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AfriNIC embraces Internet challenges in Africa

o Rebecca Wanjiku
05.02.2010 kl 18:26 |

For the past five years, Africa Network Information Center resisted taking on assignments outside its scope. As one of the few functioning Internet-related organizations on the continent, AfriNIC now realizes that nothing much is getting done and has decided to widen its scope, but still stay grounded in its original mission.


For the past five years, Africa Network Information Center resisted taking on assignments outside its scope. As one of the few functioning Internet-related organizations on the continent, AfriNIC now realizes that nothing much is getting done and has decided to widen its scope, but still stay grounded in its original mission.

AfriNIC has started working with law enforcement agencies to address their concerns and foster dialogue with the technical community, and it had a stand at the Africa Union heads of state summit. Adiel Akplogan, AfriNIC CEO, explains how the organization has evolved, why it is taking on new roles and how it will manage.

Computerworld: What are the core functions of AfriNIC as the regional Internet registry?

Akplogan: Just like other regional registries, AfriNIC manages Internet numbers, offers training on Internet-related issues such as Internet version 6, security, and provides a forum for the technical community to engage.

Computerworld: How is AfriNIC different from other RIRs such as LACNIC (Latin America) and RIPENCC (Europe)?

Akplogan: Our challenges are closer to South America because the Internet is not as developed as Western countries but is gaining momentum. Other RIRs are in places where the Internet is set up and governments have resources dedicated to critical Internet infrastructure.

After five years of consolidating and keeping our base principle, AfriNIC has the privilege to be in the midst of the Internet engineering developments and we can help shape policies and foster dialogue on what works and what doesn't.

Computerworld: Last month, AfriNIC held a closed session for law enforcement and government officials in the region. What were the major issues discussed?

Akplogan: For a long time the technical community has operated in a closed environment with their jargon and not talking the language governments understand. Developed countries already have this collaboration with different stakeholders.

We have started working with governments, to advise them on key issues which are in one way or another linked with what AfriNIC does; we have a government working group which will create an environment for governments, regulators and law enforcement agencies to understand the Internet ecosystem and raise their concerns.

The session was closed because government agencies have issues that they prefer not to raise in public. The issues are critical and AfriNIC will create collaboration with the technical community for both sides to address issues such as security, which is becoming critical as the continent becomes more connected.

Computerworld: Are governments going to start filtering what we access?

Akplogan: We are not going to see countries filtering. The question came up, where some people thought that instead of having all the issues with cybercrime, why not have a single gateway where countries can filter. We explained that filtering is adding another layer and also discussed how the Internet ecosystem works. We want them to be at ease.

We discussed how to use existing WHOIS database, AfriNIC and ICANN to investigate cybercrime and how the countries can participate in policy debates on what should be in the WHOIS database, among other global issues.

Computerworld: AfriNIC has invested in the training of techies -- how are you working with universities?

Akplogan: We are moving to another level of turning professional. We have a dedicated resource center for training; we are planning to set up an IP technical center of excellence in Mauritius, to provide training on Internet economics for ccTLDS in the region.

Most ccTLDs are not performing because they don't understand the business aspects. We would like to teach ISPs [Internet service providers] how to negotiate peering agreements -- a lot of ISPs don't negotiate well because they don't know.

Our virtual lab is accessible to universities in the region, we have bilateral partnerships with universities and we are expanding to include more. The collaboration with universities will allow them to integrate IPv6, DNSSEC, and RIR management to their university programs. That will expand the bilingual (French and English) training that we have been offering for the last five years.

Computerworld: Part of the training has been on DNS security. How has the Conficker worm affected the region?

Akplogan: It has affected the region but the problem is that some of the ccTLDs do not know. Most ccTLDs are managed informally, which opens the door for many of them to be affected by Conficker. The ccTLDs have the information on Conficker but they don't have proper processes. If the right process is not in place, even if people have been trained and know what to do, it does not help.

Computerworld: How does AfriNIC work with Africa TLD organization to address some of the issues?

Akplogan: AfriNIC hosts the AfTLD secretariat, manages their accounts and sponsors their events. This is because AfTLD has an important role to play in the region. We are going to work more with AfTLD and offer ccTLD courses on Internet economics: how to do business, promotion and marketing aspects, branding and technical stability.

For instance, you see many people in these meetings with Yahoo, Gmail e-mail addresses -- it's a pity, but when you discuss it with them, you realize they don't trust their local infrastructure. E-mail is important to them, but they don't do anything to improve Internet infrastructure; instead, they turn to Yahoo and Gmail.

Some of them are government officials; they exchange some confidential information through these addresses. But if they support their local infrastructure and use it, they will solve the trust problems.

Computerworld: AfriNIC has a project to interconnect the IXPs in the region, what is the progress?

Akplogan: The regional interconnection of IXPs has not started formally because existing national IXPs are not operational. We want to strengthen local exchanges before going to the regional; we need to move step by step.

We understand the economics of IXPs and we need to make them become strategic infrastructure for our countries, to offer more services apart of peering, have measurement tools that can drive the policies. For instance, know how the traffic is moving and increasing for a certain ISP and advise them on steps or policies to adopt; show their traffic trends at different times, show them how their business can do better.

AfriNIC and ISOC have just signed an agreement with the regulator in Senegal to help them set up an IXP and root server copy because in the whole [of] west Africa there's no root server copy.

Computerworld: Do you think all these activities are going to weigh down AfrINIC?

Akplogan: It's not going to weigh us down because we have already consolidated our activities and we have more staff.

Keywords: Government  
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