Encryption Strengthening the Internet

Working from Home: Keeping It Secure and Private

With the global efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus underway, we’re seeing an unprecedented disruption of day-to-day operations across virtually all work sectors.

Coronavirus coverage is dominating headlines as more country borders, schools, major events and public venues are shut down in hopes of flattening the infection curve. Likewise, companies around the world are making tough calls to prioritize employee safety with business continuity in mind.

But thanks to the Internet, many workplaces are rapidly adapting operations to do their part and accommodate for what may soon become a new normal: remote working.

There are no shortage of web-based applications and services that allow us to continue core functions like meetings and collaboration that we’d do in an office-based setting. And not just the proverbial meeting that could have been an email.

But how do we ensure confidentiality when working remotely? There are some simple ways businesses and employees can ensure they are protecting themselves and their workplaces from malicious actors.

The answer is simple: encryption.

Encryption is the process of scrambling or enciphering data so it can be read only by someone with the means to return it to its original state.

It allows all our online digital communications to be secure and confidential, and should be a key part of your systems, devices, and applications. You may not realize it, but encryption is already a part of our daily life in many ways.

Luckily there are already many services with built-in use of encryption technology for just about everything you would need to work remotely. This includes web conferencing services for meeting, instant messaging platforms to chat with colleagues, and online collaboration tools for team assignments and shared file storage. There are even services that help you guarantee the right person is giving you their signature on a document or contract.

Another easy way to secure your remote work space is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your connection to a company’s systems, including when you are on a shared public WiFi network. These are available for just about any device – from smartphones to tablets to PCs.

No matter what software application, service, or app you are using, make sure it is keeping your data and communications safe with end-to-end encryption. Not all applications and services use it, but you can check with your vendor or service provider. And if end-to-end encryption is not being used, switch to something that does.

While working remotely, you want to be certain that your online interactions are secure from prying eyes and that data is not compromised. Encryption helps provide those safeguards.

As well, be vigilant for messages and links you may receive pretending to be COVID-19 related information, but in reality are scams and malware. There are already a number of these in circulation using emails, as well as apps with malicious intentions.

Learn about more ways you can be secure when working remotely.

Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) Strengthening the Internet

APRICOT 2020: Routing Security Takes Center Stage

More than 600 of the world’s leading Internet engineers from 60 economies gathered last week at APRICOT, and it was encouraging to see routing security take center stage in the largest meeting of the technical community in the region.

The Internet Society is a long-time partner of the annual event, also called the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Conference on Operational Technologies, and this year we held two community gatherings, spoke in several sessions, and ran a booth throughout the conference.

The ten-day meeting consisted of workshops, tutorials, conference sessions, birds-of-a-feather sessions, and peering forums from 12-21 February in Melbourne, Australia. This year marked the 25th anniversary of APRICOT, and it was good to recognize how the event has grown over time and contributed to technical capacity building in the region. It also gave me the chance to reflect on my own participation in the event over the years, including from when I was in the private sector prior to my current role.

One of the things Internet builders get together for at APRICOT is to share the technical knowledge needed to run and expand the Internet securely. So it was a great opportunity to bring attention to the Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) initiative, one of the eight projects outlined in the Internet Society’s 2020 Action Plan.

That was why our booth was dedicated to MANRS, and we were glad to see many attendees who ran networks come over to have a routing security check-up of their networks’ routing hygiene. The initial test is a first step towards strong and robust routing security, and we are hopeful many of them will join our growing community. Our MANRS t-shirts also proved very popular!

Aftab Siddiqui, our Senior Manager, Internet Technology for Asia-Pacific, was one of the facilitators of the highly popular Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI) Deployathon, in which about 40 network operators learnt to deploy RPKI, a framework to sign Internet routes and protect users from route hijacks and misconfigurations.

Aftab was also appointed Chair of the inaugural APNIC Routing Security Special Interest Group (SIG), a new SIG that will provide a platform to discuss the operational issues and best practices to secure global Internet routing. We look forward to him helping strengthen routing security even further with Co-Chairs, Dr. Di Ma and Rupesh Shrestha.

We got together with more than 40 MANRS participants and partners in the region at the Community Meeting to share the latest on the initiative, including a plan to include new kinds of organizations, such as content delivery networks (CDNs) and cloud providers. Stay tuned for future updates!

In the long run, we aim to make MANRS a norm in routing operations – with non-conformance seen as unacceptable – and for it to be a self-governed community. We had a good discussion with the community on this and other matters, and to those who were able to attend, we thank you for taking the time to come.

Our delegation included Robert Maylath, Senior Director, Organization Membership; Kevin Meynell, Manager, Technical and Operational Engagements; Adrian Wan, Policy Advocacy Manager; Aftab; and myself. We outlined our plans at the AP Star Retreat and the APNIC Global Reports session alongside many of our partners and encouraged the community to join us in our mission.

It was good to see that more than 40 people from our membership community, including the local chapter, were able to join us for a social get-together. We were given a glimpse of the threats the Internet is under in Australia by Paul Brooks, Chair of the Australian Chapter, who told us he and other Chapter leaders would take part the next morning in a public hearing of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Review of the Telecommunications and other Legislation Amendment (Assistance & Access) Act 2018, commonly known as the TOLA Act, to stand up for encryption.

If you could not make it to APRICOT this year but wish to catch up on the sessions, you can watch the recordings or read the transcripts on the conference website, and download the presentations.

Next year, APRICOT is scheduled to run from February 16 to 26 in Manila, Philippines.

Image courtesy of APNIC

Community Networks Growing the Internet

Five Key Takeaways from the Summit in Asia-Pacific on Deploying, Sustaining, and Scaling Community Networks

Community networks (CNs) offer a solution to connect the unconnected billions. They are becoming all the more important as recent trends reveal a slowdown in Internet connectivity growth through national operators in the Asia-Pacific region.

Late August, the Internet Society and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific organized the Asia-Pacific Regional CN Summit 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand. The event brought together about 110 participants that included high-level government officials from Asia and the Pacific, and a multidisciplinary group of regional experts on community networks, civil society groups, industry representatives, and academics and researchers to deliberate on critical issues surrounding CNs.

What are Community Networks?

They are “do-it-yourself” networks built by people for people. They are not just connecting communities, but are empowering rural and remote communities to improve their lives. Speakers and participants at the Summit shared some successful examples from the region, including India’s Garm Marg Rural Broadband Project, which has improved communities’ access to government and financial services, Nepal’s community networks, which have helped communities recover from the devastating Gorkha Earthquake in 2015 and prepare for future disasters, and Pakistan’s community network, which has enhanced learning for girls at a remote rural school.

These successes, however, are too few and far between. Community networks generally face a number of challenges that require policymakers and regulators’ consideration so that they can thrive and grow. For instance, CNs are often unable to navigate the complex legal requirements for registration, licensing, and permitting and unable to cover their associated costs. Other common challenges faced by CNs are related to the technical, economical, and human capacity aspects, particularly towards ensuring the sustainability of community networks. Many have started with grant funding but struggle to transition to a revenue-based model to sustain the network when grant funding ends.

Five Key Takeaways

Strategies for addressing these challenges include the following:

  1. The first step in building community networks is getting the communities interested and committed to running their own networks to serve their needs. Communities may not immediately see the value of these networks and the process of raising awareness on the benefits takes time. Once community members see the value of the Internet, they could be more willing to sustain the community network.
  2. Community networks development requires a multistakeholder approach. For them to thrive and grow, they require community commitment, technical expertise, financial investments, and government support in providing a favorable policy and regulatory environment. The first step towards regulatory reform is to broaden the dialogue to involve not only regulators and telecom operators, but also small network operators, cooperatives and entrepreneurs, and stakeholders in other sectors, such as agriculture and finance, that are part of the digital ecosystem.
  3. Community networks are a solution for sustainable rural development and contribute to achieving the SDGs. They are not tech gigs to simply connect the communities. Initiatives are focused on developing skills, promoting opportunities, and empowering rural and remote communities to improve their lives and achieve their own social and economic development goals through the use of broadband technologies. Community networks need to move out of the techies’ domain and be conceptualized as a solution for sustainable development.
  4. Policymakers and regulators need to ease regulatory requirements and increase financing options for non-profit and small-scale operators. They include tax and fee exemptions or reductions for community networks, setting aside spectrum at a reduced cost, and allowing community networks to apply for funding from Universal Access and Service Funds, which are often accessible to incumbents and big telecom players only.
  5. Integrate inclusive approaches in community network development that take into consideration the needs of marginalized groups, including women, children and youth, older people, persons with disabilities, and Indigenous people. Until their unequal access to the Internet and to devices is addressed, the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved.

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Asia-Pacific Regional Community Network Summit 2019. For those who missed the event, you can read the report and watch the video recording of the event.

The Internet is for everyone. Learn more about community networks and join the global movement to help close the digital divide!

Community Networks Growing the Internet

The Case for Complementary Local Access Networks by the Community, for the Community

Back in 2010, I conceptualised and started a pilot project to see how we could introduce Internet connectivity to unserved and underserved rural areas. The ICT4D community – along with a number of international organisations – had been talking about how getting people online could transform lives, but most of the solutions appeared to be either top-down or boiler-plated.

My idea was simple – work together with a local partner to find a rural location where getting people online could make a difference, ensure people from the community were trained to operate and maintain the network (rather than being dependent on outsiders), use cheap easy-to-find WiFi equipment (so if things break down, the nearest town would have spares), and then train the community, empowering them to create and use various digital services. Essentially, this was a network for the people, by the people.

Photo credit: Digital Empowerment Foundation

Thus was born our award-winning Wireless For Communities (W4C) initiative. We have had a tremendous amount of success with the programme – having deployed and inspired literally hundreds of networks in South Asia and helped connect the most marginalised of communities. This has also become a global programme for the Internet Society – what is now our Community Networks initiative – with deployments in all corners of the world.

Having a network is one thing but knowing what to do with it is quite another. This is why with our projects in the Asia-Pacific the emphasis has always been on how the community can use the applications and services the Internet enables so that they can improve their socio-economic conditions.

Some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And indeed, since our early work some 10 years ago, many others (including donor agencies) have got involved to support this form of complementary local access networks, and I take great satisfaction in seeing how that has developed over time.

Tomorrow, together with our partner UN ESCAP, we will host the Asia-Pacific Community Networks Summit as part of the Third Session of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS) Steering Committee Meeting.

This special summit will bring together various stakeholders to share their experiences and knowledge on community networks and explore how we can help improve the lives of people from our region. This work is in support of the AP-IS, a region-wide initiative endorsed by UN ESCAP member states, and in particular, the “Broadband for All” pillar of  the AP-IS that looks into ways of promoting affordable access to underserved areas.

For me, it’s especially pleasing to see how something that started as a small pilot project 10 years ago has been able to connect the unconnected – and opened up a myriad of opportunities for socio-economic development for people all across the globe.

Learn how community networks can help close the digital divide.

Photo credit: Atul Loke/Panos Pictures for Internet Society

Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Myanmar’s March Towards a Digital Future

Earlier this month, in collaboration with the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) and the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, we delivered a training program on Internet Governance for 32 government officials in Myanmar’s capital city, Naypyidaw.

The program ran over three days covering various topics such as Internet policy principles and regulatory frameworks, Internet infrastructure and standards, Internet for development, and cybersecurity.

What impressed me was the participants’ interest in asking questions and their active participation in discussions – it was obvious they were all very eager to learn and explore ways they could apply the learnings in their roles in the various departments they were from. We also got to discuss and see what promise digital technology holds for the country.

I have had the opportunity to visit Myanmar several times, including well before the democratic reforms began. In the few years since those reforms brought Myanmar to the world stage, the country has gone through tremendous transformation. I distinctly remember the difficulties in getting access to the Internet and the lack of mobile phones during my earlier visits.

Today, it’s a very different story. There are multiple service providers, and multiple cable landing stations that provide great redundancy and cross-border connectivity for the country. Every person I came across had a mobile device, and it was obvious that they all spent a significant amount of time online – on social media in particular.

I was also very impressed with the Internet speeds. I suppose this is one positive of having come into the high-speed communications age later than others – and not having to deal with legacy equipment and their return-on-investment requirements. I was constantly connected to a 4G network, and throughput was always very good, no matter whether I was in Yangon or Naypyidaw.

The various bits and pieces are slowly coming together for Myanmar, but there are a number of things that need to be addressed. In its march towards rapid modernization, we could say a lot of what has been done in Myanmar has been on a “let’s-build-it-as-we-go” basis.

This means there are a number of gaps in the regulatory and policy space that have not been fully thought through or bridged. Yet, things continue to move rapidly so some of these gaps look to be widening, particularly in the areas of approval for communications equipment, data protection and privacy, cybersecurity, and digital literacy.

There are moves underway to form an independent regulator, which is a good step forward and essential to ensuring that regulatory decisions are made in an impartial manner. Along with that, a cybersecurity law is under development.

All these will need continued capacity-building initiatives to help things along, and the Internet Society was pleased to be able to collaborate with APT in providing training on a range of Internet Governance issues. We look forward to continuing to provide support in our areas of expertise, and help Myanmar realize its digital potential.

Community Networks Growing the Internet

Enabling the Next Generation of Community Network Builders: A Report on CNXAPAC 2018 and CN Champs

In October 2018, together with our partner Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), we organized the 2nd edition of CNXAPAC (Community Network eXchange Asia-Pacific) with a focus on how two sets of community operators – community radio network operators and community (Internet) network operators – could explore synergies in the work they do.

The event was kindly hosted by UNESCO at their Delhi office, and brought together over 50 participants from around the world to exchange knowledge and best practices, and see how the Internet can improve the lives of underserved and unserved communities.

In many parts of the world, community radio stations play an important role in providing information to the public – particularly in rural communities. The community radio community have expertise in setting up radio communications, as well as creating content relevant to their local communities. This presents a wonderful opportunity for this community to add Internet services to their repertoire, and 12 community radio operators from around India were brought to CNXAPAC to learn about Internet community networks, and how these could be deployed in their local communities.

The Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau has been working on community networks since 2010 as part of its Wireless for Communities initiative, focusing on South Asia in particular. Our work has always focused on connecting underserved communities using readily available economical network equipment – and not specialized and expensive equipment.

We also place great emphasis on the local community being trained to manage, operate, and maintain the network. Our efforts have led to hundreds of networks being inspired and deployed in the sub-region providing access to tens of thousands of people.

This year, we piloted the Internet Society’s Community Network Champions project with great success. This brought together fellows from Africa, the Caribbean, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific Islands in a 10-day immersive training and knowledge exchange program in India. The participants were provided with technical training and spent a number of days in one of our rural India project locations, observing first-hand the positive impact community networks can have on the local community.

Over the years we have built a great deal of knowledge and expertise in community networks in India and South Asia, and the Community Network Champions project is one way through which we can share our knowledge and expertise with the rest of the world.

Whilst not all community network deployments are the same, they share the same goal to connect the unconnected, and to empower the community through the Internet and the digital services that it enables.

A report on CNXAPAC 2018 and the Community Network Champions Programme is available here.

We look forward to the CN Champions initiating projects and initiatives in their home countries so that their underserved communities can also benefit from the power of the Internet, and the socioeconomic empowerment it can enable.

When people connect to the Internet, they connect to opportunity. Community networks can help close the digital divide.

Image: Community Networks Champions at the Digital Empowerment Foundation training center in Delhi, India ©Atul Loke/Panos Picture for the Internet Society

Building Trust Internet of Things (IoT) Privacy Security

IoT Security, Privacy Vital from the Outset

For any new technology to be trusted, it must be secure. That is why privacy and security are essential to the development of new technologies from the outset. They must not be an afterthought.

This is especially so for the Internet of Things (IoT) and the plethora of devices that are now available. These devices are gradually being integrated into daily life as we enjoy the benefits they bring. In a number of cases, we are also increasing our dependence on them, such as fitness monitors and home automation.

But poorly-secured IoT devices and services can serve as entry points for cyber attacks, compromising sensitive data and potentially threatening the safety of individual users, as well others.

Attacks on infrastructure and other users, fueled by networks of poorly-secured IoT devices, can affect the delivery of essential services such as healthcare and basic utilities, put the security and privacy of others at risk, and threaten the resilience of the Internet globally.

As concerns mount about the need for regulating the ecosystem and policymakers around the world consider ways to secure it throughout its product lifecycles, it is important to consider the risks this fast-growing technology poses, as well as what steps can be taken to mitigate them.

In November 2018, the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau partnered with MediaNama, an Indian technology news and analysis portal, to hold a curated workshop in Delhi to discuss the various aspects of IoT security and privacy.

A report that sums up the deeply analytical discussion is now available here (link to PDF).

Our 2018 Regional Survey on Internet Policy Issues in Asia-Pacific shows that consumers want to be informed and have more control over their security and privacy when it comes to IoT. They highly value measures to protect against security and privacy threats and believe that governments should help ensure that these measures are in place. (Close to 1000 individuals from 22 economies across Asia-Pacific answered the survey, which was done online from 1 June to 3 August 2018. It was open to the public.)

Nine in 10 respondents would like for security and privacy protections to come as a standard for all IoT devices, and a similar number indicate that they are likely to purchase IoT devices that have a security guarantee (through a trustmark or certification label).

We believe that multistakeholder discussions are an excellent way to allow all impacted stakeholder groups – including device developers, vendors, government representatives, academics, public interest groups, the technical community, and others – to weigh in and create a prioritized list of quality attributes together.

Such a multistakeholder approach allows participants to contribute their expertise to the conversation and highlight ideas or implications that may be missed by any one group on its own.

In the case of our workshop in Delhi, public interest groups emphasized what was most important to consumers, developers and vendors described what could realistically be done from a technological standpoint, and policymakers weighed in on how to encourage those standards from a policymaking perspective.

As IoT devices and services proliferate, there is an urgent need to ensure user trust and confidence in IoT products and services. There is a need for action from all parts of the IoT ecosystem, and the Internet Society’s OTA IoT Trust Framework provides a good overview of what’s required. We invite you to learn more on the OTA website here.

Explore #GetIoTSmart, which includes resources for consumers and manufacturers.

Growing the Internet Internet Governance

The Philippines Embraces the Multistakeholder Model in the Development of Its National ICT Ecosystem Framework 2022

Earlier this month in Manila, the Philippines Government Department of ICT (DICT) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Internet Society (ISOC) to facilitate the development of its National ICT Ecosystem Framework (NIEF) 2022.

The NIEF 2022 – a successor to the Philippine Digital Strategy initiative from 2011-2016 – will serve as a roadmap for the management and development of national Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the country’s plans, programmes, and projects. NIEF will also serve to promote innovation and development of the ICT sector, encourage collaborative use of ICTs, and promote accessibility, security and sustainability.

Some 67 million people are connected to the Internet in the Philippines today – and a large number are prolific users. The country is a significant market for a number of multinational social media and content providers and has a strong Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. These facts make ICTs a key area of development and critical for the future of the economy.

The multistakeholder model will help facilitate perspectives from a range of stakeholders, which in turn will help NIEF 2022 to be in tune with what would work best for the people of the Philippines. This collaborative approach encourages inclusivity which will lead to well informed outputs for effective implementation.

Eliseo Rio Jr, Acting Secretary, DICT sums it up well when he says: “This multistakeholder approach allows different actors to interact in synergy, aimed at increasing the country’s rankings in terms of ICT use and development”.

Activities underway as part of the MoU include public consultations and focus group discussions with various sectors. This will be followed by a review of the draft NIEF 2022 ahead of its planned launch towards the end of the year. Subsequent projects and activities under these areas will also be planned using the same multistakeholder approach.

By embracing the multistakeholder model in the development of NIEF 2022 – which will have significant national impact for a number of years – the Philippines is demonstrating regional and global leadership.

Photos: DICT

Building Trust Improving Technical Security Privacy

Cybersecurity is the Top Internet Policy Concern in the Asia-Pacific Region

This month at the Asia-Pacific Regional IGF in Bangkok we will release the fourth annual Internet Society Survey Report on Internet Policy Issues in Asia-Pacific.

Findings from this year’s report show that cybersecurity, access, data protection, connectivity and privacy are the top five concerns for Internet users. These issues have more or less remained constant since 2014, however, not surprisingly this year cybersecurity has become the top issue.

Other issues that respondents expressed concern for relate to fake news, increasing digital surveillance that violates privacy rights, and more frequent instances of censorship and site-blocking that impact freedom of expression.

The survey polled more than 2,000 Internet users from across the Asia-Pacific region on their attitudes towards current Internet policy issues. This year, the survey took an in-depth look at how the region perceives and deals with personal information online, and the extent to which various entities are trusted to protect people’s personal information and privacy rights.

Generally, the results are rather discouraging. The findings indicate the current level of trust in the Internet is low. Users are concerned that their personal information is not protected online, and this in turn translates to their hesitance in using online services. A large proportion of respondents (60%) also indicated they do not have the knowledge and tools to protect their privacy online. These have important implications on the rollout and use of not only commercial, but also public and social services online.

At the same time, users want to be informed, and desire to have a certain level of control over the collection and use of their personal information. Public and private organisations that collect and share user information need to take this into account when formulating or updating privacy frameworks. This includes the development of systems and tools that make it easier for users to understand the terms of service, and empower users to manage their privacy preferences.

Interestingly, users recognise that the protection of personal information online is a shared responsibility – and not just the owner’s own responsibility. Both the public and private sectors, and especially the platforms through which users transact financially online, not only need to build robust and secure networks and systems, but also develop tools to equip users with the knowledge and skills to use these services safely online. This will improve their confidence in using online services, and their trust in the overall Internet ecosystem.

Read the full report here. Findings from past surveys are available here: 2014, 2015, 2016.

Read the Online Trust Audit, which includes checklist of best practices and resources.

Economy Improving Technical Security Internet Governance

INET Islamabad helps provide a foundation for Pakistan to start on the path to a digital economy

Our first-ever Regional INET conference in Pakistan, from Nov 16-18 in Islamabad, proved to be a huge success, both in terms of substance and lively participation. INET Islamabad brought into picture concrete opinions and action items to help in Pakistan’s journey towards a Digital Economy; and in building its ICT agenda based on sustainable development.

The event was hosted by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and backed by the telecommunication industry of Pakistan. It featured both international and national subject matter experts from various sectors with broad experience, globally and nationally, in ICT, policymaking and development.

The two plenary days of the conference was attended by over 400 participants and had an online audience of some 600 people from around the world. There were also close to 2,000 tweets using #INETISB and social media reports tell us this had a reach of some 270,000. International speakers from UN ESCAP, ITU, APT, LIRNEasia, ISACA, Red Hat and other premier organisations helped further the dialogue with their thoughts on:

  • Infrastructure and Connectivity for Sustainable Development
  • e-Gov Architecture, Standards and Implementation
  • Building Trust in Cyberspace
  • Growth of ICT Industry
  • Digital Financial Inclusion
  • Shaping the Move towards a Digital Economy for Pakistan

There were several government dignitaries in attendance including the chief guest at the opening, Hon. Barrister Zafarullah Khan, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister. During his closing keynote, Mr. Miftah Ismail, Chairman of the Board of Investment in Pakistan applauded and acknowledged the efforts of the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau and PTA in bringing these issues for discussion at the national level and the important role the Internet and ICTs play, highlighting the Internet as one of mankind’s greatest inventions.

The first day of the event featured the opening reception with invited guests from the Pakistan ICT industry, and Prof. Gihan Dias from the ISOC Board of Trustees delivering the opening keynote. Earlier in the day we also hosted Pakistan’s first CxO roundtable for the telecom industry to engage in dialogue with the government on current issues, challenges and future opportunities. This was moderated by ISOC’s Bureau Director for Asia-Pacific, Rajnesh Singh, and also included representatives from ITU and APT.

During the conference we held a media briefing on the ISOC-ADB-UNESCAP regional study on unleashing the potential of the Internet in 10 countries covering Central Asia, the Caucuses and South Asia, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. The briefing focused on Pakistan’s potential in the region.

On the final day of the conference, we took the opportunity to launch the Urdu language version of our interactive tutorials on online identity and privacy, which was also well received by the audience and generated some media commentary.

INET Islamabad achieved significant exposure for the Internet Society in Pakistan – there were over 100 media spots including live TV, print and online. It also laid the foundation for discussions on how the digital economy can benefit Pakistan, and was acknowledged as the largest and most important event of its kind to be held in Pakistan. Discussions are already underway for follow-up action by various stakeholders in the country and ISOC’s Asia-Pacific Bureau remains committed to assist in this process.

Community Projects Growing the Internet Internet Governance Open Internet Standards Technology

Discussing Internet-related challenges and progress in the Pacific Islands @ PacINET 2015

PacINET 2015, the annual conference of the Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC), was held on Day 0 of NetHui. This was scheduled in-between the two sessions of InterCommunity 2015 and brought together stakeholders from the region to discuss various issues related to Internet use in the Pacific Islands.

As part of the rich agenda, I provided an update on ISOC’s activities in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as what we have done with the Pacific Islands community thus far this year. I also stressed the need for continued collaboration between organisations working in the region as well the need for avoiding duplication of efforts and activities.

The programme included updates from various organisations working in the region, including an update on the Pacific ICT Ministerial Meeting that was held in June in Tonga where ISOC presented on Collaborative Security and also helped with sponsorship. This Ministerial Meeting was important as it identified the next phase of ICT development strategies and focus areas for the Pacific Islands.

During the Q&A session at PacINET, I also raised the point that the Pacific Islands Chapter should be a part of the CROP ICT Working Group which is charged with developing the ICT agenda for the Pacific Islands. I pointed out that in past incarnations of CROP ICT, PICISOC had been an active participant including contributing to the development of the Pacific Plan. It was encouraging to receive a commitment from USP (University of the South Pacific, who are the lead coordinating agency for CROP ICT) that PICISOC will receive a formal invitation to join the group and PICISOC Board Members will be following up on this.

The Internet Society is a founding partner of the ISIF programme that provides assistance for development related projects. Two of the past awardees from the Pacific Islands provided updates on their projects and there were also country presentations from Fiji and an update from Vanuatu on the recovery efforts after Cyclone Pam devastated the country. ISOC contributed to the relief efforts in Vanuatu by providing power generators that were used to restore communications services.

The Pacific Islands face many challenges. The great distances between countries and the dispersed population is a key issue in the provision of services, as is the relatively small market size in most economies. However, the Internet is also something that helps empower these communities and gives them an opportunity to actively participate in the global economy. This is why continued and open access to the Internet – and all the services and applications it helps enable from education to health to financial systems – is even more critical. Over the years, good progress in improving Internet access has been made in the Pacific Islands but there is still much to do.

The Internet is rapidly evolving and there is some new application or service released just about every day. More people are constantly coming online and participating in the new global Digital Economy. It is critical that the people of the Pacific also have every opportunity to participate. The Internet is for everyone, and belongs to everyone – and it can do much to alleviate the tyranny of distance and time that has for so long impacted the Pacific Islands – and its ability to be a part of this new global economy.

Doing this needs getting a few things right:

·       Development of infrastructure, and having appropriate policy and regulatory measures to effect progress

·       Developing communities, and empowering them in the use of ICTs and the Internet

·       Building human capacity – policy, technical and operational – such that all opportunities available can be maximised

The above forms the core of the Internet Society’s Access and Development strategy, and we will explore this in greater detail in a future post.

Its been a while since I have had the opportunity to attend PacINET; it was good to be able to participate this year and meet friends old and new. There were many discussions and ideas, and we look forward to furthering the dialogue on these with our friends in the Pacific.

Economy Growing the Internet Internet Governance

INET Colombo – Celebrating 20 years of the Internet in Sri Lanka

This week we held our regional INET in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was a timely event as it marked the 20th anniversary of the Internet in Sri Lanka. As part of the welcome reception on Monday night, the Sri Lankan community recognised 25 people who contributed to the early development of the Internet in Sri Lanka. The evening was full of stories and experiences from those who helped build the early Internet with many fond memories being narrated by the inductees.

A regional workshop for ISOC chapters from the Asia-Pacific region was held just prior (also in Colombo) with delegates from chapters focusing on topical issues and exploring collaboration opportunities.

The conference proper began on Tuesday morning with a great lineup of speakers including:

  • Hon. Eran Wickramaratne (Deputy Minister for Highways and Trade Promotion, and Founding Chairman of ICT Agency of Sri Lanka) on e-Sri Lanka initiative
  • Prof. Munasinghe (formerly World Bank and Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – IPCC) on Sri Lankan ICT and linkages to development and sustainability
  • Harish Pillay from Red Hat on Singapore: Finding the Soul of a Smart Nation
  • Prof. Kilnam Chon on Internet Past, Present and Future
  • Raul Echeberria (ISOC) on Current Challenges in Internet Governance,
  • Prof. Kanchana Kanchanasut on the Thai Internet Experience: 25 years on
  • Satish Babu on Network Neutrality and End-user Perspectives

The event was highly successful with over 1000 participants. Of these, 200 were on-site in Colombo and the other 800 were spread across 7 remote hubs around Sri Lanka. It was appropriate that the Internet Society and its Sri Lanka Chapter used the power of the Internet to deliver this event to a geographically dispersed audience. Full credit to the Sri Lankan chapter for making this happen.

The event was also webcast and the full archive is available here.

We also have the event on Storify which has tweets and the Livestream archives in chronological order.

Photo credit: Eran Wickramaratne on Facebook