Lala passed away on the night of Sunday 9th and Monday 10th February. Very discreetly, without fuss and without warning.
Lala, that figure of wisdom and perseverance not only in terms of the African web but the Internet in general, is gone and the vacuum left is as vast as the emotion and sadness felt here at Afnic.
We often talk of Internet pioneers to denote those long-established tutelary figures who have been on the Internet scene since the 90s. And even more so when talking about the continent of Africa. Perhaps because these people, more determined than others to share the opportunities of the Internet with their fellow citizens, were more alone, and therefore more visible, than the pioneers on other continents.
But Lala was not from a continent. He was an islander. Thus the word pioneer takes on even greater significance. Because what he achieved, alongside others, notably his friend and long-time college Raft Razafindrakoto, is an exceptional endeavour.
Tethering his island to the world, and turning it towards its big brother, Africa.
All that to then cast off and allow the Madagascan youth to sail more freely, because knowledge liberates, more enriched because knowledge is a precious good, more confidently, more proudly because Madagascar has a new flag thanks to him, a magnificent flag, the .mg TLD.
I speak of youth because Lala, a professor and teacher, dedicated his life to education and the transmission of knowledge. As our Chair Godefroy Beauvallet wrote yesterday to our Board of Trustees, of which Lala was an outstanding member:
“Perhaps the great teachers never really die, since they continue to live on through those they have taught and who continue their work. If it is true of anyone, it is certainly true of Lala”.
Lala was one of these great teachers, something I witnessed myself in our many discussions over the years. We knew each other for almost twenty years, and almost every time, with greater insistence in recent years, he spoke about the need to find and prepare those he called the “successors”. Lala did not complain, except when the organisation of exams put the students’ working conditions at stake. Except when a telecom operator didn’t do their job or did it badly and his university’s connection was cut.
Involved in the connectivity projects at the University of Madagascar through the i RENALA http://www.irenala.edu.mg project, his eyesight was fixed much further afield than the already vast horizon of educating young Madagascans. Of course, with NIC-MG http://nic.mg he worked to supply a stable and high-quality service for Madagascar’s online presence. But while he was at it, since he and Raft had dealt with the teething problems by being among the first African registries to automate, why not translate all of the registry software manuals into French and donate them to his French-speaking counterparts? And since he had obtained funding to set up a national Madagascan network for universities, with the help of his friends around the world and particularly in France, RENATER and Afnic , why not set up a Madagascan interchange point to conserve international bandwidth? That is what he did as of 2014.
That was what Lala was like. His university was his starting point, but he wanted to go even further, to reach as many people as possible, beyond campuses, across seas and continents.
A member of the Afnic International College, Lala was a pillar, an activist, a visionary Chair. Under his tenure, the Afnic International College confirmed and implemented its focus on young people, with, for example, the i2N http://www.i2n.mg initiative. The work to automate African registries was strengthened, allowing Afnic to create a now unique support service. The presence of Francophone Africa was also reinforced within pan-African Internet organisations. AFRINIC https://www.afrinic.net, AfTLD http://www.aftld.org as well as GAC and ICANN https://gac.icann.org saw the presence of Francophone Africa reinforced both quantitatively and qualitatively to varying degrees. Of course, Lala relied on his old accomplices Pierre Ouedraogo, Pierre Dandjinou, Anne-Rachel Inné, Adiel Akplogan, Alain Caristan, Alain Aïna, Alex Corentin, Boubakar Barry, Ahmedou Ould Haouba, Souleymane Oumtanaga his successor at the head of the Afnic International College, Odile Ambry, Sébastien Bachollet, Emmanuel Adjovi, Laurent Ferrali, and, time and again, Raft.
I cannot name all of the members of the Afnic International College here, although I feel their grief, but I would like to mention Serge Sanou, from Burkina-Faso, who was very close to Lala and who was the first to break the terrible news to us.
Lala was an Afnic trustee for over six years. In this role, he accompanied crucial changes for our association and supported major projects, up until June 2019. I remember his enthusiasm at the launch of réussir-en.fr, his remarks on the need to put the same conviction and promotion into national TLDs across the continent. And what of his trust, his encouragement, his clairvoyance when Afnic undertook the complete overhaul of its registry system, an exploit which is still ongoing. He saw not only the future benefits for Afnic and .fr, but also the need to use the opportunity to offer a new solution to African registries wanting to automate and modernise. He had faith in our skills, he encouraged us, supported us, guided us. He was an outstanding trustee.
On a personal level, I will never forget his help and presence during the transition that followed the departure of Mathieu Weill, in 2017, and which led me, with his confidence and that of the Afnic Board of Trustees, to take over the leadership of our association.
So much kindness, so much encouragement, so much faith. We must continue without it now, or rather remember it, believe that if you were still here, you would continue to tirelessly bestow the trust you had in us to all of us.
Mr Andriamampianina , my dear, dear Lala. For many of us your surname remains unpronounceable. But your first name is clear, short, joyful. Like an upbeat melody, the start of spring, a promise, a smile.
Lala is easy to remember, and you are impossible to forget.
That is what I will remember of you, and so much more. I know how much your family and friends have lost. Our thoughts are with them. Both current and past Afnic employees, many of whom you knew well and for some time, the members of our association, former members, successive Chairs and trustees, successive CEOs, we all mourn your loss today and pay tribute to your memory.