African Union Project Helps Set Up IXPs in Six African countries

Six African countries have set up Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), after two years of the Arfican Union’s African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) project, managed by the Internet Society.

Under the project, the Internet Society was to provide technical training to AU member countries. The initial engagement involved building a local stakeholder driven process to start the dialogue for countries without IXPs with an end goal of establishing a national IXP based on global best practices. The second part involved  initiating a regional process to support the growth of existing national IXPs and ISPs to become Regional IXPs (RIXPs) and Regional Internet carriers (RICs) respectively. Technical training was held in 28 countries, attracting more than 500 participants.

“This is the first major initiative in Africa that has utilised the multi-stakeholder approach towards the implementation of IXPs. Governments have played a facilitative role towards the establishment of IXPs in five countries launched in 2014 and are actively involved in the 3 preparing to be launched in 2015. As a result, there has been more IXPs launched in the last 12 months than in the 5 years before,” said Michuki Mwangi, Internet Society’s Senior Development Manager for Africa.

The new IXPs are in Namibia, Burundi, Swaziland, Gambia, Gabon and Seychelles  . Africa currently has 33 IXPs and according to Packet Clearing House (PCH), Africa’s domestic bandwidth production grew by 145 percent, from 113Gigabits in April last year to 277 Gigabits in April this year.

The engagement in countries involved bringing together government representatives, ISPs, content, research and education network operators, amongst others likely to be peering at the exchange. The countries also received, technical trainings that involved assessment of technical preparedness for networks expected to participate, discussion on benefits of setting up an IXP and benefits of getting Internet resources IP addresses and Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) from AFRINIC.

“The five workshops at the regional level achieved their goal, which was to enhance interconnectivity within the region, encourage local content development and data localization by promoting investments in data hosting infrastructures and data centers as well as through cost-saving peering and content distribution mechanisms,” said the final report forwarded to the AU.

In terms of availability of technical experts in the area of IXPs, Africa is still considered lower than other regions, which means AXIS training has produced a high number of experts.

“The number of people trained and countries covered in the project was more than in the entire history of Africa and IXPs,” said Michuki Mwangi “Through the project we have developed a pool of subject matter experts in the African region. In addition, the process has enabled us to attach regional and international experts, to continue supporting the respective countries through their efforts to establish the IXP.”

 

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Google supports Africa interconnection efforts

Google has partnered with the Internet Society to develop and improve Internet Exchange Point (IXP) activities in emerging markets.

Google, through its philanthropic arm- Google.org – has provided a grant that is expected to amplify ISOC’sprevious efforts in emerging markets such as Africa and establish a methodology to assess IXPs, train people to operate the IXPs, as well as build a more robust local Internet infrastructure.

“With this support to extend IXP development and improve projects, the internet society can bring core Internet infrastructure to underserved countries and assist in building key human and governance capabilities; this will also help the Internet Society achieve its mission to ensure the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of people everywhere,” said Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO of the Internet Society.

In the last few year, Google has been active in Africa, helping in setting up content generation projects, Internet connectivity and set up of Google cache server at ISPs in Africa. Google has also been supporting the Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum, an annul meeting of ISPs, network, content providers and governments interested in lowering connectivity costs in Africa and removing interconnection barriers between countries. The forum is organized by ISOC. 

“The Internet Society has proved to be one of the most effective institutions in the Internet community. I am confident that they will apply their grant wisely to extend their work to increase Internet access for everyone, including those in emerging markets,” said Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.

IXPs allow ISPs and other network operators to exchange traffic locally at cost effective rates. This helps lower end-user costs, speed-up transmissions, increase Internet performance, and decrease international Internet connectivity costs.  Google.org, is a team within Google inc focused on social impact, develops and supports technology solutions that can address global challenges, such as expanding Internet access to the seven billion people in the world.

The Internet Society is already working on another project with the African Union, to establish IXPs where none exist.

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