By Nico TSHINTU BAKAJIKA
The first two times the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) tried to set up an Internet Exchange Point (IXP), it failed to take off as expected, but the third time worked like a charm.
The first attempt was in 2003, second one in 2012 and the third in 2016.
By the time the Internet community came together in 2016 and vowed to revive the IXP, they had held meetings to understand the value of an IXP to the ecosystem, attended training and had better understanding of BGP, cybersecurity, and best practices in IXP operations and management.
After the relaunch, KINIX was forced into crisis mode because of fire that razed down the premises, forcing the IXP to shut down for a month in November 2017. The IXP was also forced to move buildings within a month, to facilitate renovations.
During the two incidents, the community rallied together and raised the resources required to keep the IXP online. The DRC has recently hit a peak capacity of 14Gbps and has a thriving technical community, all attributed to local community solidarity and participation in offline and online technical meetings in Africa.
The Internet Society and the African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) have been at the forefront of these trainings. 2014 was the first time I had the chance to attend AfPIF, which was then held in Dakar, Senegal. I was motivated by the desire to acquire more knowledge on peering, to strengthen my skills and contribute effectively to the development process of network interconnection in the DRC. Given that AfPIF is the premier meeting on Africa Interconnection, I also wanted to understand how an IXP can interact with the local ecosystem actors and develop a vibrant IXP.
Currently, I manage the RDC-IX project initiated by ISPA-DRC (Service Provider Association -DRC), aiming to build three exchange points of which two are currently operational, KINIX in Kinshasa and LUBIX in Lubumbashi.
Once in Dakar, I was very satisfied with the quality of the organization, the presentations and the expertise of many participants at AfPIF. The forum offered me the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with the high-level experts from the global Internet ecosystem. From this experience, I became a regular at AfPIF attending all the meetings that have taken place to date.
The lessons learned from my participation in the various editions of AfPIF have considerably contributed to the strengthening of my skills to deal with various issues that arise in the management of IXPs while guaranteeing its neutrality in its operation. The implementation of strategies learnt during AfPIF bilateral and peering introduction sessions has contributed to the growth of traffic in DRC.
Some of the ideas and strategies learnt relate to; how can an IXP self-finance its operation, the use of technical management tools to grow and provide value, and opening of the IXP to other non-traditional actors such as content and Internet service providers.
Before my participation at AfPIF, KINIX had only 3 operators connected and traffic was estimated at less than 1Mbps. Its operation was fully supported by ISPA-DRC. With these realities, the future of KINIX was bleak.
Sharing acquired knowledge with the members of ISPA-DRC and the other major actors of the local and national Internet ecosystem, contributed considerably to the existence of a dynamic community. The interaction between the IXPs of the RDC-IX project and the other actors in the local Internet ecosystem led to the establishment of LUBIX.
These are some of the achievements:
- The connection of CDNs (Google, Facebook and PCH) to KINIX thus making KINIX attractive;
- The connection of 6 new ISPs to KINIX;
- The increase in KINIX traffic volume, currently peaking at more than 14 Gbps;
- The maturation of KINIX through the self-financing of its operation;
- Four potential content providers are in the process of acquiring Internet resources (ASN and IP), 2 of which are already connected to KINIX;
- The LUBIX establishment, second phase of the RDC-IX project, with less difficulties than those encountered during the realization of KINIX;
Attending AfPIF provides value beyond the individual participant, I am glad that I got a chance to learn and share the knowledge with our local community, leading to growth.