such matters as electronic trade and finance, digital certification and the like. During the debate, only the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) defended the CIUEM’s intellectual property rights over the ‘mz’ domain.

“While recognizing that the ‘mz’ domain is the property of the Mozambcan State, it is necessary not to lose sight of the preponderant role played by the CIUEM in introducing the Internet into Mozambique,” said MDM deputy Armando Artur.

At the very least, Artur, urged, the technical aspects of managing the ‘mz’ domain should be left in the hands of the CIUEM as otherwise this institution “would be subject to the same fate as a bulldozer which at the end of a construction job is forbidden from using the road which it helped to build”.

However, Minister of Science and Technology, Jorge Nhambiu, insisted that the ‘mz’ domain will be headquartered in the newly formed National Institute of Information and Communications Technologies (INTIC).

He told AIM that, since the domain is State property, it should be managed by a set of statutes, and INTIC is the body which could implement such statutes. “The State delegates the functions of regulation to a body which it appoints, in this case we’re talking about INTIC,” he added.