Bevil Wooding

Building the Caribbean Internet Economy

By Gerard Best

Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist, Packet Clearing House, delivers a presentation on developing the Caribbean Internet economy at Internet Week Sint Maarten, held at Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten on October 27, 2016. PHOTO: LACNIC
Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist, Packet Clearing House, delivers a presentation on developing the Caribbean Internet economy at Internet Week Sint Maarten, held at Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten on October 27, 2016. PHOTO: LACNIC

PHILIPSBURG, St Maarten—In the Caribbean, change is in the air. In fact, it’s in the cloud.

There’s a new conversation among the community of technology experts who spearhead Caribbean Internet development, and the buzz is no longer just about physical infrastructure. The architects of the region’s digital future are actively taking steps to strengthen the region’s economy by developing the Caribbean cloud.

“We have to look beyond basic infrastructure deployment, to developing the local content, services and business models that can truly benefit the region,” said Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist with US-based non-profit Packet Clearing House (PCH).

“Twelve Internet exchange points are already established in the Caribbean, and several others are being considered. While we continue to push for strengthening of critical Internet infrastructure in the region, our focus must also expand to development of the Caribbean Internet-based economy. We need to build out the Caribbean cloud,” he said.

Internet exchange points, or IXPs, are pieces of critical infrastructure that provide points of physical interconnection between the networks that make up the global Internet. PCH has played an active role in setting up more than two-thirds of the world’s IXPs and almost all of the exchange points in the Caribbean. The non-profit firm has worked closely with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, an inter-governmental CARICOM organisation that focuses on regional technology policy. Together, they have actively supported the proliferation of Internet exchanges in the Caribbean.

While establishing physical exchange points is necessary, it is not sufficient to advance the regional Internet economy, Wooding said. Another crucial step is needed.

“Getting the exchange points up and running is a start. But there has to be a shift in the conversation, from local traffic exchange to local content production, local application development and local innovation. What we want to see is not just more people on the Internet but more people actually taking advantage of the social and economic opportunities the Internet offers,” Wooding said.

“The private sector, academia and governments all have to work in sync to create opportunities for digital innovators and entrepreneurs to take advantage of the Internet and build on the local IXPs that now exist. We have to actively build the Caribbean cloud.”

Wooding was speaking as part of a panel discussion on developing the Caribbean Internet economy, held on the first day of Sint Maarten on the Move, a regional technology development conference jointly hosted by the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry and the Internet Society (ISOC) in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten from October 27 to 28.

He co-presented with Eldert Louisa, chairman of the Open Caribbean Internet Exchange and Chief Technical Officer of Sint Maarten telecom operator TelEm Group. Karen Rose, Senior Director of Strategy and Analysis at ISOC, moderated the panel.

Sint Maarten on the Move was part of Internet Week Sint Maarten, a five-day conference coordinated by the St Maarten telecommunications regulator, BTP, and focused on developing the Caribbean Internet.

The week started with the twelfth regional meeting of the Caribbean Network Operators Group, which was jointly held with the LAC-I-Roadshow of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, from October 24 to 26. A broad range of technical, social and policy issues related to Caribbean technology development were covered in the three-day event, held with the support of the CTU, the American Registry of Internet Numbers and ArkiTechs.

Caribbean Faces Serious Cyber Security Threats

By Gerard Best

Carlos Martinez, Chief Technology Officer, Latin America and the Caribbean Internet Addresses delivers a presentation on regional cyber security at Internet Week Sint Maarten, Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, October 24, 2016. Looking on is Mark Kosters, Chief Technology Officer, American Registry of Internet Numbers. PHOTO: LACNIC
Carlos Martinez, Chief Technology Officer, Latin America and the Caribbean Internet Addresses delivers a presentation on regional cyber security at Internet Week Sint Maarten, Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, October 24, 2016. Looking on is Mark Kosters, Chief Technology Officer, American Registry of Internet Numbers. PHOTO: LACNIC

PHILIPSBURG, St Maarten—Keep it secret. And make sure it’s safe.

Don’t use your real name, your birth date, or any single word. Instead, try a short phrase that includes some numerals and even some punctuation.

Devising secure passwords for your online accounts and your family’s Internet-connected devices is simple enough, if you follow a few easy guidelines like these. But most people just don’t.

And a major attack on a little-known company underscores how much of the security of the global Internet now depends on that unwitting majority of ordinary Internet users. On October 21, a distributed denial of service, or DDoS attack, brought down a relatively obscure US-based firm called Dyn. Those attacks are fairly common, and they use huge networks of malicious software called botnets to bring down a specific service.

What made the DDoS attack on Dyn more troubling was that it set a dangerous precedent. Dyn provides domain name system or DNS services, which support part of the critical infrastructure underlying the global Internet. By targeting companies that make up the backbone of the Internet, hackers can bring down all kinds of other services.

Also disturbing is the fact that the hackers used networks of common smart devices like watches, TVs and refrigerators, to cause the major disruption. Analysts have linked the attack to the Mirai malware, which uses the Internet of Things, or IoT, as botnets. The Mirai source code was released on hacking websites in October.

Analysts are also linking the Dyn attack to others that took place within a five-week span, each larger than the previous, and all using Mirai. On September 20, a 660 Gbps attack was launched on the KrebsOnSecurity blog. A 1 Tbps attack was also launched on French hosting provider OVH on the same day.

“In the last two years, we’ve had multiple attacks, and the most recent attacks are using IoT devices,” said Mark Kosters, Chief Technology Officer of the American Registry of Internet Numbers, the organisation that provides number resource allocation and registration services for North America and parts of the Caribbean.

He explained that smart devices present an easy target for hackers to turn into botnets because users typically fail to secure them properly.

“A lot of the devices are vulnerable. It means that more and more homes are very quietly becoming potential sites of DDOS attacks,” he said.

“Now, we all have to make sure that all of those devices that we have around the house are secure.”

As smart devices proliferate, it will become easier for hackers to launch significant cyber attacks using unsecured IoT devices, unless ordinary end-users become more security-conscious. When it comes to cyber security, it turns out personal choices can have global consequences. And for the foreseeable future, it is the network of human beings who will have to keep the Internet of Things safe.

The ARIN CTO was speaking on the second day of a technology conference jointly held by the Caribbean Network Operators Group and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten from October 24 to 26.

He co-presented with Carlos Martinez, Chief Technology Officer of the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC), ARIN’s counterpart in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

Also presenting on the technical, social and policy aspects of cyber security issues facing the Caribbean region were CaribNOG co-founder Bevil Wooding, an Internet Strategist with Packet Clearing House; Albert Daniels, ICANN Senior Manager for Stakeholder Engagement in the Caribbean; and Shernon Osepa, Regional Affairs Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society (ISOC).

Supported by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, Packet Clearing House and ArkiTechs, the event was part of Internet Week Sint Maarten, a five-day conference coordinated by the St Maarten telecommunications regulator, BTP and focused on developing the Caribbean Internet. The week ended with Sint Maarten on the Move, a two-day event jointly hosted by LACNIC and ISOC.

 

Raising the Guardians of the Caribbean Internet

CaribNOG 12 off to a successful start in St Maarten

 CAPTION: Bevil Wooding, co-founder of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) delivers opening remarks at the organisation's twelfth regional meeting, at Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, October 24, 2016. Looking on, from left, are Shernon Osepa, Internet Society; Albert Daniels, ICANN; and Kevon Swift, LACNIC. PHOTO: CaribNOG

CAPTION: Bevil Wooding, co-founder of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) delivers opening remarks at the organisation’s twelfth regional meeting, at Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, October 24, 2016. Looking on, from left, are Shernon Osepa, Internet Society; Albert Daniels, ICANN; and Kevon Swift, LACNIC. PHOTO: CaribNOG

PHILIPSBURG, St Maarten—Even with its minor geographical footprint, the Caribbean has a major appetite for the Internet. More and more, Caribbean citizens are reflexively heading online to do their everyday essentials. In order to keep pace with that digital predilection, the modest community managing the region’s networks has to keep building serious capacity.

“There has to be a deeper pool of human resources in the Caribbean with technical expertise,” says Bevil Wooding, co-founder of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG).

“More people with less technical knowledge are using Internet-based technology, trusting that it will be safe. And so, a group of people have to ensure that that trust is well founded.”

Wooding was speaking at the opening of CaribNOG’s twelfth regional meeting, held at Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg from October 24 to 26.

“We have to secure the region’s networks and look out for threats in different ways now that we are at this stage of the Internet’s development. And that’s why a group like CaribNOG is so important at this time. We become the guardians of the Caribbean’s Internet development.”

CaribNOG 12 is part of Internet Week Sint Maarten, a five-day conference focused on developing the Caribbean Internet. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) jointly held the first three days of the week with CaribNOG.

“When we started working to develop capacity in the region, we soon realised that CaribNOG had the same goals, and so we quickly decided that by working together, we could accomplish more,” said Albert Daniels, Senior Manager of Stakeholder Engagement for the Caribbean at ICANN.

Daniels was one of several regional experts to conduct hands-on sessions on topics including cyber security, Internet governance, IPv6 adoption and Internet exchange points.

The three-day gathering is supported by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union; the American Registry for Internet Numbers; Packet Clearing House; ArkiTechs and The BrightPath Foundation.

Internet Week Sint Maarten will close with Sint Maarten on the Move, a two-day event jointly hosted by the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses registry (LACNIC).

The weeklong conference is coordinated by the St Maarten telecommunications regulator, BTP. It is open to the public and free of charge, with a live video stream for remote participants.

 

Internet Exchange Points Critical to the Caribbean Digital Economy

Mark Vanterpool, Vice-president of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and Minister of Communications and Works, Government of the British Virgin Islands.
Mark Vanterpool, Vice-president of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and Minister of Communications and Works, Government of the British Virgin Islands.

Caribbean nations need to strengthen their Internet infrastructure if the region is to take full advantage of the global digital economy.

This was the view expressed by Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) vice president Mark Vanterpool, speaking at the official launch of CTU’s ICT Week on the 29th September 2015 in Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Vanterpool, the Minister for Communications and Works in the BVI, used his country as an example of the benefits of investing in Internet infrastructure. He singled out the role of the local Internet exchange points, commonly called IXPs, as one of the key enablers of the Caribbean digital economy.

He explained that local IXPs reduce costs and increase efficiency by allowing networks to interconnect directly to exchange Internet traffic, rather than having to connect through third-party networks.

“Here in the Virgin Islands, we understood the importance of establishing a local IXP, and today we are happy to say that we have benefitted from having one of the very first IXPs established in the region. This was implemented with significant support from the CTU, to whom we remain grateful,” Vanterpool said.

The BVI’s IXP was established in June 2011 with technical and policy assistance from the CTU and Packet Clearing House (PCH), a US-based non-profit organization responsible for support for critical Internet infrastructure globally.

Vanterpool noted that while the full potential of the BVI’s IXP is yet to be unleashed locally, other countries throughout the region should take steps to adopt their own local IXPs.

“More has to be done to realize the full benefits of this development. Accordingly, I would like to see more emphasis toward adding value to our IXP, by exploring opportunities for data centres, data storage and local content.”

“I urge my fellow member states in the CTU to also implement a national IXP which, when joined with the other IXPs in the region, will be a powerful catalyst for regional growth and development,” the minister added.

Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist and Caribbean Outreach Manager for PCH, confirmed that the BVI was the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to establish a local IXP.

“Packet Clearing House is working closely with the CTU and its member states to strengthen existing exchange points in the region,” Wooding said. “PCH is also collaborating with the CTU and the Caribbean Network Operators Group to support development of new IXPs and strengthening of technical capacity across the region.”

Open Data Key to Driving Digital Innovation in the Caribbean

By Gerard Best

Open data advocate Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist, Packet Clearing House, presents at Caribbean Telecommunications Union Ministerial Briefing Seminar in Tortola, BVI on September 30, 2015.
Open data advocate Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist, Packet Clearing House, presents at Caribbean Telecommunications Union Ministerial Briefing Seminar in Tortola, BVI on September 30, 2015.

TORTOLA, BVI – Across the Caribbean, governments are moving their essential services to digital platforms and generating more data than ever. Yet, much valuable public information remains locked away in proprietary systems, beyond the reach of Caribbean innovators and end users. A growing number of open data initiatives aim to change this, but it won’t be easy.
“The Caribbean can benefit tremendously from open data as part of its development agenda,” said Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist, in a presentation on Open Data at the 13th Strategic ICT Seminar of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union held in Tortola, British Virgin Islands on 30th September 2015.
His call to make more government data available was timely, as he addressed an audience that included several government ministers and officials from across the region. Extracting maximum value from data is increasingly becoming a base-level requirement, as governments aim to measure progress and demonstrate achievements.
“Transparency, openness and accountability are three of the main benefits of open data,” Wooding pointed out. “However, there are also significant social and economic benefits that can be derived from the development of new applications and services based on open data.”
The Seminar was also addressed by Anat Lewin, an ICT Policy Specialist with the World Bank. Lewin shared on the work of the Bank in open data projects in the Caribbean, including Open Data Readiness Assessments in Antigua & Barbuda, Jamaica and St Lucia. She also announced that the Bank is supporting development of online open data portals in Jamaica and St Lucia.
In an interview following his presentation, Wooding noted that governments play a key role in collecting and disseminating data, but he said some are more open and effective than others.
“Open government is about more than a simple commitment to share data. It’s also about supporting a larger ecosystem for using data and spurring innovative new applications of data by tapping into creativity and resources that are not available within any single organisation.”
The process of making government more open, he said, is not an easy one, as it involves confronting tough questions, and unlocking entrenched mindsets concerning exactly what data should be open to the public.
“Governments are wrestling with the dilemma between promoting open data on one hand and maintaining data sovereignty and control on the other,” he said.
“The challenge has always been about where to strike a balance between the openness and information control.”
Privacy concerns are one of the most common obstacles faced by open data advocates. Even as the open data movement gains strength, difficult questions remain about how to protect information about private citizens. Without proper controls, such information could be used to shame, discriminate or cause other undesirable outcomes.
“In some countries, there’s simply not much data to share anyway,” Wooding said. “Data gaps are particularly acute in emerging markets that lack technology-powered systems, active research communities and strong institutional frameworks for data collection. Other countries have plenty of data, but don’t have tools, protocols or leadership motivation for using data effectively and ethically.”
To overcome these challenges, a growing array of stakeholders—including tech innovators, research institutions, governments, civil society, academia and individuals—are banding together to develop new models to promote and leverage open data. Theirs is a difficult but necessary struggle for the greater good of the region.