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AI boom brings millions to unlikely industry player: Anguilla

The integration of artificial intelligence into daily life has raised doubts and troubling questions among many about the path forward for humanity. But in Anguilla, a small Caribbean island east of Puerto Rico, the AI ​​boom has made the country a fortune.

The British territory levies a fee on each Internet address registration ending in “.ai”, which happens to be the domain name assigned to the island, such as “.fr” for France and “.jp” for Japan. As companies seek Internet addresses that communicate that they are at the forefront of the AI ​​boom – such as Elon Musk's X.ai website for his artificial intelligence company – Anguilla has recently received A massive influx of domain name requests.

For each domain registration, the Anguilla government receives between $140 and thousands of dollars from auctioned website names, according to government data. Last year, the Anguilla government earned about $32 million from these fees. This represented more than 10 percent of gross domestic product for a territory of nearly 16,000 people and 35 square miles.

“Some people call it a godsend,” said Anguilla Prime Minister Ellis Webster. “We just call it God smiling on us.”

Mr Webster said the government used the money to provide free health care to citizens aged 70 and over, and committed millions of dollars to complete the construction of a school and center occupational hazard. The government has also allocated funds to improve its airport; doubled its budget for sports activities, events and facilities; and increased the budget for citizens seeking medical treatment abroad, he said.

The island, which relies heavily on tourism, was hit hard by pandemic travel restrictions and a devastating hurricane in 2017. Revenue from the .ai domain was the boost the country needed.

“We never thought it would have such potential,” Mr Webster said.

Anguilla's control of .ai dates back to the early days of the Internet, when nations and territories were allocated their share of cyberspace. Anguilla received .ai, and its government, whose own site is www.gov.ai., didn't make much of it until the domain names started bringing in millions. Officials aren't sure how long this bonanza will last, but they predict 2024 will generate revenue similar to last year from domain names.

This isn't the first windfall that makes a big difference to a grateful domain owner. Tuvalu, a string of islands in the northwest of Australia, sold the rights to its “.tv” suffix to a Canadian entrepreneur for $50 million, and used the money to install electricity on the outer islands, create scholarships and finance the process of joining the United Nations.

The island of Niue, in the South Pacific, on the other hand, ceded the rights to its “.nu” suffix to an American businessman in the 1990s in exchange for its Internet connection. The island later claimed to have been deceived money from the sale of the domain name to thousands of Scandinavians attracted by the suffix “nu”, which means “now” in Swedish, Danish and Dutch.

But Anguilla understood quite early that it could not let this unexpected jackpot escape.

“It’s just a chance for us“, » said Mr. Webster.

Brian Hoerst reports contributed.

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