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AI boom nets millions for unlikely industry player: Anguilla| GuyWhoKnowsThings

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

The British territory charges a fee for each registration of Internet addresses that end in “.ai,” which happens to be the domain name assigned to the island, such as “.fr” for France and “.jp” for Japan. Because companies want Internet addresses that communicate that they are at the forefront of the AI ​​boom (like Elon Musk's X.ai website for his artificial intelligence company), Anguilla recently received a Large influx of domain name requests..

For each domain registration, the Anguilla government makes between $140 and thousands of website names sold at auction, according to government data. Last year, the Anguilla government made about $32 million from those fees. That represented more than 10 percent of gross domestic product for the territory of nearly 16,000 people and 35 square miles.

“Some people consider it a windfall,” said Anguilla Prime Minister Ellis Webster. “We just call him God smiling at us.”

Webster said the government used the money to provide free health care to citizens aged 70 and older, and has committed millions of dollars to finish building a school and vocational training center. The government has also allocated funds to improve its airport; doubled its budget for activities, events and sports facilities; and increased the budget for citizens seeking medical treatment abroad, she 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 this potential,” Webster said.

Anguilla's control over .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 give it much thought until domain names started making millions. Officials aren't sure how long the blessing will last, but they predicted that 2024 would generate revenue similar to last year from domain names.

It's not the first bonanza that's made a big difference to a grateful domain owner. Tuvalu, a chain of islands northwest of Australia, sold the rights to its suffix, “.tv,” to a Canadian businessman for $50 million, and used the money to power the outer islands, create scholarships, and finance the process to join the United Nations.

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

But Anguilla realized very soon that he could not let this unexpected prize slip away.

“It's lucky for ussaid Mr. Webster.

Brian Hoerst contributed reports.

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