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Technology

Thirteen Fellows to Attend AfPIF 2017

The Internet Society will support thirteen fellows to attend the 8th African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF), scheduled for 22 – 24 August, 2017 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

The AfPIF fellowship program is designed to offer opportunities for qualified applicants to attend the event. The fellows come from: Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ghana, Gambia, Mauritius, Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Togo, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Lesotho, and Sudan. The annual event brings together governments, policy makers, technical experts and business leaders to discuss African Internet infrastructure challenges, including capacity, regional and national Internet Exchange Point (IXP) development, local content development, and connectivity.

“The AfPIF Fellowship is an important program that gives the opportunity to many to participate in the Forum and gain insights on how Africa can maximize opportunities for increased interconnection and peering.  I would like to thank our sponsors and the Fellowship Committee who make this happen every year,” said Dawit Bekele, Africa Regional Bureau Director for the Internet Society.

The fellows will have a chance to:

  • Share experiences on ways to improve running and administering of a new or existing IXP
  • Use the business opportunity to meet potential IXP members 
  • Promote public awareness and evangelism of IXPs and peering in general at the national and regional level
  • Advance and influence national/regional policies on peering and cross-border Internet interconnection
  • Provide a face-to-face networking opportunity for peers and experts

The 2017 AfPIF Fellows are:

  • Abdulie Sowe (Gambia), Administrator, Serekunda Internet Exchange Point (SIXP)
  • Alassane G. Blaise DIAGNE (Senegal), Director General, State Information Technology Agency (ADIE)
  • Alkhansa Mohamed (Sudan), Quantum for Advance Business
  • Cedrick Adrien MBEYET (Mauritius), System Engineer, AFRINIC
  • Damnam Kanlanfei Bagolibe (Togo), TGIX
  • Emmanuel Kwarteng (Ghana), GIX
  • Frank Habicht (Tanzania), TISPA
  • Ghislain Nkeramugaba (Rwanda), RICTA/RINEX
  • Islam Abou El Ata (Morocco), CAS-IX
  • Kiemde Wênden tôe fâa (Burkina Faso), Burkina Faso Internet EXchange Point (BFIX)
  • Kyle Spencer (Uganda), Uganda Internet eXchange Point
  • Nico Tshintu Bakajika (Democratic Republic of Congo), ISPA-DRC/KINIX
  • Tumelo Mosito (Lesotho), IT operations manager, Econet Lesotho

Read more about AfPIF-2017 fellows, register for AfPIF, or view the Livestream.

Categories
Building Trust Technology Women in Tech

Women Share Knowledge and Experience in Network Operator Groups in Africa

The Internet Society African Regional Bureau has worked with Network Operator Groups (NOGs) in Africa, providing financial and technical support to organize trainings and events at the local level. We recently shared many of their stories. There are also a number of NOGs that seek to attract women engineers to share knowledge and experience as well as to encourage young women to take up technology-related fields – which are largely perceived in the African region as “men only.” Here are their stories.

AfCHIX

AfCHIX  is a branch of the Africa Network Operator Group (AfNOG) and was formed in November 2004 by African women and for African women. The aim of AfChix is to help build a critical mass of computing skills among African women. It evolved from Linux Chix Africa, which was founded by Dorcas Muthoni and Ana Badimo, two great African women in computing. AfCHIX has held activities impacting over 25 African countries and which have inspired other women-focused NOGs to form such as TechCHIX and SenCHIX. It has held several face to face workshops over the years in several African countries including Malawi, Botswana, and Ghana. Its 2017 training in Gambia, attracted 30 women engineers. This 2017 training event was organized with the help of the Internet Society’s Gambia Chapter.

TechCHIX

TechCHIX was formed in February of 2016 by a group of women from Arusha and Dar Es Salam, Tanzania in STEM and ICT fields. Its mission was to build technical skills among women engineers in Tanzania, and it has held 15 events since its formation, including a technical training workshop for 26 women in March of 2017, which was supported by the Internet Society. TechCHIX conducts its activities in both English and Kiswahili, and has visited more than 15 secondary schools in Tanzania to encourage young girls to study STEM fields. It faces sustainability challenges as most activities involve costs such as travel for its facilitators. TechCHIX has received support from TzNOG and the Internet Society and seeks to expand its sponsorship and member base in order to scale up activities.

SenCHIX

SenCHIX has been active since 2013. It is based in Senegal, where it has conducted several actvities, mostly in French. SenCHIX was formed when the founding members realized that less than 25% of participants in technical courses in Senegal are women, and its main objective is to involve more women in all ICT fields there. It organizes at least two trainings per year which attract about 30 women. Sustainability is a challenge and funds come from membership fees and occasionally from sponsors. One of the main successes of TechCHIX was the organization a “Girls and Science Day,” during which more than 300 young girls were invited to learn more about science and ICT. Dr. Fanta Bouba, a founding member, shares that they intend to create more “Chix” groups at colleges, high schools and universities, to increase the number of women trainers in all ICT fields, and to have more women in ICT Governance. SenCHIX has received support from the Internet Society via access to online technical courses, which are available in English and French. It looks forward to having more support from the Internet Society and other organizations in the coming years to achieve its long term plan of chartering more CHIX centers at schools and developing ICT training kits for women organizations in Senegal.

These NOGs have succeeded in increasing STEM and ICT engagement for women in Africa. The Internet Society looks forward to hearing about the achievements of future women-led NOGs.


Know an amazing woman or girl in tech who’s working for access, skills, or leadership? Shine the light on them and nominate them for an EqualsInTech Award!

Become a local hero: explore the Internet Society’s work to encourage smart development and see how you can take part.

Image credit: TechCHIX

Categories
Building Trust Growing the Internet

Why ALL African Internet and Data operators should be attending AfPIF-2017

Top African and international Internet companies are supporting this year’s Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF), set for August 22-24 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Netflix, Facebook, Google, Akamai, DE CIX, LINX, YAHOO, Netnod and FranceIX are among the global players supporting AfPIF while Liquid Telecom, Seacom, Angola Cables, Angonix, AFRINIC, and MainOne are the leading supporters from Africa.

In the last seven years, AfPIF has established itself as the most important Internet event with respect to peering and interconnection in Africa and any operator that is looking at growing their local, regional and global interconnection is best served at AfPIF.

For who should attend please see AfPIF-2017 website.

Why should you attend AfPIF-2017?

Global CDN’s that generate at least 40% of all Internet consumer traffic in Africa will be attending AfPIF in Abidjan, which makes it the largest AfPIF by CDN ratio ever. The CDNs are: Google, Akamai, Yahoo, Netflix, Facebook amongst others.

Major European IXPs will be represented: in the last seven years of AfPIF, it has been proven that networks from emerging markets can offload at least 40% of their International transit traffic at large IXPs in Europe. Some of the major European IXPs that will be represented in Abidjan are: AMS IX, LINX, DE CIX, France IX and Netnod.

“LINX has been proud to have supported AfPIF for the last five years. Seven main cable routes from Africa land in the UK and today over 40 African networks peer at LINX. Events like AfPIF are vital in enabling us to meet with network providers in the region who are looking to connect to our exchange in London. We are delighted to be in Abidjan in Côte D’Ivoire this year to continue to establish and build on these important relationships,” said the LINX marketing team.

The technical community has committed to promoting of 80% local exchange of content by 2020. AfPIF provides a platform to advance this vision by focusing on the policy, technical and business aspects of interconnection in Africa.

African Networks will be represented: Seacom, Main One, Liquid, and Angola Cables will lead a list of Africa’s major terrestrial and submarine Cable operators that will be present and giving updates.

Africa has also witnessed growth in data center infrastructure, which has boosted the growth of local content hosting. The growth of data centers is projected to be a major driver of 80% local content hosting.

Interested in hosting in Africa? Come and interact with the teams from Teraco and iColo.io amongst others.

This year, AfPIF has the attention of optical vendors who are innovating solutions that lead to lower interconnection costs. Adva and Flexoptix teams will be on site showcase how they impact the peering and interconnection ecosystem.

During the meeting, networks present will get a chance to introduce themselves to all the attendees during the “peering personals” a precursor to the peering bilateral meetings sessions.

It starts with a handshake

We have the meeting tool that makes it possible for those attending to organize meetings with potential network representatives attending AfPIF. Studies shows that many of peering and interconnection agreements are made during peering events like AfPIF and hence the need. Remember meetings are booked in advance – you want to make sure that you secure your meeting opportunity early.

This video provides a perfect overview of why AfPIF and peering matters to networks.

Global and regional networks are here to share, meet and do business, register and secure your meeting!

Categories
Building Trust Technology

Network Operators Groups in Africa Share Their Stories

The Internet Society African Regional Bureau has worked with new and existing Network Operator Groups (NOGs) in Africa, providing financial and technical support to organize trainings and events at the local level. Currently there are seven known active national NOGs in Africa: Rwanda, Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Angola, and Somalia as well as two regional NOGs:  Africa NOG (AfNOG) and Southern Africa NOG (SafNOG). While the Internet Society continues to encourage the growth of African NOGs and the NOGs have had a number of successes in building the technical community of Africa, they have also been faced with a number of challenges. Some shared their stories with us.

The Nigerian Network Operators Group (ngNOG)

The first African NOG, ngNOG, was formed in 2006 with the Preparatory Nigerian Network Operators Group (Pre-ngNOG I) workshop and meeting. At the time, ngNOG was co-convened by the Nigeria ICT Forum of Partnership Institutions, a NGO in higher education, and General Data Engineering Services/SKANNET, a private ISP and training consultancy.

The primary objectives of ngNOG were to build resident technical capacity in Nigerian Academic Networks, prepare participants for more advanced training at the AfNOG workshops, help build a National Research and Education Network and Services, and provide a local alternative to the regional AfNOG event (with the advantage of lower travel cost). 

Over the years ngNOG has operated various online discussions, hosted annual events and undertaken more specialized trainings covering issues like Internet number resources, learning management systems, optical fiber, campus network design, etc.

Rashida Umar from ngNOG says that over the years their NOG has trained over 800 network engineers, managers, and librarians. The audience usually includes mid-level and senior technical staff of research and education networks, public and private networks, commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs), NGOs, and others in the process of developing and enhancing and managing networks with local and international connectivity.

However, amidst its various achievements, ngNOG has also faced a number of challenges, such as the inability to ensure that the most suitable participants attend workshops, while more support is needed from local corporate organizations.

Its long term plan is to build a stronger and more active community that will sustain the NOG for the next generation. “We are also making plans to go beyond System Operations (sysops) into application development to stimulate more local content and possibly contribute toward making the ngNOG financially independent. We also hope to encourage the NOG community to strengthen the Research and Education network” said Rashida Umar.

According to ngNOG, they have leveraged the Internet Society’s online training support, while financial support by the Internet Society has subsidized fees for some participants, attracting high ranking decision makers in the local Internet community.

The Tanzania Network Operators Group (TzNOG)

tzNOG was officially formed in 2011 just after the conclusion of AfNOG 12, 2011 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Its objective was to localize the AfNOG trainings and provide an affordable training platform to local Internet Engineers. The organizing committee was comprised of members from Tanzania Network Information Centre (tzNIC), Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), Tanzania Internet Service Providers Association (TISPA), and TERNET (Tanzania Educational and Research Network).

tzNOG offers one technical training per year, which raises awareness of tzNOG trainings to Tanzanians and the Government. However, tzNOG faces its own challenges from lack of local support by stakeholders (both local and public) and little marketing opportunities to attract more sponsors.

tzNOG is not yet fully self sustaining and the trainings being held depend on financial and material support from local and foreign donors including the Internet Society. According to Abibu Rashid Ntahigiye , Manager at tzNIC, “We have been receiving both financial and technical expertise support from ISOC and the NSRC. The support has been very useful in covering the event costs such as venue, catering, and accommodation for trainers. During the tzNOG4 in 2015, ISOC extended its support in terms of fellowship to 8 women engineers from TechCHIX, an upcoming women NOG in Tanzania. This increased the women participation to the trainings.” Ntahigiye says that the long term plan of tzNOG is to cover the whole country with at least one tzNOG training session and to commence workshops that share innovative ideas and/or challenges.

The Ghana Network Operators Group (GhNOG) 

GhNOG was formed on July 31, 2009 with the intention of localizing AfNOG trainings in Ghana. It holds one to two workshops and trainings per year to an average of 45-70 trainees. In 2011, GhNOG successfully organized a workshop in which AfNOG and GhNOG alumni taught. Since then, GhNOG has stopped inviting international instructors, relying on local talent and technical expertise instead.

Similar to other African NOGs, GhNOG faces challenges such as lack of financial support from sponsors and availability of volunteers to perform administrative tasks. Hence, the financial support it receives from the Internet Society and the internally generated funds are crucial to its survival and success rate.

According to Marcus K. G. Adomey, a Network Systems Administrator at the University of Ghana and president of the Internet Society Ghana Chapter, the longterm goal of GhNOG is to reorganize the ISOC Ghana Chapter Caucuses in the universities and polytechnics to bring effective, decentralized GhNOG workshops to those institutions.

The Southern Africa Network Operators Group (SAFNOG)

The Southern Africa Network Operators’ Group was formed in 2014. SAFNOG was formed to help with trainings and facilitate a regional discussion forum on issues like the increasing number of cross-border networks that operate in the SADC area. Although often well defined, network operators are often closeted and unwilling to share their experiences; the SAFNOG events have been very successful in bringing together operators who would otherwise not have been directly engaged. Because it is volunteer-driven, there are some challenges: the difficulty of finding new volunteers and volunteers’ limited time. Its longer term plan focuses on continuing to get the community to engage with each other. SAFNOG mostly sustains itself through the fee it charges for the plenary as well as through sponsorship and partnerships, such as the one it has built with the Internet Society.

The Sudan Network Operators Group (SdNOG) 

SdNOG started in October 2014 as a small mailing list for technical discussion and knowledge sharing. The first face-to-face event (SdNOG 1) was then held in December 2014. SdNOG was initially formed to address community needs and enhance the quality of Internet services in Sudan by exchanging technical ideas and information between different companies. It is now a non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating communication between interested members from the Internet community in the region – with a focus on Sudan – and exchanging expertise in all areas related to Internet and networking. This is done through an open forum where discussions are held via mailing lists and annual meetings.

SdNOG is managed by hard-working volunteers who believe that they can make a difference in their community. It trains up to 90 students during three-day training sessions before each annual plenary, and the conferences have included more than 200 attendees. SdNOG also gives regular workshops and forums throughout the year that cover topics such as UNIX boot camp, network fundamentals, and network management, where approximately 20-25 students are trained. 

The Sudan NOG’s main challenges are a lack of financial and local human resources. SdNOG depends on sponsorship it receives from different organizations such as the Internet Society. According Sara Alamin, coordinator for SdNOG activities, the Internet Society provided financial support for the annual plenary meetings (2014-2016),and a grant for meeting hardware in 2015 (for SdNOG2). 

The Rwanda Network Operators Group (RwandaNOG)

RwandaNOG was formed in 2009. The primary purpose of the NOG was to grow the Rwanda Internet community and to bridge the technical skills gap with trainings that impart best practices.

RwandaNOG has made successful achievements over the years. “RwandaNOG 2015 was lead  by six NSRC trainers and assisted by four Rwandan trainers. During RwandaNOG 2016 the routing track was run by only by Rwandans. We have had 101 trained IT professionals and students the last two RwandaNOG trainings – and RwandaNOG 2016 sponsored 10 Girls with funds from NSRC,” said Sugira Claudine, Operations, Marketing and Public Relations Manager.

RwandaNOG sustains itself via a small participant fee and by soliciting funding from national and regional organizations. But there are challenges here as well. At the end of each training session, RwandaNOG gives certificates to the participants. However, the professional market in Rwanda tends to prefer other certified certificates such as CCNA or CCNP. 

RwandaNOG has a number of long-term plans, which include organizing training sessions that are tailored to the needs of the community while engaging more with schools, IT professionals working in telecom companies, government organizations, and web developers. 

RwandaNOG recognizes the financial support it receives from the Internet Society. In addition, according to Claudine, the NOG has used online UNIX and DNS courses for participants as a base training for participants attending the NOG workshops.

Angola NOG

Angola NOG was formed on the 24th of October 2016 by the Angolan Association of Internet Service Providers (AAPSI). Its goal was to bring together Internet service providers (ISPs), regulators, network operators and administrators, students, and all those involved in the ICT industry in Angola to encourage the sharing of knowledge, learning, and cooperation.

Angola NOG held its first event in 2016. It is planning to host more training sessions, workshops, tutorials, and a one-day conference in 2017 with the goal of raising awareness within the Internet community of the need to share knowledge and best practices. 

Finding local and international speakers and trainers on specific topics is one of the challenges faced by Angola NOG. It is the group’s hope that the Internet Society, which financially supported the first event, will continue to extend its support in providing technical expertise for the workshops.

Somalia NOG

The Somalia NOG was formed on 8 November 2015 with the primary goal of providing a platform for developing technical capacities related to networking and Internet services. It was inspired by the work of other NOGs in the region, primarily AfNOG. Somalia NOG has been an ideal platform for sharing experiences and promoting Internet development in the country.

Although the NOG’s activities are covered by small contributions from the participants and mainly by local sponsors from the Internet and networking industry, each year, the group organizes ToT training sessions, Pre-NOG workshops and a main NOG event. For 2017, three parallel workshops are scheduled to focus on network infrastructure, services, and management.

They face challenges such as access to experienced facilitators and training equipment as well as difficulty selecting the right audience. However, Somalia NOG looks forward to conducting more ToT workshops to build a significant mass of trainers, expanding the NOG membership and activities, promoting the establishment of IXPs in the country, and partnering with the Internet Society and NSRC in the launch of eLearning platform with content in the local language (Somali).


Become a local hero: explore the Internet Society’s work to encourage smart development and see how you can take part.

Image credit: TzNOG

Categories
Development Human Rights

Internet Shutdowns Are Not a Solution to Africa’s Challenges

Africa has made considerable gains with regards to the Internet in the last decades. It’s Internet penetration grew by more than 400%; its international bandwidth has been multiplied by 20 just in just 5 years between 2009 and 2014; during the same period Africa’s terrestrial backbone has doubled (Internet Society, Internet Development and Internet Governance in Africa, 2015). This achievement required considerable private and public investment and brought hope for Africans, particularly its youth.

Africa and the developing world are already collecting the dividends of its investment. For example, Kenya’s Internet economy is representing 3.6% of its GDP. More interestingly, a staggering 1.3% of the GDP growth in developing countries comes from the Internet economy (World Bank 2016 Digital Dividends, page 55). At the Regional Internet Development Dialogue held in Kigali on May 8 and 9, 2017, representatives of development organizations such as UNESCO, UNECA, and Smart Africa expressed their great hope that the Internet will contribute to help meet all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

However, all these hopes might be dashed by the increasing number of Internet shutdowns in Africa and the developing world in general. Just in 2016, there were at least 56 shutdowns of the Internet around the world, most of them in developing countries. These shutdowns affect individuals and organizations that depend on the Internet for their daily lives. At the “Keep it on” workshop in Nairobi at the African Internet Summit, around 30 young participants listed the reasonswhy no one should shut down the Internet and there were many.

Credit: Mwendwa Kivuva‏ on Twitter

The issue of Internet shutdown dominated this year’s African Internet Summit. In particular, one proposal submitted by three members of the AFRINIC community raised considerable discussions. The proposal recommended taking away IP numbers from governments that shutdown the Internet in their countries. For those who are not familiar with AFRINIC’s process, I would like to note that any individual member of AFRINIC can submit a policy proposal. I would also like to note that even if most members of the community are against Internet shutdowns, the proposal has not been supported by the community and in fact there were an unprecedented number of people who raised their voice against it, during the public discussions. And, I am confident that this proposal will never be adopted as an AFRINIC proposal.

In order to dissipate any confusion, at the closing of the African Internet Summit, the African Internet Technical organizations often referred as Af* (AFRINIC, AFTLD, AFNOG, AFREN, Africa CERT, and ISOC Africa) issued a statement distancing themselves from the proposal and in fact expressing their concern that such a proposal will be counterproductive.

So why did the Internet community refute such a proposal that is supposed to fight shutdowns?

  • such a proposal would be difficult to implement even if adopted
  • this proposal might antagonize governments at a time when we should work more with them
  • the proposal might also impact citizens’ ability to access the Internet

The Internet Society believes that the Internet community should work with governments to help them solve some of their legitimate concerns such as the use of the Internet for terrorism, exam cheating, and violence without the need to shut down the Internet. The Internet is the hope of many Africans, and more particularly its youth, and we should all work so that it is available for them all the time to create a better future for them and for Africa.


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Image credit: Marcin Wichary on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Categories
Building Trust Improving Technical Security Technology

Internet Society and African Union Commission Launch Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines for Africa

The first ever Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines for Africa (“the Guidelines”) was launched at the African Internet Summit (AIS2017) in Nairobi, Kenya on 30 May 2017. The Guidelines are developed by the Internet Society jointly with the African Union Commission (AUC) and advances four essential principles of Internet infrastructure security — Awareness, Responsibility, Cooperation, and adherence to Fundamental Rights and Internet Properties. It aims to help African Union States in approaching their cyber security preparedness and is a significant first step in producing a visible and positive change in the African Internet infrastructure security landscape.

Africa has achieved major strides in developing its Internet Infrastructure in the past decade. However, the Internet can’t improve Africans’ lives unless they can trust it. Unfortunately, Africa is not immune from cyber-attacks and other security threats and an increasing number of Africans are becoming fearful of the Internet. The Guidelines will help African countries implement the necessary measures to increase the security of their Internet infrastructure and can play a key role in helping Africa prepare for and respond to the kind of Internet attacks that have recently paralyzed critical public and government services such as hospitals and financial services.

The Guidelines recommend critical actions for stakeholders, which are tailored to the African environment’s unique features: a shortage of skilled human resources; limited resources (including financial) for governments and organizations to allocate for cyber security; limited levels of awareness of cyber security issues among stakeholders; and a general lack of awareness of the risks involved in the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). They were created with contributions from regional and global Internet infrastructure security experts, government and CERT representatives, and network and ccTLD DNS operators, and in that spirit emphasize the importance of a collaborative security approach as well as the multistakeholder model at the regional, national, ISP/operator, and organizational level to respond to Internet attacks in protecting Internet infrastructure.

These recommendations can play a key role in helping Africa mitigate the increasing cyber security risks. In particular, it advises the first steps that all stakeholders can take to make the Internet more secure; we therefore encourage regional and sub-regional organisations, governments, network operators, universities and private and public organizations across Africa to take action to implement the Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines.

Read the Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines for Africa here.

Categories
Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

African Regional Internet Development Dialogue (RIDD) Explores Opportunities for Improving the Internet Economy in Africa

Following a successful first day discussing education at the first ever African Regional Internet Development Dialogue (RIDD) in Kigali, Rwanda, day two focused on the broader question on developing the Internet economy in Africa. In a mix of presentations and roundtables, delegates looked at the different challenges and opportunities for expanding the digital economy.

The Internet’s role in supporting economic growth has been recognized by many as a key factor in promoting a sustainable development and fulfilling the global commitments of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for a Sustainable Development. The topic is closely linked to the role of skills and knowledge, creating a natural connection between the discussions on education and the growth of the Internet economy. We see this in regards to innovation, but also in transforming traditional industries to take advantage of the Internet.

One of the key questions is how to not only get individuals online, but also businesses. The positive synergies in terms of increasing the availability of local content and demand for access, while also improving the efficiency of business operations, is a key aspect of this, giving the topic a broader focus than just innovation.

As pointed out in a report by the World Bank the Internet makes up 1.3% of GDP growth in developing regions (World Bank 2016 Digital Dividends, p.55). Of particular importance is to note that 75% of the impact of the Internet on growth is in traditional industries, showing the benefits of the Internet for the entire economy (World Bank 2016 Digital Dividends, p.63). Keeping this in mind, it is important to look at the broader set of policies, ranging from infrastructure investment to e-government services that can facilitate and incentivize businesses to go online.

And as we have seen this week, such efforts benefit immensely from a supportive governance where all of the stakeholders involved can share their concerns and visions. It is the critical third leg of a successful enabling environment for the Internet to grow.

But Africa is also a leader and an inspiration. The innovative startups, and the new businesses that flourish in its path, are all unique and like most innovations, they emerge from a local context to address specific needs. From new solutions to connecting rural areas and providing e-government services in Rwanda to transformative financial services in Kenya (M-PESA). Governments were urged to innovate policies and entrepreneurial visions to keep the ecosystem functional and growing. Africa is already taking leadership that should inspire the rest of the world.

Growing the African Internet economy would require commitments of multiple stakeholders, a clear vision and deliberate policies from Governments to leverage ICTs across all sectors. Institutions of learning especially higher education were identified as catalysts in steering innovation and entrepreneurship growth and that re-thinking education and future of work is critical in growing African economies.

In wrapping up this final day of the first African RIDD we would like to extend our thanks to all the speakers and participants, the Rwandan Government, our partners not least the many participants and presenters that joined us online! who made this event a success. As Africa’s infrastructure and user base grows, the need to coordinate and manage Internet growth and development becomes increasingly important.

View all of the presentations from the African Regional Internet Development Dialogue (RIDD).


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Categories
Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

African Regional Internet & Development Dialogue Tackles the World of Education

Dates 8-9 May, Kigali, Rwanda

The first ever African Regional Internet Development Dialogue (RIDD) was launched in Rwanda, Kigali on the 8 of May 2017, placing SDG 4 on Education at the center of the conversation of the first day of the meeting. Delegates had an opportunity to explore how the Internet can provide quick wins for education, but most importantly come up with real solutions that can be implemented immediately.

For Africa a skilled workforce that utilizes ICTs effectively is a key factor in determining its competitiveness in the global digital economy and fully exploiting its potential for sustainable growth. It is the basis for social and economic development, and the foundation of an Internet for everyone.

But Sub Saharan Africa faces considerable challenges in education, ranging from the absence of quality teachers, outdated or unavailable learning and teaching materials, to inadequate physical space (school infrastructure) for fast-growing learners.

Over 110 million school children between 6-18 years of age are out of school in Africa. Thirty-seven million young people require technical and vocational training and/or other forms of education that facilitate paths to their employment. Only about 6 percent of secondary school graduates find places in higher education in sub-Saharan Africa

The African RIDD is a collaborative initiative of the Internet Society, UNESCO and the Rwandan Government. The dialogue is meant to create a space for multiple stakeholders from across Africa to discuss various opportunities and requirements for entrepreneurship and innovation on the Internet for the socio-economic development of the continent. This high-level meeting is a gathering of technologists, policy makers, Internet players, and Internet Society chapters fellows from all regions of Africa, gathered to discuss actionable recommendations of how Africa can leverage Internet in addressing education and the Internet economy.

The Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG4) commits countries to addressing challenges and attaining universal pre-primary, primary, and secondary education and gender equity, and promoting youth learning for employability. Such commitments require innovative approaches that go beyond simply building more educational institutions. It involves using educational technology in various ways. As emphasized by Dr. Indrajit Banerjee Director, Knowledge Societies Division, UNESCO ”without the Internet, the traditional way will take a century”.

But the challenge is multifaceted and will require collective effort from multiple stakeholders each bringing their competences. Hon Jean Philbert Nsengimana the Rwandan Minister of Youth and ICT emphasized the need for collective effort and committed government.

The day concluded with key recommendations from participants ranging from improving infrastructure to incorporation of ICT into education policy. Importance was placed on the need to have a regional common vision and strategy in the addressing challenges in the education sector. More on the African Internet economy shall be discussed in day two.

Follow the event remotely.


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Categories
Growing the Internet Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

ARDA 1.0: A pulse meter for Africa’s peering and interconnection landscape

Do you want to understand more about how the Internet is connected in Africa?  Today we are pleased to announce the African Route-collectors Data Analyzer (ARDA) system. This new systems aims to present data collected at African IXPs in ways that can be easily extrapolated into practical business, policy, developmental, technical, or research opportunities for everyone involved in the peering and interconnection ecosystem.

Background

The African peering and interconnection scene can be traced back to 1996 when the first Internet Exchange Point (IXP) was established in Johannesburg, South Africa. Today, there are 37 IXPs located in 28 African countries. The majority (21) of these IXPs are relatively new, having been established within the past 8 years. This is largely due to a deliberate, concerted, and consistent effort by organizations and individuals from the Internet technical community on extolling the benefits of peering and interconnection, that starts with the establishment of a domestic IXP.

For those involved, it is not a race to boil the ocean, but a journey and an exercise in developing social engineering skills in diplomacy and patience, one country at a time. Along the way, there have been heartwarming success and notable failures. Mistakes have been made and in equal measure, lessons learnt. In all, the journey and efforts continue, with the hope to realizing IXPs and interconnections between the majority of countries in Africa.

However, twenty-one (21) years since the first IXP was established in Africa, the ability to track peering and interconnection growth and evolution has remained relatively challenging or simply not possible in some cases. For stakeholders who play a vital role in Internet development, it is an ongoing struggle to justify commitments, especially when information is based on limited data and intuitions.

What is ARDA?

ARDA was inspired by the lack of progressive, visual, and near real-time data on the status of networks in Africa, from an African internal vantage point. In addition, having easily accessible information that could progressively pinpoint challenges and opportunities, over time, was necessary to monitor progress and gaps. As a colleague once eloquently put it, we need additional information to know how to re-engineer a plane in mid flight.

For instance, knowing that an IXP is exchanging an aggregate of 2 Gigabits per second is useful, but limited in detail. ARDA examines, using publicly available data, which networks are directly connected to that IXP, which networks are indirectly connected through that IXP and how far these (both direct and indirectly) connected networks span in terms of country of origin. ARDA is also able to analyze the percentage of the known networks in Africa, that are actively interconnecting and to identify at which points they are doing so, locally and across the entire region. Simply put, ARDA can present progressive data on the status of interconnection from the view of the IXP in that country. All this information is presented on a freely accessible website, eliminating the need to invest in resources to process huge repositories of raw data to obtain the same information.

ARDA’s analyzed data is collected from two existing Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) route collector projects: The University of Oregon’s Route-views Project and Packet Clearing House’s (PCH) Route Collectors. ARDA collects data from 39 existing route collectors (1 from Route-Views and 38 from PCH) deployed at 23 operational IXPs in Africa. However, not all IXP participants peer with these route-collectors. As a result, ARDA shows lower values of Africa’s peering and interconnection landscape. The computed and displayed statistics are classified into 3 matrix views:

i. The IXP View where we provide several statistics per IXP,
ii. The National View where we display statistics per set of IXPs in the same country, and
iii. The Regional View where we plot statistics computed based on the data from all IXPs in the region

To demonstrate a practical business and development opportunity, we select a matrix view “Number/Percentage of ASNs by Country Assignment” under the IXP View tab for the TIX in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Fig. 1). The analysis of the number of Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) visible at the TIX shows that, at least 66% of the local networks are visible at the local IXP. In addition, the analysis shows that there are a considerable number of African networks (84 ASNs) visible at the TIX. A map visible on the same page (see from website) shows the extent where some of the networks are originating.

This view could be of strategic importance, when helping to understand the reach of networks connected to the TIX, especially when evaluating the TIX as a potential interconnection point. It also promotes TIX as a progressive IXP with both local and regional interconnection, while highlighting 20 ASNs that are not visible – perhaps potential new local peers in Tanzania. At the same time, the information on this view may be of particular interest to progressive out of region networks looking to expand into the East African region.   Admittedly there are other factors to consider before making a peering decision, however, it is our belief that the information from ARDA will complement or support other data sources and intuitions.

Fig. 1: Number/Percentage of ASNs by country assignment at TIX

The Regional View takes a closer look into all the ASNs assigned by AfriNIC to networks in Africa. In one matrix view, the analysis shows that, almost 58% of all the networks in Africa are seen at an IXP in Africa (Fig. 2).  This is quite an interesting observation considering that ARDA, is only analyzing data collected from 23 IXPs located in 18 countries. It also goes to show that there is good progress in cross-border interconnection, but still much to do considering that only 17% of local ASNs are found to be directly peering at one of the studied IXPs.

Fig. 2: Percentage of ASNs assigned to the region visible at all IXPs in Africa

Appreciation

We would like to recognize the contributions and support of IMDEA Networks Institute, UC3M, PCH, Af-IX, AfriNIC, TIX, UIXP, and INX-ZA for their invaluable assistance in the development of this tool. We also want to specifically recognize Rodérick Fanou (IMDEA Networks Institute and UC3M) and Victor Sánchez-Agüero (IMDEA Networks Institute and UC3M) who were the lead developers of ARDA under the supervision of Francisco Valera(UC3M). There are many others who have made significant contributions to the project. Lastly, we thank the Internet Society and their staff for their support and contribution.

Conclusion and Invitation!

It is our hope that ARDA will not only validate our intuitions, but also expose hidden opportunities across the entire continent.

We hereby invite you to review the ARDA 1.0 tool and provide us with any feedback that you may have. As this represents the initial release of the system, any suggestions to improve, fix, or resolve any inconsistent data would be appreciated.

We are also looking for suggestions on other matrixes that could be derived from the data for your benefit.

Lastly, networks participating at IXPs in Africa are encouraged to peer with the existing route-collectors at their local IXP in order to improve ARDA’s accuracy. ARDA is designed to easily add in and automatically process data from new route-collectors.

Please email any views, suggestions, or bugs to us at arda@inv.it.uc3m.es

VISIT ARDA WEBSITE

Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects Growing the Internet

Zenzeleni – Do it Yourself! – How a rural community in South Africa became a telecommunication operator.

Mankosi, in the Eastern Cape Province, is one of South Africa’s most economically disadvantaged communities. Most of the 3,500 residents live on less than $2 per day. In spite of this, residents spend an average of 22 percent of their income on the ability to connect and communicate. Unfortunately, less than a quarter of residents are online in any given month. Mankosi needed an alternative to expensive, spotty service. Zenzeleni Network was set up in 2012 to provide voice service to the community, using analog phones connected to WiFi routers and Voice over IP (VoIP) technology.

Now, the Internet Society’s South Africa Gauteng Chapter and the University of Western Cape, supported by ISOC’s Beyond the Net Funding Programme, are assisting Zenzeleni Networks to upgrade the system in order to create a powerful and stable network, helping to get more people online. The programme also will provide computer labs in Mankosi’s primary and secondary schools and computer literacy training for teachers. The goal is to get people online for a fraction of what it currently costs to connect, and turn Zenzeleni into a model for community-owned telecommunications companies. On March 2017, Zenzeleni Networks was selected as a semifinalist of the Mozilla’s Equal Rating competition, recognizing the potential of  this amazing “community network” as a viable alternate way to communicate.

Carlos Rey-Moreno, senior researcher at the University of the Western Cape and project manager, talks about his experience in this fascinating project:

“If I had to explain what I do, I would say that I’m a telecommunications activist. I try to bring forward the voice of those that are underserved by communications operators and communications ecosystems. I came to rural areas of South Africa about five years ago, and I tried to understand the way people here communicate and how they communicate. When I first got here, I did quite a lot research on how much money people spend on communications, and how they communicate. One of the things I found was that people here still spend a lot of money on telephone calls. In rural South Africa, families are very disrupted because people have to migrate, particularly the men in the family. They go off to work in the mines and the large farms near Cape Town, and their families want to be in touch. As a result, households are spending, on average, 22 percent of their disposable income on communications. Community networks like Zenzeleni are crucial to cut these costs.

Zenzeleni is a partnership between the University of the Western Cape, where I’m a post-doctoral fellow, and Mankosi, the community I work in. Everything we do is based on what the people in Mankosi want to do. We have a cooperative board that sets the agenda.

Initially, we were focused on VoIP calling. That seemed to be the most logical way to help bring down people’s communication costs. It didn’t require a lot of bandwidth, and it fit under the existing regulatory framework. So, we set up a MESH potato network (Steve Song is the creator of MESH potato and you can find a link here to Steve and MESH potato), that allowed analog phones to work via a VoIP network. We had the tribal local authorities select some people to be in charge of the phones. They had to select 10 houses that “see” at least three other houses, and that have people who were at home to help for security reasons.

That VoIP project got a little bit of momentum behind it, but it didn’t catch on like we’d hoped. The people in those houses used the phones and some neighbors used the phones, but mostly people kept using their mobile devices. Changing the consumer dynamics of people in rural areas is very difficult. Change takes time. They like to stick to what they know works.

What did catch people’s attention, though, was the fact that the MESH potatoes were solar powered, and that those solar panels were producing excess electricity. So, people asked if we could use that power for a mobile charging station, so it suddenly cost half as much money for people to charge their phones. This changed the way people used their phones, and how much money people had left over.

Now, we’re also looking at setting up our own local mobile network using unlicensed GSM spectrum, similar to what Rhizomatica has done in Mexico. The next project for Zenzeleni is setting up backhaul to a fibre network in the nearest city. We’re making that happen with a series of wireless relay towers. The elders and leadership here in Mankosi are really eager to get a proper, reliable, affordable Internet connection. The plan is to set up computer labs in the primary and secondary schools, to have a community WiFi network that people who have WiFi enabled phones can use for free, and we’re getting some old personal computers (PCs) donated to set up access points for people who don’t have smart phones. The people that are running the cooperative are very much interested in the education of the youngsters. They are doing this to open up opportunities for the next generation.

Zenzeleni is really a community network in the truest sense of the word. Our cooperative board set the priorities, they set the rates for things like mobile charging. We just try to help them make it happen. We’ve already done some cool things here, but once we get this fibre backhaul, I think there are amazing things that are going to happen. It’s all about giving opportunities. When you give people opportunities to explore, with a little bit of money, or a little bit of bandwidth, or a little bit of spare electric energy generated by the solar systems, people do amazing stuff.”

We wondered how the Zenzeleni project would benefit ISOC’s Gauteng Chapter. This is the truly comprehensive answer of the former President, Gabriel Ramokotjo.

“The success of the project will contribute immensely to the development of the Chapter. The Chapter will grow its membership beyond the province of Gauteng in South Africa, and also will attract the interest of the Youth in the rural areas. The first phase of the project has already received positive coverage from the Media, which has led to partnerships with the University of the Western Cape and the Right 2 Know Campaign. There’s no doubt of the benefits that the Chapter will derive from the project, such as forging and strengthening collaborative partnerships with academic, civil societies, and the private sector. Even more important, the project is aligned with the goal of our Government National Development Plan: to have all South Africans connected and using the Internet by the year 2020. With the support of the Internet Society, it’s a new opportunity also to create closer collaboration with our Government on policy and technical issues affecting the Internet in our country.”

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter.

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We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

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Categories
Community Networks Growing the Internet

Using TV Whitespace To Connect Communities in Malawi

About twenty years ago, people here at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy started thinking about what happens to the people who come here after they go home. Specifically, what happens to the academics and researchers from the developing world who come to work with us. 

At the time, they’d come, work with us, do some amazing things, and then go back to places where they didn’t have the Internet. With no Internet, it was very hard for them to do research. They cannot download papers, they cannot contact colleagues. So, we started teaching people about internet technologies, and, at that time, we already had the vision that wireless is much cheaper and much quicker to deploy than fibre, or copper or anything else. We started teaching people about wireless and WiFi when it wasn’t even called WiFi.

We did the first link in Nigeria, at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife-Ife. That was one of the first WiFi links, or proto-WiFi links, on the whole continent. From there, more and more people got in touch with us and started asking for training.

An interesting thing happens when you create a long-distance wireless Internet connection to somewhere, which is that you also make it possible to bring the Internet to other, nearby places, as well.  A few years ago, we worked on connecting hospitals in Malawi. At one of the hospitals, there was a girls’ school nearby, and they said ‘Oh, we’d love to be on the Internet, why don’t you connect us?’ Then there was a boys’ school further up the road that said ‘Oh, we want to get the Internet as well.’ And then once the Internet is in the schools, you can do some clever stuff like giving communities access to the bandwidth at night. There is no one in the school at night, so that bandwidth is going to be wasted.  Why can’t we give that to communities or public parks, or you know, telecentres or whatever, in the evening? 

One of the things we’re working with a lot right now is TV white space. In most of the world, they only have two or three TV channels, so all the rest of that broadcast spectrum is going unused. So, in Malawi, we started measuring TV white space, producing maps, and the local university went to the regulator with the maps that we produced together, and they said ‘Look, we’re only using two channels out of a hundred, can we please use some of that spectrum to connect schools and hospitals?’  So, the government of course could only say yes. We had one pilot project, then another other pilot project, and that’s the story of how the TV white space started.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using TV white space for the Internet. The disadvantages are that the equipment is much more expensive, because it is not a standard yet, antennas are really, really huge — they’re basically TV antennas — and the throughput is lower, so it’s not as fast. The huge advantage for us, though, is that the penetration is much better. It can go through walls much more easily. It can go through vegetation.  In many of these countries, when it rains, you don’t get WiFi on the university campuses, because trees are wet, and the signal doesn’t pass through wet leaves. It can also cover huge distances, and by using high-powered radios, we could limit the number of access points. 

Malawi gave our local partners a license to use TV white space for one year, and then that worked, so now they extended it for a second year. Now, Malawi is going to become the first country in Africa to regulate TV white space. If an ISP wants to use TV white space to provide internet to their customers, they can do it. Now, that’s having a snowball effect, so we helped launch a similar project in Mozambique last year, near Maputo. This year we’re going to go into three other places to connect about 10 schools.  What we’re trying to do there is to kind of extend the network, not only to TV white space sites, but then to have some MESH networks to connect communities.  

The ICTP is a bit different from some organizations, because if you ask us what difference our work makes on the ground, we don’t always know. We partner with local Universities and train people here, and then they go home and create networks. They see the changes, and they evolve their projects as they see fit. And that’s a great thing, they already know what they need. 

Note about the Internet Society and its support for Community Networks
The Internet Society is dedicated to helping the unconnected connect. We do this through funds provided by our Global Engagement team and through our grants programme called Beyond the Net. We are keen supporter of ICTP’s. Their team will be working with us to help train more community networks in Africa on radio frequency and spectrum basics. 

This article is part of a series on Community Networks.

Categories
IETF Open Internet Standards

Save the Date- Africans @ IETF 98- 28 March, 8-9 am (US CDT)

Africans at the IETF Meeting

 
Venue: Swissotel Chicago, Montreux 2 room
Date: Tuesday 28 March 2017 
Time: 8 to 9 am (US Central Time)

Background

There will be a session for the Africans who will be in attendance in Chicago for the upcoming IETF 98. The session will cover the IETF Africa initiative which aims to raise awareness of IETF standards in Africa and encourage more developers and network engineers from Africa to participate in the work being done at the IETF. 

Agenda

Starts at 8 (US Central Time)

·      Introductions and Welcome – 5 mins

·      IETF Africa initiative – where we are – 10mins

·      Planning for 2017 activities (ideas & discussions) – 20 mins

o   Event at AIS 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya

o   Hackathons in 2017 – the plan

o   Webinar topics for 2017

·      Discussion on involving others – 20 mins

·      Wrap up

 

Attendance

Anyone from Africa who will be at the IETF 98 in Chicago is encouraged to attend. The meeting is also open to anyone wanting to hear more about the IETF Africa Initiative and contribute ideas.

 

If you would like to attend, kindly RSVP to Marsema Tariku –  Tariku@isoc.org