AfPIF 2014 Day 2 Summary

August 27, 2014

Addressing Content Generation, Hosting, and Policies        

After eight years of investing heavily in telecommunication infrastructure, African operators are ready to move to the next level of generating and hosting content locally.

Day two at AfPIF was dedicated to content discussions; ways Africa can grow its content hosting business, cross border interconnections, regulatory challenges and good practices from other regions like the EU, where cross border connectivity and data hosting is seamless.

Day 2 started with opening remarks by Sofie Maddens, Senior Director of Global Services at the Internet Society. In her speech, Maddens underscored the role of the Internet Society, which operates at the intersection of policy, technology, and development. She noted that for more than 20 years, the global teams, working with partners around the world, have been focused on engaging with communities of practice, sharing technical expertise and knowledge, and exchanging information to extend an open, interoperable, ubiquitous and accessible Internet for people throughout the world.

While emphasizing the role of a reliable and sustainable Internet in economic development, Maddens noted that Internet development is fundamentally about people and the Internet Society works for the community, with the community and in the community.

She highlighted the Internet Society’s Interconnection and Traffic Exchange program, where the Internet Society has worked with many partners to change the Interconnection and Traffic exchange landscape in Africa and in other countries. And, she mentioned that the Internet Society is implementing the African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) project for the African Union with Best Practice workshops already held in 29 countries around Africa, and technical workshops in close to 30 countries.

Maddens highlighted the fact that the investments in infrastructure have led to significant content growth in the region, but that delivery of that content is still held back by lack of interconnection and by the lack of local hosting facilities. From Nollywood content production in Nigeria, to on-line content production and E-Government services, Maddens noted that Africa is producing its own content and enhancing the relevance for its users.

Present at the opening ceremony were Abdul Karim Sall, the Director General of ARTP- the Posts and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority in Senegal and Malick Ndiaye the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of posts and telecommunications in Senegal.

In his speech, Sall noted that the regulator had made strides towards ensuring that all major players in the Senegalese ICT sector are ready to work together to deliver the first IXP in the country.

He noted that Senegal was committed to innovation and development of applications that increase the level of content and added value that will make the country more attractive to investors.

Ndiaye, who is a founding member of ISOC Senegal in 1999, said the country has benefited from the AXIS project; helping stakeholders develop an IXP policy and they are now about to kick off the operational phase.

In stimulating the growth of Internet infrastructure, Ndiaye said the government will strengthen its Public Private Partnerships, starting with the development of a digital city, few kilometers outside Dakar.

In addressing the problems of hosting, Mathieu Paonessa from Jaguar Networks gave his keynote speech on the future of content hosting in Africa. He went through some sites — news sites, blogs, movie and music — that have content being accessed in Africa but are hosted abroad.

He noted that the increased infrastructure had led to low connectivity costs but regulatory challenges were still hampering cross-border connectivity. He gave an example of Kinshasa and Brazzaville, the closest capital cities in the world, separated by a river, yet they have been unable to find ways to efficiently exchange content and share infrastructure. He compared the case to Europe, where an operator just needs one license and can operate across borders without setting up local companies as required in many African countries.

The upshot of the keynote was that if Africa is to develop its hosting business, the policy and regulatory issues have to be addressed at the same speed that the infrastructure investments are made.

The afternoon panel addressed issues of content policies and how to get more peers at the IXP, which will eventually make the IXP more attractive. The highlight of the panel was the presentation by Thomas Volmer, from Google, who talked about factors that Google considers before setting up infrastructure in a country. From the analysis, the Global Cache is the easiest infrastructure Africa can get from Google.

What are some of the questions that Google asks before deploying cache?

  1. Does your country have a functioning IXP?
  2. Can you provide them with 6U rack space?
  3. Do you have Internet BW to the GGC?
  4. Do you have a sponsoring network or cost sharing agreement between IXP members?

The last session of the day was the peering bilaterals – meet ups arranged individually or through the AfPIF meeting-maker tool.