Tuesday, June 27, 2006


By Rebecca
When the idea of establishing a Regional Internet Registry (RIR), was floated in 1998, pessimists dismissed the idea arguing that Africa is incapable of sustaining the registry while others said that we need to take part in the digital race.

A year after AfriNIC was given full recognition and backing by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization has made major strides towards allocating Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and training.

“We have conducted training in Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria and Kenya. We are hoping to harness the human recourse so that we can have people to offer these services as new technology emerges,” said Adiel Akplogan, AfriNIC chief executive.

AfriNIC was recognized last April at a meeting held in Argentina. Previously, African Internet Service Providers (ISPs) had to work with other RIR in Europe and North America.

But Akplogan admits that technology consumption still poses a major challenge and is not as rosy as it may suggest. For instance out of 15 million IP address, Africa has only used up 6 per cent.

“I believe there is still lack of aware on the availability of such services. Some network operators in the region do not know they can come to AfriNIC and get the allocations,” said Akplogan.

While the slow uptake of uptake of IP address has been blamed on the lack of awareness, it is also argued that the prices charged are still high for a market that is still struggling with issues of accessibility.

Pierre Ouedraogo, from Burkina Faso says that the prices have been reduced to fit the African market given that before AfriNIC prices were dictated by other regions depending on the area of allocation.

“In 1997, I got the first IP address block from Europe; Burkina Faso has not exhausted these numbers. All Africans should believe in our movement, telecommunication agencies, governments and technology experts should engage in outreach activities to ensure as many people as possible are aware of the services,” Ouedraogo said.

There is debate whether Africa should proceed with allocation of IP version 6 or first exhaust the available version 4.

However, Akplogan and Ouedraogo feel that if a country has the ability to roll out IPv6, then it should not be restricted. They contend that it is easier to adapt to the new strategy since some had not even taken up the IPv4.

IPv4 has been in use since internet was discovered and there has been a push for a newer version that would adopt more features. IPv6 has improved functions, compared to version 4.

“It’s the future of the networks, have to follow technology evolution, what people are doing now, there is no need to wait” said Akplogan.

Akplogan admits that after the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) and the ensuing debate on Internet Governance AfriNIC has been forced to be focal point on such issues in the region.

“We need more resources to deal with different issues without neglecting our core business which is allocation of IP addresses,” Akplogan added.