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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.


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Image credit: TechCHIX

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Building Trust Technology

THNOG and the role of a network operators group in the Thai Market

The 9th of March marked another important day in the history of the Thai Internet community with the founding of the country’s first network operators’ group, THNOG, or Thai Network Operators’ Group. Initially a group of 20 individual volunteers (network operators from private and public sector, network registry, network security group and universities), THNOG’s main goal is to promote technical excellence in the network engineering field through local capacity building. THNOG targets network operators, Internet service providers, content developer, network registry, and security professionals.

NOGs are one of the most important Internet resources and actors within the Internet ecosystem. They are informal group of individual network engineers usually affiliated with network operators, Internet exchange points, Internet registries, data centers, and regulators. To date, there are on record approximately between 40 NOGs worldwide, 15 of them in the Asia-Pacific region. We have also observed a significant resurgence of interest especially in developing countries within the APAC region to form new NOGs as well as revive dormant ones, for instance BDNOG, IDNOG and PHNOG

First and foremost, NOGs play a very critical role in ensuring the stability, operational health and robustness of the Internet infrastructure and its critical underlying assets. NOGs also address local technical capacity building needs and are considered frontline Internet champions. It is also important to note that vibrant and strong NOGs tend to be good proxies for identifing thriving Internet ecosystem in the long term. Members of NOGs openly cooperate and collaborate with one another by voluntarily sharing their experiences and knowledge. Therefore, NOGs are commonly known to provide a professional grouping for network engineers who can meet their peers in a social as well as professional context. More advanced NOGs, can sometimes influence good public policy development in the country through its role as a technical authority.

In the case of THNOG, its key objectives includes:

·      Addressing a sustainable and long term capacity building need for its community, including raising the profile of network engineers as a professional and career choice

·      Provide a common peering platform for members to collaborate in areas of common interest (research, best practices, tutorials, special initiatives, technical excellence, conferences)

·      To connect with other NOGs and leverage their experiences and best practices

In the case of THNOG, the importance of creating and ensuring an ample supply of talents in the country as well as contributing to the long term capacity building (life long learning) for the community has been highlighted as a critical mission. This is due to growing concerns among the Thai Internet community on the lack of experienced and qualified network engineers in the market, as a result of engineers moving to other industries offering a more lucrative remuneration and a less stressful work environment, such as banking and finance. In addition, a declining trend of new graduates in the field who choose to work in other fields not related to their discipline has also raised further concerns for the industry.

In conclusion, the growing interest in NOGs in the APAC region is a positive signal of the growing understanding of the critical role local NOGs can play in strategically spearheading the development of the Internet in their countries, as well as in strengthening the immediate community it serves and the broader group of stakeholders it potential can engage with.