Categories
Events Growing the Internet Internet Governance

Muhammad Shabbbir Awan: Reflections on the WTDC17

It’s been 5 months since WTDC17 concluded and I had time to reflect on the outcomes of the conference and the experience itself. WTDC sets the ITU’s development agenda and in Argentina last October over 1000 government delegates from close to 135 countries gathered during the two-week period. They were there to discuss a range of issues and shape the development sector’s priorities for the next four years. For me, it was a trip of many firsts: my first experience as an observer participating in a multilateral conference; my first trip to South America; and, as a visually impaired person, the eighteen hours flight duration was my first such experience.

To recall, I was a member of the Internet Society delegation as a Fellow. For me, the two motivators to apply for the fellowship opportunity were: first, the theme for WTDC17 (“ICTs for Sustainable Development Goals”) and possibility to make a difference. Second, my quest to learn even more about Internet Governance processes and to participate in the discussions.

WTDC17 had a packed agenda that included ceremonial events marking the 25th Anniversary of the Development Sector and side events on a range of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) topics.

My blindness posed a challenge, but not enough that we could not overcome it except in a few cases. Nonetheless, one challenge that we could not bridge was related to the accessibility of the “ITU Sync Tool” with my screen reader. It is the tool participants can use to access the conference documents. Despite the efforts by the ITU technical staff there was no immediate fix. The only solution was to rely on my fellow delegates to share the documents with me. I hope the issue has been fixed in the 6 months since then, because it was disappointing not to have the required updated documents available while they were being discussed in the sessions.

Another misperception that I tried to change was the low expectation that people had about people with disabilities (PWDs). With my participation I hope that more people understand that PWDs are just people who cannot see, hear, or have physical impairment. Any impairment is a physical characteristic, but it is not the characteristic that defines them or their capabilities. Plus, it is the societal barriers that turn an impairment to disability. Therefore, policy makers and technologists should work with PWDs to remove the ICT-related policy and technical barriers in our quest to shape a better tomorrow.

At the same time, a sad fact that I observed during the conference was the very low participation of PWDs. There was a lot of discussion on accessibility-related issues in a number of resolutions, which would not have been possible without input from PWDs. However, there was not a single organization that highlights mainly issues of PWDs. Therefore, PWDs should also realize that they need to come out of their comfort zones; get themselves composed and united; participate in such conferences and forums; and raise their voice to resolve their issues. I am a firm believer of the dictum “nothing about us without us” meaning that no one can express the problems and issues of PWDs better than PWD themselves and no solution should be implemented or can be successful without our active participation. However, PWDs themselves need to be fully prepared and participate in these discussions actively. Policymakers have a role to play as well. They should include PWDs on issues related to PWDs in their national preparatory processes and on delegations.

Despite all this, it was a wonderful experience. Most importantly, it was collectively a challenging, thought provoking and exciting opportunity. It led me to think about how I could best improve myself. and what more can be done to improve ICT accessibility for PWDs. It also taught me how to make the best of whatever opportunity and circumstances you have. One of the most exciting parts about this experience was sharing my WTDC17 experience with members of the Internet Society’s Islamabad, Pakistan Chapter.

Having navigated the ITU system for about a year and having attended WTDC and experienced most of the accessibility related issues myself, I believe that it is high time that the ITU designate a focal point for telecommunication/ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities to strengthen the Digital Inclusion programme and to make ITU conferences more inclusive and accessible for us. This will allow PWDs to raise the accessibility-related issues within ITU and will save them the time and resources to log their request at the right forum. The issue emerged during WTDC17 under Resolution 58 (“on telecommunication/information and communication technology accessibility for persons with disabilities, including persons with age-related disabilities”) and consensus was reached to take it to the 2018 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-18) in October as this body adopts the ITU’s four-year strategic and financial plans.

Since regional and national preparatory meetings for PP-18 are underway, one can hope that a focal point is designated within the ITU to deal with accessibility related issues. Moreover, to achieve the goals for ITU’s Connect 2020 global agenda and the SDGs, which reference ICT accessibility for PWDs, the issues need to be identified and highlighted. And, I am sure that having a focal point for accessibility would ease the process.

In a nutshell, I am happy to say that the promise that technology holds for enhancing people’s lives is extraordinary. However, it is equally true that technology, if not appropriately-designed and implemented, is the biggest threat to an inclusive digital future. Harnessing the extraordinary promise of technology is within our reach, but it will take leadership, commitment, and ongoing oversight. The alternative is a future where we spend our time, money, and innovative capacity retrofitting bridges to patch the digital divide rather than enjoying the economic and social advantages gained by the increased usability of technology and the increased leveraging of human capacity that results from technology that is designed and built to be accessible to all. I would reiterate my earlier statement that “if we want to build a digital future where people come first, accessibility needs to be at the heart of Internet policy, planning and design”.

Read more about Digital Divides in the 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future.

Take action! Help shape a digital future that puts people first.

Categories
Community Networks

New Policy Brief published on Community Networks and Access to Spectrum

Yesterday we published a new policy brief: Spectrum Approaches for Community Networks.

Access to affordable and available spectrum is critical for Community Networks. Policy makers can play a key role in ensuring adequate access to spectrum. The policy brief examines the various ways that Community Networks can gain access to spectrum, including:

  • the use of unlicensed spectrum,
  • sharing licensed spectrum, and
  • innovative licensing.

Network operators also play a key role in helping Community Networks. The policy brief outlines recommendations for operators which include:

  • access to backhaul infrastructure at fair rates,
  • equipment and training partnerships, and
  • the sharing of infrastructure as well as spectrum.

Please read our press release for more information about this new paper.  Also visit our World Telecommunications Development Conference (WTDC) 2017 page for more about what our team is doing there in Buenos Aires this week.

The policy brief is also available in Spanish and French.

Categories
Community Networks Growing the Internet

Partnerships to Connect the World

Today the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union Houlin Zhao opened the World Communication Development Conference (WTDC) with a critical message: Partnerships make things happen.

The Internet Society is at the WTDC this week, and our ask is clear. We’re urging the 100+ Ministers attending to implement policies on infrastructure and digital skills that enable connectivity for thousands of communities around the world.

But turning that ambition into action won’t happen if we do not work together.

Today we are pleased to announce that the Internet Society and Argentina’s National Communications Agency (ENACOM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate in supporting community networks in Argentina.

It’s an exciting moment for everyone who believes that the Internet brings limitless opportunities for good.

If you believe that closing the digital divide is critical, community networks are something everyone can support. These are networks built in communities, by communities, and through partnerships with a variety of stakeholders.  They are a compliment to traditional models for access and are something you can promote, donate to, or even build yourself.

The agreement stands as an excellent example to other governments on how working together can help bring connectivity to some of the world’s hardest to reach places.

If you would like to stand for a connected world, join us. It will take new thinking, new business models, and new partnerships

If we’re serious about bringing the Internet to the world — and we are — it’s going to take all of us.

Categories
Women in Tech

Solutions needed! It’s time to close the digital gender divide

If you could sneak peek a future in 10 years in which the Internet is everywhere, would it still be the same access for men and women, boys and girls?

The latest Internet Society report focused on the future of the Internet Society shows that new digital divides are emerging. One of them is a gender divide.  Today 250 million fewer women than men use the Internet. If we don’t act now to close this gap, we will lose out on a digital future that includes everyone.

Closing the digital divide and bridging the gender gap is a promise the world made to itself in 2015 when world leaders ratified the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

This week more than 100 Ministers and 1,500 delegates are attending the World Telecommunications Development Conference, a 10-day meeting dedicated finding new solutions on how Information and Communication Technologies can advance development.

We’re here to send a message that to shape a digital future that benefits all of humanity, we need new thinking, new approaches and new tools for this rapidly changing world around us.

We need your help.

If you’re at the World Telecommunications Development Conference register now for the side event dedicated to finding solutions to techs gender gap not through building relationships, sparking inspiration and offering concrete solutions for policy and decision makers.

If you’re not in Buenos Aires we still need to hear your ideas! Go on Twitter and tag @internetsociety with your ideas.

Don’t wait. The time to take action is now.  If we don’t, we risk loosing generations of women who can contribute to shaping the Internet’s future.

Photo: “Women of Takalafiya-Lapai village” © 2010 World Bank Photo Collection CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Categories
Community Networks Development Growing the Internet Public Policy

Every Connection Matters – Shape Tomorrow and Help Close Digital Divides

We are currently living a special moment in time, a sort of paradox.

Today, almost half of the world’s population already has Internet access. This figure is much higher than anything we could have anticipated 10 years ago, an achievement we should be happily celebrating.

But a recent report by the Internet Society, Paths To Our Digital Future, shows there are no guarantees when it comes to the Internet’s future.  To achieve a digital future where people come first will require new thinking, new approaches, and new tools for this rapidly changing world around us.

And with this we find ourselves facing an even greater challenge. This is no longer the Internet of 10% of the world’s population. It is the Internet of 50% of the people around the world; in some countries, Internet penetration is now close to 100%.

The Internet has become essential, and the opportunity gap between those who are connected and those who are not is growing each day. We cannot afford to remain indifferent to this Internet revolution.

If we don’t connect the remaining 50%, this gap could have long-term consequences for the opportunities that present themselves later in life.

After the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, discussions on the digital divide have become more concrete and have gained greater visibility. We are no longer talking just about connecting people, but about how we use the Internet and ICTs to achieve development goals in education, health care, employment, gender equality, and other areas.

If we do not make further progress in Internet development, we will not make progress in bringing benefits such as universal education and access to healthcare services. We will not make progress towards achieving the SDGs, which will affect the ability for people to improve their quality of life. In the end, it’s all about people and people should be at the heart of our work.

Next week, the Internet Society will be participating at the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC). Government, private sector, and civil society representatives from around the world will meet for this significant international conference organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is where critical work must happen. Policy and decision makers will meet from around the world to make decisions about the future of things like Internet access.

It is critical that the world send a clear message that we need a digital future where humanity is at the heart of the Internet. And for that to happen will require new thinking, new approaches, and new tools for this rapidly changing world around us.

An example of this can be seen in something known in the Internet world as “Community Networking.” Community Networks are typically built so some of the worlds hardest-to-reach places can connect. Many of them are, in a way, “homemade.” In fact, one of their most exciting commonalities is they can be built by anyone, regardless of technical background

Community Networks are a clear example of what we need more of. We need world leaders to stand behind them and support policies that can make them happen. Especially when we participate along with governments that can help scale activities and make changes to old policies – changes that innovate to enable infrastructure development.

Countries that don’t design and implement concrete strategies for Internet development and Internet-based development may not be able to fully achieve their sustainable development goals, seriously compromising their future.

This is a great opportunity for governments, an opportunity that should not be wasted. An opportunity for sharing experiences, for setting aggressive goals – the time for modest goals is long gone – and for making sure that legal, regulatory and political frameworks will be catalysts and enablers of development, not obstacles hindering its progress.

It’s time to move forward. Together we can tell policies and decision makers it’s time to #ShapeTomorrow and give the world the tools it needs to achieve the SDGs.

Let’s take action and connect the world.

Categories
Internet Governance

2014: A Year for the Asia Pacific’s Voice To Be Heard

2014 will be an important year for the Asia Pacific (APAC) countries, as the region’s increasing importance and voice in the global dialogue on ICT and Internet development will be felt. So it’s very timely that APAC countries will participate in two very important global International Telecommunication Union (ITU) meetings this year: the World Telecommunication Development Conference 2014 (WTDC-14) currently taking place in Dubai, and the upcoming ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2014 (PP-2014, in Busan, Korea at the end of October. Both of these meetings will set the tone and direction of future policies and programs, including incorporating the United Nations’ 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as well as WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) targets.

Creative Development Strategies and Ideas Needed!

Traditionally, the ITU D-Sector is a primary focus for most developing countries as it provides a forum for developing countries’ voices to be heard. Expectations therefore will be high this time for the WTDC-14 meeting in Dubai, following the last meeting in Hyderabad four years ago where important decisions and milestones were made about universal broadband development. For WTDC-14, the priorities have not changed but rather have expanded from WTDC-10, reflecting a growing appetite of the region for faster development and advancement, and for welcoming creative developmental strategies and ideas.

These topics need discussion today because of the extreme speed of connectivity. It took 125 years to connect the first 1 billion people using the fixed line telecommunications, and at significant cost; by contrast, wireless technology needed only nine years to connect to its first 1 billion and only two years for the next billion.

Keeping Pace or Leaping Forward?

The future cannot be any more promising but therein also lies the biggest challenge for many policy-makers here: to merely keep pace or leap forward? APAC is in the very cusp of a new golden age of growth through technology, and this future is in their hands. The promise of a new era also means the emergence of new social changes which will have far reaching implications than former technologies.

The Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) Secretariat and its 38 members in the APAC region have endorsed a common proposal for 2014, covering topics such as:

  • A long-term, sustainable development framework to address regional priorities in a holistic manner, including policies, governance, resources, technology, privacy, security and cyber law
  • Common views on threats, including cybersecurity issues such as DDoS attacks and surveillance, OTT-type services, digital divide, spectrum allocation, child safety and filtering
  • Common views on opportunities, including broadband access, public-private partnerships, content development, deployment and access, new technology and applications like Big Data and White Space

The Internet Society is committed to collaborating with partner organizations in every region of the world in order to increase access to the Internet and spur innovation, economic and social development. The Internet Society believes in a global, inclusive Internet that enables participation and innovation from all parts of the world. We look forward to participating in the WTDC to set priorities for the work of the Sector for the next four years.

Categories
Improving Technical Security Internet Governance Privacy

Partners in Fighting Spam

There’s no doubt about it, Spam is a global problem.  No matter if it’s an unwanted email, a virus, or a rather bizarre update about the latest pharmaceutical product – our junk mail folders are growing and our patience is shrinking.

Enough is enough. It’s time to work together to do something about spam.

But we can’t do it alone.

To fight spam on a large scale we are partnering with technical experts and extraordinary organizations around the world.

By working in partnership we can support local technical experts and policy and decision makers around the world to get the information they need to join in the global effort in the fight against spam.

Spam has become a challenge for developing counties; it infects networks, slows down traffic, and creates unwanted access costs.  It has prohibited some people from fully realizing the potential of the Internet.  The Internet Society is determined not to let Spam continue to be a barrier to free trade, educational opportunities, and access to information for developing countries.

What are we doing about Spam?

We are working with partners around the globe to attack the challenge together.

The Internet Society is pursuing opportunities to partner with organizations and experts on offering programs that focus on addressing the concerns of developing country policy-makers who are in need of solutions to help them address the growing problems they face with spam.

While the telecommunication industry and Internet communities have made great strides in creating best practices and developing technical tools to combat spam, there is a need to develop greater partnerships between industry and policy makers to address spam so that spam does not continue to be a barrier to free trade, limit opportunities, and restrict access to information, in particular for developing countries.

So how can you learn more or find training?

That is where partnerships come in and where we intend to work in an effort to collaborate on addressing the global spam problem by using innovative approaches contributed by experts to address the burden for developing countries, network operators, and end users that can minimize the harm.

It’s about leveraging each other’s strengths to achieve great success.

Lasting solutions that come from the ground up.

We believe the solutions to spam can be found in countries, neighborhoods, villages, and communities around the world.

It’s about the deep knowledge brought by local experts and then amplifying it with a global voice.

It’s this unique way of working – one that combines global reach, a foundation in technology, partnerships, multistakeholderism and involves action at every level from local to global – that helps us realize our ambition of a world where everyone can access and develop a connected, borderless, permission-less, limitless Internet that creates opportunity and progress for all.

Join Us In The Fight Against Spam!

We need you to partner with us in the fight against the proliferation of spam.

Here are ways you can get involved:

A truly open and connected world can only happen by working together.

Join our growing network and be part of the dialogue that is becoming the powerful force working to put an end to the problem of spam.

Categories
Growing the Internet Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

Building an Integrated African Internet Infrastructure by 2020

In early February, the Internet Society organized an important workshop on  “Best practices for setting up Regional Internet Exchange Points and Regional Internet Carriers” for the Southern African region in Gaborone, Botswana.  This workshop is part of the African Union’s African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) project that the Internet Society has been implementing since 2012. As part of this project, the Internet Society has organized Internet Exchange Point (IXP) Best Practice workshops in 21 African countries and Technical IXP training workshops in 15 African countries. Under the second AXIS contract, the Internet Society will conduct capacity building workshops focused on best practices and benefits of setting up Regional Internet Exchange Points and Regional Internet Carriers.

The Internet Society will partner with AFRINIC and other organizations in Africa and around the world to conduct workshops in each of the five AUC geographical regions over the next 18 months. All of this work has contributed to building sustainable communities of practice on the African continent, which will have a major impact on the Internet infrastructure and interconnection landscape.

We understand that deploying IXPs is not enough – we must empower people across the continent  – from peering coordinators and IXP operators and managers – to African, regulators and policy-makers.  To help do  this, we created the African Peering and Interconnection Forums (AfPIF).  This is an annual event that seeks to address key interconnection, peering, and traffic exchange challenges on the continent and provides participants with global and regional insights for maximizing opportunities that will help grow Internet infrastructure and services in Africa. As a multi-stakeholder forum, AfPIF events inspire practical discussions and ideas on how to implement a more efficient and cost effective local, regional, and international interconnection and peering strategies. The next AfPIF 2014 will be in August in Senegal. 

Our work in Africa is an integral part of our Interconnection and Traffic Exchange Programme aims to insure that “local traffic is exchanged locally”, and in turn is expected to lower Internet access costs and improve access.  

All of these activities are part of the Internet Society’s African Bureaus’ efforts to contribute to integrated African Internet infrastructure deployment by 2020.  Our vision is that the Internet is for Everyone and is a tool to improve economic and social standards and standing for all.  We believe these efforts will go a long way in providing Africa with an Internet infrastructure on par with the rest of the world and contribute greatly to Africa’s socio-economic development.

Categories
Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) Improving Technical Security Open Internet Standards Technology

Creating a Secure and Resilient Internet: Community Collaboration Required

“The Internet is open, interconnected and interdependent. It’s an ecosystem based on collaboration and shared responsibility.”

These are the opening remarks of our new infographic called “Collaboration for a resilient and secure Internet.” In it, we’ve tried to convey the idea that when it comes to Internet security and resilience, the traditional approach of just protecting our own assets is not good enough – the Internet demands a sense of collective stewardship and shared responsibility to be truly secure and truly resilient to attack.

When performing a risk assessment, do you also look at risks your network presents to the Internet ecosystem – so-called “outward” risks? How much do you care if your network passes traffic with spoofed IP addresses? How many of your DNS resolvers, NTP and SNMP servers are ready to answer queries from anyone in the world? Do you scrutinize routing announcements you are getting from your customers and peers?

There are several technologies and best practices available to mitigate these risks. Implementing them has costs, but through collective action we are creating a safer global network – a benefit that is hard to overestimate.

Please check out the infographic below and let us know what you think. What else can we do to encourage *every* network operator to deploy these technologies and best practices and help keep the Internet secure?

Categories
Development Growing the Internet Internet Governance

Broadband for Development

We live in a fast-paced world led by ICT innovation. As many know, we have been experiencing an exponential growth in data traffic, mobile communications, cloud computing, social networking, and ICT applications for a smarter world. This growth is powered by affordable and ubiquitous broadband, innovation, and strong human capacity. Now access to high-speed networks becomes ever-so-more important, particularly in light of the emergence of big data and as new infrastructure is built, necessary for accelerating transition from an information to knowledge society.    

Not everyone has access to infrastructure, however, or to the power of communications. This is the reason the Internet Society has made development a core priority – we are dedicated to it.  We have been building capacity around the world in Internet communities of interest for more than 22 years. This priority remains strong, and is demonstrable, for example, through the regional work we have been doing to facilitate the growth of IXPs, DNS and spam workshops, and wireless Internet projects with regional and local partners.

This dedication – the great work our teams and partners do around the world to train, develop, and assist in technical and governance infrastructure – is also why we believe strongly in working more closely with the ITU’s Development Sector, known as ITU-D. We participated today in a strategic dialogue to set the stage for the ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference that will take place over the next two weeks in Dubai. This dialogue highlighted the need for diverse forms of broadband infrastructure, issues related to user needs, and the importance of removing barriers to connectivity. One of the key issues that we highlighted is the importance of removing the barriers to investment, infrastructure development, and more transparency with respect to regulatory and policy issues.

We are looking forward to the conference this week here in Dubai, listening to the needs of colleagues around the world and matching that up with where we can continue to partner and build infrastructure, human capacity, and access to that infrastructure which empowers users and allows  more innovation, more business operators, and better access for all.  

 

 

Categories
Community Projects Development Growing the Internet

Local Solutions With Global Impact in the Middle East

With six Chapters and over 2 759 Members, the Internet Society’s local presence has long been active in the Middle East.

With this growing energy and support from these extraordinary people, it’s clear the 2014 must be the year to further our commitment to an open, robust, global, and accessible Internet in the Middle East.

It’s this unique way of working – one that combines global reach, a foundation in technology, and involves action at every level from local to global – that helps us realize our ambition of a world where everyone can access and develop a connected, borderless, permission-less, limitless Internet that creates opportunity and progress for all.

Our current focus for our efforts in the Middle East is on three areas:

  • Working with local governments and decision makers on core Internet issues and to support multistakeholder IG processes at the local and regional level;
  • Accelerating the deployment of key Internet technologies and;
  • Advancing solutions that enhance Internet infrastructure and data security while working to preserve an open, global Internet.

Here’s some concrete ways of how we’re turning strategy into reality:

Focusing On Local Solutions with Global Impact

Our Chapters in the region are doing fantastic work.

Here are some examples:

The Internet Society Lebanon Chapter’s Strategic Plan 2013-2015 defines many excellent activities.  In working with University clubs, they seek to bring together and listen to students who share an interest and belief in the Internet Society’s principles and mission and who are committed to furthering ISOC Lebanon (ISOC-Lebanon) goals and objectives within their University.

The Internet Society Yemen Chapter (ISOC-Yemen) held its official launch event at the end of 2013.

Its objectives include:

  • Improving and expanding the use of the Internet in Yemen;
  • Tackling many policy, technology and infrastructure aspects that could help make the Internet more widely used across the country; and,
  • Represent Yemen in global initiatives related to the Internet.

As of October 2013, the Chapter had more than 100 members from various provinces in Yemen and from abroad.

Since its inception in 2001, the Internet Society Bahrain Chapter (ISOC-Bahrain) has focused on spreading awareness on the benefits of Internet and ICT and working towards an efficient e-Bahrain, as well as on promoting and developing the use of internet culture for the benefit of the community in The Kingdom of Bahrain.

Access and Affordability

Working with business and industry to create an Internet that people can afford is a core focus of our work. A core part of this will be to broaden our Internet Connection and Traffic Exchange Opportunities (ITE) throughout the region.

Holding Local Events

Last month, we were in Dubai, where we co-organized The Middle East DNS Forum with ICANN, hosted by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Attended by more than 100 participations from across the region, including governments, country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) registries, local registrars, small businesses, universities, and local media. Attendees engaged actively in discussions and interactive sessions and feedback was positive, with many wanting to host future DNS forums in their respective countries.

We hold meetings like this to help build human capacity, and to build and strengthen local infrastructure.

Commitment, passion, and hope are all an essential part of protecting the open Internet.

If you’re in the Middle East and would like to take part, we welcome your energy and your drive.

You can become a member of the Internet Society on our website.  It only takes 5 minutes and it’s free.

Here’s how you can contact any of the Internet Society’s Chapters in the Middle East:

Categories
Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Internet Governance

Partnerships Develop the Internet

We’re fighting for a world where everyone can access and develop a connected, borderless, permission-less, limitless Internet that creates opportunity and progress for all.

But we can’t get there alone.

A connected world is only built through collaboration with a wide range of extraordinary partners.  That’s why we’re working together with businesses, governments, local communities, and individual donors to drive change at the scale needed.

Over the past two decades of our work, we’ve found that everywhere the Internet has flourished, it has done so thanks to the existence of skilled and passionate people who work to build and ensure the network keeps running and information is created and shared.

It’s really all about people.

People work with other experts to learn more, understand network architecture and traffic management, who have created local, regional, and international partnerships for development.  They’re creating the tools, forums and services that create local demand.

Partnerships That Work

Connecting the world is at the core of the Internet Society’s mission. In emerging economies connections are built and last through local solutions amplified by global reach.

To see this in action look no further than Internet exchange points (or IXPs for short).

From our experience, we know that IXPs are at the center of a more robust community of people that help make the Internet work and are a key part in driving local content. 

IXPs, at the most basic level, are switches, routers, ports, cables, and servers that allow local IP-based network providers (e.g., Internet service providers, national research and engineering networks, government networks, and mobile networks) to interconnect with each other and exchange traffic.

In other words, network providers in a single country can share data traffic directly, instead of having to connect through an exchange point in a foreign country.

In theory at least, this means that any country that establishes an IXP, or improves the IXPs it has in place, will have faster and lower-cost Internet service.

In short, IXPs keep local traffic local.

The great thing about IXPs is that all this can start from a pretty modest technical base.

IXPs don’t have to be elaborate when they get going.

The London Internet Exchange, to take one example, began in 1994 with a single donated piece of networking equipment and five local Internet Services Providers as members. Today, London has over 400 members and is one of the biggest IXPs in the world.  LINX started with people working together to build something.  Technology does not walk by itself and success relies on those partnerships that pull communities together.

The Internet Society and other organizations around the world (the African Union, APIX, Af-IX, Euro-IX, LAC-IX, LACNIC, Packet Clearing House) can help countries obtain equipment and provide training.

The really important part is what comes next.

On occasion, and despite all best intentions, implementing an IXP can stall.

Why?

Sometimes the people do not come together or they do not have enough technical bandwidth or participants may not be fully invested in developing the IXP

When things like this happen, it’s a reminder that the technical infrastructure—routers and switches—is only a part of Smart Internet Development, and not the most important. It cannot stand on its own.

Small-Scale Efforts Can Yield Massive Dividends

Partnerships do stand on their own and we blogged about a collaborative partnership in Ecuador in October 2013.

LACNIC, Cisco, and the Internet Society worked with Aeprovi, the ISP association in Ecuador, to support IXPs in Quito and Guayaquil.  Before the IXPs in these two cities were developed, Ecuador’s connectivity was impacted by expensive international traffic costs.  Local Internet traffic was not exchanged locally.  IXPs in Quito and Guayaquil were built out in 2001, and interconnected in 2007 and local traffic began to be exchanged locally. LACNIC and ISOC partnered to provide IPv6 and BGP routing trainings.

The results have been a stronger more technically capable community of experts, managing better networks, and reduced local connectivity costs due to local traffic being exchanged in country.

And, recently, with the African Union, AfricNIC, ISOC, and the local Internet Community, an IXP went “live” in Namibia.  Experts spent time in Best Practices workshops understanding the benefits of bringing this architecture to the country. They spent time in Technical Assistance workshops and learned more about sustaining the IXP, peering, and better traffic management.  The community pulled together.

If there is one shared theme across all the components of Internet Development – physical, human and governance infrastructures – it’s that small-scale efforts can yield massive dividends. We have seen the impact an IXP can make on a local community:  faster traffic delivery, better quality of service, lower costs, and greater uptake by users of services. Smart Development is as much about developing and cultivating the resources already at hand as it is about creating new ones.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, no one person, organization, or business, does it alone.

Partnerships create those critical human networks that sustain communities, bring in new technology, and keep building out and improving networks one partnership at a time.