Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

IXP Workshop held in Karachi, Pakistan

The Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) organized an IXP workshop in collaboration with the Internet Society on 22-23 August 2017 in Karachi, Pakistan.

PTA along with other stakeholders that include the Higher Education Commission (HEC), ISPs and mobile operators, is currently raising awareness of the successful deployment of the PKIX – Pakistan Internet Exchange node in Karachi after the success of the Islamabad node that was launched earlier this year.

PTA organized an awareness session with all ISPs and mobile operators in Karachi back in February 2017, where it was agreed that a technical session was required for all the members in Karachi. During the same session, ISOC offered to provide the IXP equipment to encourage participation, and has arranged to ship switches and servers that should be received during the first week of September.

The two-day event was hosted in the HEC Karachi office and was attended by 23 participants from the Internet. Our Deploy360 and Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau colleague Aftab Siddiqui also conducted a workshop to ensure all participants understand the importance of the Internet Exchange and how to make the best use of it, as well as to train engineers in order to help support the IXP operations moving forward.

Participants made full use of this opportunity and it provided to be very interactive. The PKIX Board has also offered the possibility for all the workshop participants to be part of the design and deployment team of the Karachi node.

At the end of the workshop, certificates were presented to the participants by the Director of the PTA Zonal Office Karachi Mr. Akhlaq Hussain Musavi, Director of HEC Zonal Office Mr. Javed Memon, and Deputy Director Mr. Naeem Bhutto.


Community Projects Domain Name System (DNS) Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) Improving Technical Security IPv6

An eventful week at SANOG 29

After a long wait of 4.5 years, the 29th edition of SANOG came back to Pakistan, this time in the countrys capital, Islamabad. The Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) and the Higher Education commission of Pakistan (HEC) came forward to jointly host the event at the HEC headquarters.

SANOG 29 consisted of two days of conference, one day of tutorial alongside the Internet Society’s ION Conference, and the usual five days of workshops with three parallel tracks. Eight days of action-packed agenda was good enough to attract a lot of audiences.

The ION Conference was inaugurated by chairman HEC Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed and PTA chairman Dr. Ismail Shah, with two keynotes from distinguished industry experts: Mr. Yousuf Bhaiji discussed the “Future of Networks, Networking, and Networkers” and Mr. Haris Shamsi shared his views on “Software Defined Everything”.

The opening ceremony was well-attended by many network professionals and academia delegates from all over Pakistan. There was good media presence as well. A number of foreign delegates participated in the event, representing Facebook, Google, Internet Society, NL-IX, DE-CIX, IIJ, APNIC, NSRC, University of Tokyo and ICANN, making it one of the most successful SANOGs in Pakistan after the first SANOG in 2006.

PKNOG was inaugurated during the conference day, with a dedicated plenary session to announce its establishment. It took a very long time for the Pakistani technical community to create their own NOG where they can discuss and share technical knowledge with each other. Tentatively, the standalone first PKNOG event will be organised in the third quarter this year.

An issue that was underlined throughout the conference and tutorial was the dire state of IPv6 deployment in Pakistan. Unfortunately, Pakistan is lacking in this arena, with IPv6 traffic at less than 1% of the total internet traffic as per measurements by APNIC. But recently there has been a great deal of interest and enthusiasm in the community towards IPv6 deployment and hopefully, this will increase in the coming months.

Another great news was announced during SANOG: the establishment of PKIX (Pakistan Internet Exchange) in Islamabad. It was formally inaugurated by the Minister of IT and Telecom, Ms. Anusha Rehman. PTA, ISOC and APNIC played a vital role in setting up PKIX. Discussions are underway to establish other nodes in Karachi and Lahore. ISOC and PTA are also engaging with stakeholders on how this process may be streamlined.

After the conference and tutorial there were five days of hands-on workshops which were conducted by foreign delegates on following topics:

Dr. Philip Smith (NSRC) and Dr. Nimal (NSRC) – Campus Design and Security

Champika Wijayatunga (ICANN) and Dr. Rao Naveed – DNS and DNSSEC Deployment

Aftab Siddiqui (ISOC) and Matsuzaki Yoshinobo (IIJ) – IPv4/v6 routing

The closing ceremony was held on the last day of the workshop, with the Minister of Education as the chief guest. Certificates were distributed to participants and shields given to the instructors and organizers. It was a very successful event that will hopefully jumpstart a PKNOG meeting in the near future.

Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

Promoting digital accessibility: For persons with disabilities, with persons with disabilities

The United Nations estimates that one in six people (in Asia and the Pacific) live with disability – that is a total of 650 million people. Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) often face barriers that restrict them from participating in society on an equal basis, including the access to, and use of, information and communication technologies (ICTs). These barriers include none or very little attention to incorporating accessibility features for online content (including websites), limited adaptability in the functionality of products and services, and weak policy frameworks to support the provision of an accessible digital environment.

Over the last 15 or so months, the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau in collaboration with local stakeholders including government, industry and civil society, led a series of endeavours to help embrace digital accessibility in Pakistan – a country with approximately 30 million PWDs.

These efforts started with a small workshop organized in December 2015, inviting PWDs to inform and educate us on their accessibility requirements, and the challenges they face while using the Internet and online services in Pakistan. In this workshop, PWDs served as our speakers and panellists, providing a unique opportunity for us to join forces in removing barriers to digital accessibility. This effort identified several keys issues, which were broadly characterised as:

  • Improving accessibility to local websites
  • Introducing policy measures
  • Educating developers and students
  • Developing mobile applications for PWDs

To work on these goals, an informal working group on ICT Accessibility was created which included representatives from several organizations working with PWDs – Special Talent Exchange Program, Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness and Pakistan Youth Federation of Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

The group then met with the Ministry of IT and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, seeking their cooperation in promoting accessibility at both the policy and practical level. With the active support of these government entities, we first helped make their own websites accessible, and then devised an incremental approach to implement accessibility standards and guidelines for all government websites.

The group was also successful in introducing (for the first time), a separate section on accessibility, usability and promoting digital inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, in the draft IT Policy of Pakistan – this will help to achieve broader digital accessibility goals in the country.

We also helped launch the Pakistan Mobile App Awards 2016 competition, which focused on mobile applications that address the needs of PWDs, and can help them be more independent in their daily lives. The group likewise secured local funding to organize ‘awareness workshops on ICT mobile accessibility’ in all major cities of Pakistan, targeting developers and students.

It was not a big surprise to hear from the developer community that they were not familiar with guidelines and practices that would make their products accessible – in the case of PWDs, they are not able to view the process from a user perspective. This was then seen as an opportunity to bridge the gap, and the workshops did much to help in this regard. It also drove home the point that it is important to inform and educate developers (mobile applications, websites, etc.) to implement accessibility support as an essential part of their design, so all potential users (and hence customers) have equal access to their products.

Last week, winners of the Pakistan Mobile App Awards 2016 were announced in a ceremony graced by the President of Pakistan.

Interested to know more about the winning applications? Please watch this video (with English subtitles).

Walking this digital accessibility journey for Persons with Disabilities – with Persons with Disabilities – in Pakistan was truly inspirational. It also made us realise how important digital accessibility is – and more importantly how the Internet and ICTs can help better the lives of PWDs.

It is estimated that the Asia-Pacific region has 650 million people with disabilities – and they are likely to be part of the last billion to be connected. We hope that our digital accessibility work in Pakistan can serve as a model for a multi-stakeholder community-driven initiative that can help make a change.

To know more about the working group on ICT accessibility in Pakistan, please watch this video.

Growing the Internet

An Accessible Internet

There is no conclusive data globally, but most studies seem to indicate that around 20% of the population has some sort of disability. While this does not always translate to the person not being able to use the Internet, there still is a significant percentage that is not able to – particularly if they are visually or physically challenged.

Web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) have been around for a while, and over the years they have been continually updated and developed to try and provide a better user experience. While some websites have adopted these – to varying degrees – a large proportion have not.

Keeping in mind that Internet users with accessibility needs are a significant part of the population, this does mean that many of them are not able to make full use of the content available. For businesses this translates to lost opportunities – if a user is not able to view the content, then they are also not going to buy a product or service made available through the site.

This also applies to non-commercial websites – be they run by the government or others. With more and more governments embracing e-government services, it is critical that these services meet accessibility guidelines so that all parts of the population are able to make full use of these services.

Recently, I was in Pakistan where I met with the ICT Accessibility Working Group and the Ministry of Information Technology. It was very encouraging to note that at the meeting, the Ministry made a commitment to ensure that its own website met accessibility guidelines and immediately put in place a team to work with members of the ICT Accessibility Working Group. In just over a week, the team was able to meet all the requirements for web accessibility under the WCAG. Moreover, the Ministry made a further commitment to encourage other parts of government to do the same. Estimates indicate around 10% of Pakistan’s population has accessibility needs, so this is a great step forward.

Last year we partnered with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to launch a mobile app development competition to encourage local mobile content and services development in the country. This year, a strategic decision was made to focus the 2016 Mobile App Awards on accessibility issues for People with Disabilities with the theme “Embracing Mobile Accessibility”.

This is another small way to not only raise awareness of accessibility issues but also encourage developers and the technical community to be inclusive from the very beginning when designing and launching products and services – and in this way universal design becomes inherent.

Growing the Internet

Connecting the unconnected: Experience from the First Phase of our W4C Project in Pakistan

Coming from the urban part of Pakistan, the Internet is nothing new for me and not as novel anymore, as I have been using it every day for the past many years. However, for many who don’t have access, it can indeed be a thing of wonder that can be used to connect, communicate and collaborate. This is something I realised during the first phase of our ‘Wireless for Communities’ (W4C) pilot project in Pakistan.

Today, wireless technologies are an excellent alternative, especially in countries that are lagging behind regarding getting the Internet to rural communities. Embracing Internet Society’s vision that the Internet is for Everyone, W4C is the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau’s award-winning project that follows a holistic approach to community-based wireless networks which provide much-needed connectivity in rural and underserved environments in South Asia. The project has been running successfully in India for the past five years and has very recently made an entry into Pakistan and Nepal.

In Pakistan, the W4C pilot project was carried out with COMSATS Internet Services, which is our local partner. Structured in four phases, the first phase of establishing connectivity was completed in December, when together with a team of network engineers, we spent two eventful days at ‘Chak-5 Faiz’,our project site, located near the city of Multan.

This ‘180 feet tri-polo tower holding Sector Antennas’ (base station) provided a decent 2 kilometres coverage area in a scattered community comprising several small villages. The most immediate ‘to be connected’ need came from a girls and a boys school situated closer to the base station, and there were sheer moments of both delight and gratitude in these schools. The computer lab teacher (video) at the girls’ school told us about the struggle to have a working Internet connection and that the W4C project will enable students to learn about and be part of the online world. The situation at the boys’ school was similar; we saw both smiles and anxiety on faces while we installed the Internet connection and a computer in the school – both teachers and students were energised to use the Internet in their teaching and learning.

Our next task was to connect the community (client) side that brought even more worth to our work. We first needed to secure an elevated position to install our client antenna, and without any hesitation, a local villager offered his property when told that we were there to offer the Internet. News of our work spread like a wildfire to nearby villages, and we had several asking if we were able to offer a W4C site to them as well – I wish we had a Magic Internet Stick which we could just wave to make it happen!

The day passed with us working to configure the client side with the base station, speaking with villagers and listening to their need for reliable connectivity. Not surprisingly, one of the most valuable uses of the Internet we heard from them was to make calls over the Internet to be able to communicate with their loved ones abroad. This person told us (video) how he feels about W4C coming to his village.

Access to the Internet is still a dream to many – some half of the world’s population remains offline – and our W4C project is a small effort to help connect the unconnected, and provide a best practice example that others can replicate.

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.

Internet Governance

Pakistan School on Internet Governance

The Pakistan School on Internet Governance (pkSIG) was held in Islamabad from 05-08 October. The school was hosted and organized by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan together with National Textile University of Pakistan. The school was conceived by the local community, which elicited the support of the Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Middle East Office and the Internet Society (ISOC) Asia-Pacific Bureau in organizing pkSIG, aimed to orient individuals from a broad range of backgrounds on issues related with Internet governance and its importance to the future of the Internet.

Pakistan is getting into the habit of organizing activities around Internet governance. Last year, the ISOC Asia-Pacific Bureau held an Asia Internet Symposium (AIS) in Islamabad on “Internet Governance in Pakistan; Building multi-stakeholder collaboration.” Early this year, the Ministry of IT conducted a one-day workshop on “Internet Governance and Role of its Stakeholders”; and now pkSIG came along to further strengthen discussions on Internet governance.

The school hosted 40 students from different parts of the community, including representatives from the regulator’s office, academia, civil society and industry. Lecturers discussed the history of the Internet, and provided an introduction to Internet governance, the evolution of the Internet and IG ecosystem in Pakistan, regional Internet registries, ICANN and ISOC, Internet public policy, cyber laws, mobile Internet and the Internet of Things.

While students encountered a lot of technical and Internet policy-related terms for the first time on the first day, they quickly got into the discussions and were thoroughly interested to learn more. Further inspiring them were the participation of a Senator at the opening ceremony and the Minister for IT at the closing session.   

“It was a great learning experience. All things about APNIC, ISOC and ICANN were new to me. Being affiliated with the software industry, I was exposed to a whole new paradigm of Internet governance and sophisticated, multi-stakeholder mechanism that organize, regulate and produce new developments on the Internet,” says one of the students.

Among the participants was Muhammad Shabir, a visually impaired person who made significant contributions to the discussions especially on web accessibility. I asked him what the Internet is to him, and answering in his native language, he said: “The Internet is like a treasure that enables me to learn, educate and empower myself.”

The pkSIG indeed demonstrated the need to educate individuals from developing countries on issues pertaining to the governance of—and on–the Internet.


ISOC Asia-Pacific Bureau: Building engagements in Pakistan

Home to around 180 million people, Pakistan is an important economy in the South Asian region. The country is witnessing an exponential growth in terms of Internet usage, especially for the mobile broadband segment, reporting over 600% increase in data usage during the last quarter. It may be noted that 3G and 4G LTE services only made their entry last year in Pakistan offering a new dimension to the overall Internet growth.

Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau is building engagements with local stakeholders; the team was recently in Islamabad and Lahore on an engagement trip.

In partnership with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, mobile operators and Samsung Pakistan, the Bureau spearheaded the first-ever ‘Pakistan Mobile Apps Award’  aimed at encouraging young innovators and entrepreneurs to develop innovative mobile applications. It received over 100 entries, and an awards ceremony was held in Islamabad to recognize the winners of the competition. The event was attended by representatives from the Ministry, industry, academia and media.

The Bureau was invited for to give a talk on ‘Network Neutrality’ at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). It was great to observe the attention of the participants and how the young generation in Pakistan is mindful of Internet issues.

The Bureau team also visited LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship founded in summer 2014. Since then, 13 startups have graduated from the center in two cohorts. The third cohort of 16 startups is currently being mentored and groomed to become high-growth businesses of tomorrow. The center has already created over 60 jobs, generated over $200K in annualized revenue and raised close to $600K of investments.

The Bureau team also held meetings with the chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the CEO of the Comsats Internet Services  and the Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter.

A number of potential areas for partnership was identified with the office of the regulator and industry players; the Bureau looks forward to further strengthening its work and engagements in Pakistan.



Internet Governance

Opening doors to collaboration in Pakistan

Last week, regional representatives of three I* organizations–APNIC, ICANN and ISOC–were in Islamabad to speak at a one-day workshop on “Internet Governance and the Role of its Stakeholders”. The workshop was organized and hosted by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom in Pakistan.  

The workshop echoed the strong will of the Government of Pakistan to build future partnerships and have stakeholders work together on possible areas of collaboration. “After the successful auction of 3G and 4G in Pakistan, the next focus of the government is Internet governance,” said the Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecom. Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning Development and Reforms, added that, “this workshop has given an opportunity for mutual learning and sharing of views with experts and stakeholders from a variety of fields involved in the Internet ecosystem. ICANN, APNIC, and ISOC have a critical role to support the development of this system.”

Last year, the ISOC Asia-Pacific Bureau organized its regional series, the Asia Internet Symposium (AIS) in Islamabad on “Internet Governance in Pakistan; Building multi-stakeholder collaboration” and this workshop by the Ministry indicates that the country is making headway in connecting stakeholders and further strengthening discussions on Internet governance.

While in Pakistan, the I* organizations held several outreach meetings with stakeholders including the office of the regulator, ISPs, a mobile operator, and civil society groups. The Pakistani community expressed a strong desire to learn more about these organizations, as well as the opportunities for involvement in their activities.  Some of the areas identified during the week were technical capacity building, facilitating technical community groups like NOGs, supporting Internet governance discussions and maintaining a regular communication channel. With over 30 million Internet users, half of which use the Internet over mobile, Pakistan is clearly an emerging market in the region.

During the week, we acknowledged prospects for more engagement and work by the regional offices of the three I* organizations – something to celebrate for this ISOC staff member based in Islamabad. 

Pakistan is covered by the Asia-Pacific offices of ISOC and APNIC; the country comes under the Middle-East region for ICANN.

Growing the Internet Human Rights Women in Tech

Pakistan’s girls and the future of the local technology industry

The Internet has brought a whole new world of information and enablement for us,” said Shafiq Khalid, a 12-year-old student in Islamabad, Pakistan. “My mother is happy I’m sharing delicious recipes with her.”

Khalid is one of the hundreds of girls participating in a programme offered by the Pakistan Social Association (PSA) and supported by local Internet Society’s chapter members that gives young rural girls basic training in computer and Internet use. As chapter developer manager for the Internet Society, I had a chance to talk to some of the many girls impacted by this project.

“Women are nearly 53% of our population, and most of them are in villages,” explained Ammar Jaffri, president of PSA and Internet Society Pakistan Islamabad Chapter member. “If we train one girl, she will bring change in her entire family, especially when educating her own children.”

By training one girl, we can bring change in her entire family, especially when educating her own children. Pakistan Social Association

Since 2012, 15 community leaders in villages around Islamabad were prepared as multipliers and given the tools to educate 20 young girls each. Last April 25th, the final phase of the training was celebrated during ICT [Information and Communications Technology] for Girls day. Around 300 girls came together to receive their certification after successfully completing their exams. The hope is that these girls continue to invest in their education and eventually move into the ICT industry.

“It’s an amazing platform – to be able to receive so much information and knowledge!” said 14-year-old student Qurat-ul-Ain Abbasi. “We are quite new to the Internet world, but we would like to receive more training and courses so we can get the most out of it.”

Technology and the gender gap

Getting rural students, especially the girls, involved and comfortable with computers and the Internet early is crucial for increasing diversity in the ICT industry, as well as the greater online community.

Even more important, the initiative bravely and directly addresses gender inequality, one of the country’s most pressing social issues. “After the encouragement from the success of ICTs for Girls Day, we are planning to expand the training to 20,000 girls,” said Jaffri. “We intend to implement this project in all rural parts of Pakistan as a pilot. This would help to address gender inequality in Pakistan and set a trend for others to follow.”

Since 2012, 15 community leaders in villages around Islamabad were prepared as multipliers and given the tools to educate 20 young girls each. Pakistan Social Association

Watching these girls browsing around the Internet and making an effort to learn more with each click was a very special moment. The shining replies I got while seeking their interviews made me understand and value even further our commitment to keeping the Internet as open, free and accessible platform for human development.