(Published by Daily Nation on Tuesday December 29, 2015  http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/smartcompany/Why-uptake-of-Internet-remains-lowest-in-Africa/-/1226/3012662/-/hv2mkk/-/index.html)

In the first week of December, an important meeting, the AFRINIC 23 took place in Pointe Noire, Congo-Brazzaville, to discuss Internet Number resources policies in Africa. AFRINIC, short for Africa Network Information Center is the Regional Internet Registry responsible for issuing unique identifies called Internet Protocol (IP) Addresses to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other enterprises across Africa. AFRINIC has among its members’ banks, academic institutions, governments, ISPs, and other business enterprises. The ISPs consequently assign the IP blocks to their customers. IP addresses are the numbers used by computers to communicate with each other on the Internet. An easier analogy for an IP address is the unique phone numbers we use to communicate with others.

At the AFRINIC meeting on Pointe Noire, one thing struck me. Congo is an Oil producing country, but for the whole week, the city was in lockdown. There was no fuel in petrol stations. Apparently two oil refineries had closed down for maintenance at the same time. The impact on the local businesses was obvious. There was little to no movement of goods and people; hotels were empty and streets were empty too. The economy was at a total standstill. I could see how lack of a commodity cans stifle an economy.

Parallel that on what happens when a large part of our population has no access to the Internet. They cannot communicate with the rest of the world, buy and sell goods and services to larger global markets, and get information when they need it.

AFRINIC is a member based organization, with a total of 1291 members. Of that, South Africa leads the pack with 309 (24%), Nigeria with 148 (11%) and Kenya 84 (7%), with Egypt, Ghana, Tanzania, and Angola following the leaders. The others 47 countries take up the remaining 41%. It is easy to postulate that there is a co-relation between AFRINIC membership, Internet penetration, and economic prosperity. Kenya has done really well compared to other countries, but there is room for improvement in growing AFRINIC membership. We cannot afford to sit down pretty while a country like South Africa has 4 times more members. We must consolidate our position as leaders of ICT uptake in Africa.

Why would anybody want to be an AFRINIC member? Membership translates to allocation of Internet number resources (IPs). Assuming that issued resources translate to more devices connected to the Internet, more Internet related businesses will be built and therefore we will have more people have access to the internet. Time and time again, research has shown that internet penetration is tied to economic development. One such study by Deloitte found that when developing countries expand Internet access to the level of developed countries, it would cut extreme poverty by 28%, reduce infant mortality, increase literacy rates, and create millions of jobs.

Over the years, there have been complains from end users on allocation of IP addresses by ISPs. You could request a block of IP addresses for use in your business operations but the ISPs would probably give you an allocation that is not enough to run your operations, or they would charge an arm and a leg. Most organizations remained with a stifled ICT infrastructure.  Some businesses got the hint and became members of AFRINIC where they get as much resources as they need, and by only paying a membership fee of as little as $200 per year and a onetime resource allocation fee. The ignorance by the masses has had profound mark on our society, very few Internet footprints in Africa, and non-depleted IPv4 in the African continent, while a continent like North America has eclipsed us by usage of these resources a hundred times over.

AFRINIC now has more than 50million IPv4 addresses and virtually unlimited IPv6 addresses for our use. IPv4, the most used version of IP has depleted in all regions of the world apart from Africa. Although this is a story for another day, I would urge our businesses to apply to get the resources before the west raid our unallocated surplus addresses for legacy deployments.

If you are an organization with huge public address needs, and your ISP is a roadblock to achieving your ICT strategy, it is highly recommended you get your IP block directly from source by visiting the website afrinic.net. If you don’t have the time or human resources, you can get an IP strategy consultant to manage your resource allocation and mapping.

twitter: @lordmwesh

 


Net Neutrality and Zero Rating was the trending topic in this year’s 2015 IGF in Brazil. People took sides depending on their interests. For example, a research in Asia revealed that zero rated services were an entry point for people who had no access to Internet, and those who used zero rated services went on and converted to paid users after seeing the benefits of the Internet. Another research shows that people don’t use the Internet not because of the cost, but because they don’t need it. Weird conclusion I can say. And some interesting facts is, in communities where zero rated services were the norm, the users did not know the difference between the Internet and Facebook. That is a major problem if you ask me. Another research that Mozilla Foundation was involved in found that when users are given Internet bundles, they accessed diverse types of websites, not just FB and Wikipedia. But the big question was, who funded these types of research? An interested party would of course ensure research results are tilted to their interests.

All that not withstanding, we should pay keen interests to the following points,
1. Zero rating is illegal in most of Europe,  And USA. Even in Brazil, zero rating is not acceptable. Ask yourself why.
2. Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is a regulator and not a policy maker. Without policy on Net Neutrality, they have nothing to enforce thus leaving market players to their own devices, including abuse. Us the community, in an all inclusive manner should develop a Net Neutrality policy that can be adopted.
3. CA are usually given targets to ensure universal coverage of communication services. I am sure they are very happy to maintain the status quo since they will report zero rated services as a metric of increased access. This will be a big lie because they will have denied the rural folks access to the Internet. We all know one website is not the Internet. The best practice is to have the regulator pressure telcos increase rollout in under-served regions as part of their Universal Service obligations.
4. Zero rating infringes on fundamental human rights by denying users access to the Internet. It may be a conspiracy to keep developing countries in the darkness of the information age. Refer to point 1 above.
5. Let us advocate for universal coverage, better utilisation of USF, telecommunication infrastructure sharing, increased road coverage, accessible wayleaves and cable ducts,  and affordable energy. All these will ensure the COST of internet comes down to a level where every citizen can afford.
6. Countries with no proper access to the Internet will find it difficult to participate in the Internet Economy. And isn’t the entire world now an Internet economy?

There is more, but these points are what comes to mind.


In May 2015, ICANN President and CEO Fadi  Chehadé announced his intention to resign from his position before end of his tenure. Although this shocked the ICANN community, it should be viewed as a good thing to have a new CEO post IANA functions transition.
Over the few years, ICANN has put concerted effort to internationalize itself, appear to be a legitimate global organisation. This has led to ICANN setting up engagement offices and  hubs across Europe, Asia, North and South America, which is commendable.
For ICANN to appear serious with the Internationalization attempts, and for the U.S Government to demonstrate commitment that it is transitioning IANA functions to the International Multistakeholder community outside U.S control, it would be important for the board to show committed to appointing a CEO outside US while still maintaining the quality and traits needed.

 


What is Net Neutrality? A popular defination is “Net Nutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.

Net neutrality is a new and fuzzy area for most developing countries. There is no policy on Net Neutrality in most of them. Leaving such critical policies to self-regulation is a recipe for chaos where one day citizens will be taken hostage by ISPs. The ISPs can change their business model and lease data super highways to the highest bidders. This is not something new, it has happened elsewhere. The US on demand video streaming company Netflix, and Comcast, one of the leading ISPs had an unholy union where they signed an agreement for Comcast to offer preferential treatment to Netflix data, thus offering Netflix customers’ faster speeds. This in essence would stifle the completion.

Another popular case of Net Neutrality was when Google started paying Orange for using Orange’s infrastructure to reach the Africa Market.  The argument by Orange was, they have made substantial investment in infrastructure in Africa while Google have the majority of users consuming the resource through different services (Youtube, Gmail, google.com, Android store).  Orange took this advantage because there is virtually no Net Neutrality laws in Africa.

Simply put, without Net Neutrality, the carrier sets toll stations for the data providers to pay before passing through. Since Orange and Google has setup the precedence, how can we be sure others will not follow suite?


I was privileged to be  a speaker in the 2014 IGF in Istanbul, Turkey in a panel on Policies for promoting broadband access in developing countries.

We realize that while technological solutions are advancing rapidly, policy and regulations remain a significant barrier to affordable internet especially in the developing world.

Three in five of the world’s people are not connected to the Internet. In developing countries only 31 percent of people are online; and in the world’s 49 least developed countries, less than 10% have Internet access.

Some policies for reducing cost of broadband and increasing access in Africa have been suggested over the years. I will discuss some of them

Kenya launched it’s broadband strategy in 2013. The bold document projected to roll Internet in all schools and hospitals by year 2017, and increase the speeds for broadband in urban areas by 2017 to 2GBPS and 500MBPS in rural areas. Some of the areas I identified that need more consideration in policy development are:

  1. Proper use and monitoring of Universal Service Funds (USF). We need better management of USF and community involvement in how the USF are used. The USF should not only be used to provide infrastructure investments in under-served regions, but also promote digital literacy.Digital literacy will ensure the community knows the value of the Internet and how it can improve their lives. Political goodwill. In Kenya, USF was formed under an act of parliament in 2009, but the USF management board was inaugurated in July 2014. Operators are required to pay upto 0.5 per cent of their annual turnover to the USF kitty. The snail pace in implementing USF ensures the dream for broadband access to the masses is delayed, and even deferred. Transparent and consultative processes, incorporating stakeholder inputs and priorities is a must for the success of the USF. Currently service providers are not happy they were not included in the management of the funds. Internet end user representatives like consumer federation of Kenya, and Internet Society should also be part of the team that advises on how the USF should be used.
  2. Reduced luxury tax on infrastructure equipment, end user devices, and services especially in undeserved regions. Those living below the UN poverty index of $2/day have other priorities like food, and health. Cost of broadband is as high as 90% of income on population with low per capita income. According to a report by Alliance for Affordable Internet ( A4AI), the key to affordability is the policy and regulatory environment that shapes the different actors in the market. Reforms to make markets more open, competitive and socially efficient are often the best and quickest way to drive prices down and increase broadband use.
  3. License Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) who ride on existing infrastructure from competitors. This reduces investment capital outlay by new players while increasing broadband coverage. In 2014, Kenya  licensed two MVNOs.
  4. Efficient spectrum management. Open, transparent, and fair allocation and licensing mechanism.
  5. Foster Innovation, like the use of TV white space, and other innovations. License Plain FREE community internet service in least privileged areas. An example is setting up free MESH networks and connecting the communities to local community servers with open access content like Wikipedia, open streetmaps, OwnCloud storage, news, local agricultural content, free e-books, municipal portals, chartrooms, and a directory for all these content.
  6. Sharing of resources by service providers. Masts, fiber cable, e.t.c. The end user will foot the bill if every provider has to compete laying infrastructure that has less than 10% utilization overall. Allow service providers to use infrastructure setup through taxpayers money. This is more so through the legacy government owned telecommunication  monopolies that litter the landscape across Africa. An example is the National Fiber Optic Cable (NOFBI) laid across Kenya by the government with a target of 80% reach. It is not fully utilized. Private sector can make use of these resources instead of laying parallel infrastructure. In the broadband strategy, the government has pledged to increase the coverage of NOFBI by an additional 30,000KMs
  7. Streamlined processes for infrastructure deployment. Efficient and effective access to public rights of way Coordinated with other infrastructure projects (fiber or duct laid during road works)
  8. Establish IXPs. local and/or regional internet exchange point (IXP), and have data caching. AXIS project in Africa though partnership of ISOC and AU has already setup about 4 IXPs and held training across the continent.
  9. Energy. There cannot be access without affordable sustainable electricity. Electricity is very expensive per kilowatt in developing countries. This cost is usually passed down to users. Developing countries should seriously look for permanent ways of solving their perennial energy problems. Computer laboratories can be powered through solar and wind energy.
  10. Content. Develop policies that support relevant local content that users will feel the need to consume. Most societies have solved the content problem to a greater extend.
  11. Data collection of key indicators to measure effectiveness of the strategies implemented.
  12. Move from talking to acting. Concrete policies and better regulation and monitoring. All these are possible through collaboration and improved relationships between the business, governments and local communities.

At present, the global broadband industry has entered into a high-speed development stage. The growth of bandwidth requirements and optical fiber access lead to a global fiber optic network construction wave. To provide ubiquitous broadband access for users, countries around the world makes efforts to wireless broadband seamless access through a variety of means, for example, developing the LTE mobile communications technology and market. Broadband development has also led to the emerging of mobile Internet, cloud computing, Internet of things, intelligent terminal that broadband has become an important part of the strategic emerging industries and competition cores.Broadband is helpful to promote the economic growth, and the effect is more significant for developing countries. In improving productivity, broadband will help boosting a rise of 5% in manufacturing industry, 10% increase in service industry and 20% for the information industry.

However, many developing countries still encounter lots of issues, such as weak infrastructure construction, imbalanced urban and rural development, less developed application service and original technology, pressure on saving cost. It is an urgent task to strengthen infrastructure construction and capacity building, more importantly from the design policy.

The workshop will invite multistakeholder from different angles to discuss:
(1) how developing countries carry out effective broadband network construction,
(2) what’s the roles of different stakeholders in this process,
(3) how to strengthen the capacity building,
(4) how to design better policy to promoting broadband access and service,
(5) the best practice and challenges etc.

Moderators

avatar for Xinmin GAO

Xinmin GAO

Vice President, Internet Society of China
Mr. Xinmin Gao is Vice President of the Internet Society of China, Member of the Advisory Committee for the State Informatization, P. R. China. He graduated with a Master degree from the Department of Electrical Machinery of the Polytechnic Institute of Kalinin, Leningrad in the former Soviet Union.  He has extensive working experience in research organizations in the former Ministry of Electronics Industry, and later assumed the position of Director of the State Information Center. …
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Speakers

avatar for Khaled Fourati

Khaled Fourati

Project Manager, World Wide Web Foundation
Khaled is the Web Index Project Manager at the World Wide Web Foundation. He has over ten years°Ø experience managing multi-country projects in information and communication technologies (ICTs) with a focus on Internet policies and digital networks. Before joining the Web Foundation, Khaled was with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) where he collaborated with academia, governments, the private sector and civil society organisations in Africa and Asia to leverage a…
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avatar for Jia He

Jia He

Analyst, China Academy of Telecommunication Research (CATR)
Ms. Jia He is serving as an analyst for China Academy of Telecommunication Research (CATR), a non-profit research institute. She focuses on the research of ICT policy analysis, specially Internet Governance. As a policy analysis expert, she is actively involving into the issues of ICANN globalization from the perspective of academy and actively promoting Internet development in Chinese Internet communities through problem-oriented methods. Since 2012, she participates in the conferences of…
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avatar for Mwendwa Kivuva

Mwendwa Kivuva

Mr. Mwendwa Kivuva has wide experience in internet policy development at the local and international level with a passion for the Internet governance. He is the Secretary General of Internet Society (ISOC) Kenya Chapter and secretary of ISACA Kenya communications committee. He is also the Kenyan ICANN’s At-large Structure representative to African At-large Organization (AFRALO) where individual internet users’ voice is heard within ICANN.   He has participated actively on all East…
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avatar for Ana Neves

Ana Neves

Director, Department of the Information Society, FCT, Ministry of Education and Science, Portugal
Ms. Ana Neves serves as Director of the Department of Information Society at the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P. (FCT) in Portugal since 1st of March 2012, following the merging of the “Knowledge Society Agency–UMIC”, where she served as Head of International Affairs from 1st September 2008 until 29th February 2012. The FCT is currently the public entity in Portugal with the mission of coordinating the Information Society Policy in…
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avatar for Claudia Selli

Claudia Selli

Claudia Selli is the European Affairs Director of AT&T International External & Regulatory Affairs since September 2010. Her main task is to advocate AT&T positions in Brussels towards the European institutions as well as in other European Member States and particularly in Germany.      Prior to joining AT&T, Claudia worked at the European Commission, DG Information Society where she took part in the negotiations with the European Parliament on several…
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avatar for Lingxi Wu

Lingxi Wu

Mr. Lingxi Wu is the vice Deputy Director of the product Division of the Innovative Business Department of China Telecom.   Mr. Wu was graduated from the University of Electronic Science and Technology in 1995, and he received the Master degree of mobile communications engineering from Nanjing Institute of Posts and Telecommunications in 2008.   Mr. Wu was served in China Post Xiamen branch, China Telecom Xiamen branch, and the Products Planning Office of Marketing in China Telecom…
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Remote Moderators

Tuesday September 2, 2014 11:00am – 12:30pm
Workshop Room 05 (Rumeli -1 Floor / Room 3)

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has been under threat and there is a raging debate on its sustainability. When the Indonesia government announced it would pull out as the convener of the 2013 IGF, the entire Internet community was thrown in a spin. For that reason among others, Internet Society (ISOC) has resolved to establish a legal structure with the objective of achieving stable and sustainable funding for an association in support of the global IGF and regional IGF initiatives. This is a welcomed development which will give stakeholders more resolve and confidence in participating in this important forum.

The setting up of a group composed of ISOC, IETF, IAB, Regional Internet Registries, and ICANN’s Supporting Organization and Advisory Committees to steward IANA transition is welcomed. To have an all-inclusive IANA transition acceptable by both the East and West, ICANN which has been granted the privilege to spearhead the process will have to appear to be as inclusive as possible. The script had already been read when ICANN’s Government Advisor Committee (GAC) insisted on having 5 slots in the IANA transition committee to represent the five regions of the world instead of the two positions it had been given. The outcome of the whole process has to appear to have the interest of the world Internet user. All citizens of the world need to feel part of the whole process. I would expect a transition process that does not place any stakeholder in a privileged position. In the IANA transition, I do not see the need for structural changes in relation to the development of global IP addressing policies since that function is working as expected, a position shared by the Address Supporting Organizations. The Internet community will expect a transition with minimum risks on current well established operations.

Many stakeholders have accepted ICANN to be the final manager of the IANA functions. To be more acceptable, ICANN has initiated a number of activities, among them Internationalization of ICANN to make it appear a not so much a “California (US) organization” but a global organization. The folly of this is ICANN is still a US organization no matter how many branches it opens worldwide, the world will still continue to see it as a US organization. As the IANA transition debate rages on, we will see positions change as each stakeholder tries to get an upper hand. France’s call for world Internet Governance Council to be headquartered in Switzerland to replace IGF and oversee ICANN operations is an example of the fear and marginalization other stakeholders feel within the Internet Governance landscape. My fear would only be more government control in Internet Governance matters, which would mean other traditional stakeholders would find it even harder to engage.

I believe the different stakeholders can have equal say in shaping the future of the Internet. In Brazil during NetMundial, we saw all stakeholders coming together in an ad-hoc constituted meeting and trying to reach a consensus on common principles. Although civil society felt shortchanged in the process, it is a move in the right direction because you win some, and lose some.

Although the IGF model as envisioned is not a decision making model, the Kenya IGF has been praised even at UN level where the output has been touted as a model to emulate because some of the decisions have gone ahead to be implemented at the national level. A good example is Article 10 of the Kenyan constitution where Multistakeholderism has been embraced where all stakeholders are consulted in national issues. As an example, we have seen Computer Authority of Kenya call for public consultation in the National Cyber Security Framework. Most government Authorities have representation of all stakeholders and the Kenyan consumer has a say in matters of policy.

To quote the Kenyan constitution “Article 10 National Values and principles of Governance (2.) The national values and principles of governance include: (a) patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people. (b) human dignity, equity, social inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalized.”

The question of concrete outcomes produced through the IGF is sometimes tackled diplomatically. At the UK IGF of July 2014, the organizers were not able to clearly indicate how the outcome of previous IGFs were used to influence policy, only stating that multistakeholderism and dialogue was part of the success of the IGF. The UK also stated she was able to adjust policy positions from outcomes of the IGF and have UK positions in bilateral talks with the greater Europe. However, there was no example given on these positions.

Let us not lose hope. The IGF might be a talk shop, but the outcome has a positive bearing to our society. And talking is not necessarily a bad thing because consensus on contemporary issues is reached after engagement. It is my hope that we can have a discussion that is as inclusive as possible where all stakeholders feel they are participating on equal footing. The IGF provides a unique platform for all stakeholders to openly exchange perspectives on key issues that impact the future of the Internet. I also commend the IGFs for the capacity building it develops because participants usually have key lessons they domesticate back home. It is also my hope that the Internet Governance community can find a way to make the IGF more effective, and have a proper way to implement and measure the effectiveness of the outcomes.


The Internet Society (ISOC) has been working with the African Union (AU) to facilitate the African Internet Exchange System (AXIS). This AXIS project funded by the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund and the Government of Luxembourg will help keep Internet traffic in Africa internal to the continent and avoid expensive international transit costs and delay latency in routing Internet traffic through other continents. The Axis project was established by AU in 2010 while ISOC has partnered with Africa Network Information Center (AfriNIC) to make the project a reality. According to AXIS IXP Regional project, the AXIS will “reduce traffic load on upstream providers, reduce cost, increase speed, and reduce latency for inter-country exchange of traffic and enhances internet usage in the region.”

ISOC continues to stay real to its mission “to promote the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world” and has strived to take the internet to every corner of the globe. Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) enable Internet Service providers (ISPs) to exchange Internet traffic between their networks thus reducing the ISP’s traffic that must be delivered through upstream transit providers therefore reducing the cost of the service. So far, Africa is increasing the number of IXPs implemented therefore reducing the consumer’s cost of data carrier transit charges. The Axis project will help spur the growth of local content, and improve local hosting initiatives within the continent. Upcoming African Internet entrepreneurs have relied on renting servers and hosting their content on datacenters outside the continent. Initiatives like AXIS will change the status quo and enable more datacenters to be setup on the continent. Other factors that have contributed to low penetration of local content in Africa include expensive electricity that power datacenters and a culture where content is not necessarily written or digitized but passed down from generation to generation through word of mouth.

Successful IXPs have been implemented in over 20 African countries with South Africa leading with five IXPs. The AXIS project has successfully launched four IXPs in Bujumbura – Burundi, Windhoek – Namibia,  Mbabane- Kingdom of Swaziland, and the latest being in Serrekunda – Gambia in July 2014. Several capacity building workshops have also been held across the continent in Botswana, Rwanda, Nigeria, Egypt, and Gabon to strengthen existing IXPs.

The AXIS project aims to have 80% of Internet traffic exchanged in Africa by 2020, keeping local traffic local. This is truly one of the Africa’s Internet success stories.


After the last session on Tuesday July 24th, I happened to join the ICANN policy team through a trek across London from Padington to Marble Arch on Public House 6 New Quebec Street. It was a traditional English restaurant called the grazing goat. The setting summer solstice sun over the window overlooking the horizon was just incredible even though it was past 8PM.

The Vice President, Policy Development David Olive lead the team. I learned it it was the first time the policy guys were meeting in such a setting. Because of the Internalization of ICANN, the staff come from diverse regions across the world from North America, Europe, and Asia, and this was a perfect opportunity for them to link up. A not so formal setting helped them bond and know each other better.

The food was incredible from the wild boar starter, Yorkshire pudding, to the nicely grilled lamb and exotic French wine and double expresso coffee. The wild boar took me through a time machine to the times I was reading the French comic books Asterix and Obelix.

We had great conversations with Robert Hoggarth, the ICANN Senior Policy Director, Ariel Liang,  Susan, and Tom Dale the GAC secretariat contractors from Acig Australia.

Well, it’s not manners to crash into parties, but the lessons and interactions I had with these cool people was invaluable especially know that I’m getting deeper into ICANN policy working groups.

It must be fun working at ICANN, isn’t it?


Trying to penetrate the various groups and become an integral MVP seems harder than cracking diamond with bare teeth. It’s like there are so many opportunities but getting in is proving more difficult.

But I know the trick, volunteer in working groups, read background information documents, comment and give suggestions. You will learn and find areas of interest on the way.ring at

Starting engagement with ICANN is like driving on a road less traveled at night. Your can only see the next 50meters, but you drive on hopeful you will arrive at your destination. I’m on my first 50 meters 😐