By Rebecca Wanjiku
African Internet Service Providers, content distribution networks, infrastructure providers, government network managers and regulators are meeting in Dakar, Senegal, to explore ways to interconnect and share content within the region.
Africa has invested in infrastructure over the last eight years but most of the content accessed locally is hosted abroad. The Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) is an initiative by the Internet Society, which seeks to foster interconnection and sharing of content to further reduce the connectivity costs.
“In 2011 an OECD report highlighted that over 99.5 percent of interconnections are formed using “hand-shake” agreements at peering events; AfPIF is one such key event, created to foster a community of practice on issues related to peering and interconnection,” said Sofie Maddens, Senior Director of Global Services at the Internet Society.
Mathieu Paonessa from Jaguar Networks gave the keynote speech on the future of content hosting in Africa. He compared some of the policy and cross border issues in Africa with places like Europe where operations within the region are seamless.
“One of the major obstacles of hosting is the requirements by governments that investors must set up companies in each country they want to offer services; the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville have been unable to cross connect and share infrastructure, yet the capital cities are separated by a river,” said Paonessa.
Policy issues are hampered by slow pace of amendments to existing laws and the fact that some countries ICT sectors have developed at a faster rate than others. For instance, Nigeria’s “Nollywood” is the third largest film producer globally, after the US and India. Most of the infrastructure available in the continent can not meet the demands of the online users meaning most of the content is hosted abroad.
“Local content is essential to local industry and jobs, and ultimately boosts the resiliency of the economy; the topics discussed at AfPIF are critical to creating an environment that supports the ongoing development of the Internet in the region,” added Maddens.
During the meetings, networks are encouraged to approach each other and set up meetings to explore ways to share content locally. The meeting has been considered a success over the years.
“During last year’s AfPIF meeting, we met with the team from Liquid Telecom and explained the challenges the gaming community had in Uganda; they agreed to host our servers and now the community has grown and set up other businesses related to gaming,” said Kyle Spencer, the Director of Uganda Internet Exchange and one of the founders of gamersnights.com.
With the support from Liquid Telecom, the multi-player gaming community was able to attract players from Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa, among other countries. The reduced latencies have encouraged players to explore ways to improve and tweak the games to suit their local settings.
In the next two days, discussions will delve into details of how to set up bilateral agreements, how to attract more networks to the Internet Exchange Point and how to measure and analyze traffic coming from the region.