AfPIF 2014 Day 3 Summary

Africa’s Future is Bright!

Africa’s peering future looks bright. That was the resounding feeling for the 175 participants who have been exploring ways to interconnect and exchange content better.

The third day was dedicated to the future of Africa peering, with speakers exploring the history of peering and wondering whether we can predict the future, panel on opportunities to grow national and cross border peering and internet traffic measurement that can help make the IXP more attractive.

Bill Norton, commonly known as “Dr. Peering” gave the keynote speech on future of peering. He traced the history of peering from the days the government was involved in Internet Infrastructure investments to the transition private sector involvement.

He also noted the critical role that content such as video plays, adding that increasing content brings in more players to the IXPs. To encourage growth, Dr. Peering said the IXP operator should know all the peers and bring them together to exchange content more easily.

Dr. Peering is the author of the Peering Playbook and it has been translated into French by Irina Trentea from LyonIX with support from the Internet Society. The book addresses the issue of language barrier, which has been identified in the past as a stumbling block for peering agreements.

The “IXP futures” panel addressed some of the strategies that Africa can adopt to guarantee growth. First, it was stressed that the absence of infrastructure shouldn’t deter a country from investing in an IXP. Wouter Van Hulten from Interxion gave an example of how when the company started in 1998, they were on a side of town that had no fiber connectivity. The only fiber provider encouraged them to give up and they didn’t. Today, that side of the business has 15,000 data centers operated by different people.

While panelists discussed ways an IXP can reduce costs by attracting CDNs and other large players, the role of the regulator as a catalyst for business growth and there were suggestions that the name should change from regulator to “Business Development Agencies” to spur Internet business growth in their respective countries.

The afternoon panel session was on measurement tools that an IXP can put in place to gather the right data and help members make decisions on security, understand ways to bring content as close to the people as possible.

The highlight was the more than 20 RIPE-ATLAS probes that were distributed to participants who were sure they will make them available online. The project is in conjunction with AFRINIC and the Internet Society and is calculated to provide as much data as possible to measure Internet connectivity and reachability in real time.

One of the new features this year is a lightning session; where participants who didn’t get a chance to make a presentation can spend ten minutes talking about their project.

The session had talks ranging from the IXP toolkit that is seeking to expand IXP activities to more emerging markets, IPv6 webinars, experiences of setting up an IXP from Burundi to the process and lessons Kenya learnt when it had to relocate the IXP to a carrier neutral datacenter.

The main lesson was from Burundi IX, the community in Burundi spent 18 months to set up an IXP. Most of the time was spent navigating administrative red tape. The technical set up took only a week.

The closing ceremony was the last session of the day, with remarks from Dawit Bekele and Malick Ndiaye the Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in Senegal. They were grateful to the participants who attended the meeting, even as the world feared travel to West Africa because of Ebola outbreak fears. There have been no Ebola incidences reported in Senegal.

This year the meeting attracted 175 participants, 1,032 unique online views from 62 countries and 13 sponsors. Over 55% of the participants registered on the meeting tool were active with over 23 % having more than one meeting. A total of 35 meetings were confirmed for the peering bilateral sessions.

Next year will even be better, because the future is bright!