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Internet Week Guyana Advances Caribbean Tech Development Agenda

BY GERARD BEST

Organizers of Internet Week Guyana, representing the government of Guyana, regional and international Internet development bodies, take a photo call at the fifteenth meeting of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), held at the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown, Guyana, on October 11, as part of the Internet Week Guyana. PHOTO COURTESY CaribNOG.
A cross-section of Guyanese secondary school students participate in the Caribbean Telecommunications Union’s Youth ICT Day, held at the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown, Guyana, on October 13, as part of the Internet Week Guyana. PHOTO COURTESY CaribNOG.

Around the world, the growing sophistication of cyber criminals is challenging the capacity of governments, businesses and individuals to defend themselves.

Within the Caribbean, governments are forging strategic partnerships with regional actors like the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), the region’s largest volunteer-based community of network engineers, computer security experts and tech aficionados.

Recently, CaribNOG and the CTU collaborated with the Government of Guyana and other Internet organisations to host the inaugural Internet Week Guyana. International collaborators included the Internet Society, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC).

The five-day conference focused on building human resource capacity in cyber security and other key technology-related areas.

“The government of Guyana has been investing heavily in education and capacity building programs over the past two years. The idea of Internet Week Guyana came as a result of our collaborations with regional and international NGOs involved in the technology education space. And our collaboration bore fruit from the first day of Internet Week Guyana to the last,” said Catherine Hughes, Minister of Public Telecommunications, and host of the pioneering event.

The event attracted more than 400 participants, including public and private sector officials, telecommunications and computer networking specialists, entrepreneurs, and secondary school students.

“Private sector leaders, law enforcement and judicial offers, academia and civil society all have a collective responsibility to ensure that citizens, businesses and governments are safer and more secure in the digital age,” said Bevil Wooding, Caribbean Outreach Manager at ARIN, and one of the co-organisers of the event.

“We encourage Caribbean governments to develop legislative agendas and increase intra-regional cooperation, in order to strengthen the region’s overall cyber security capability,” said Kevon Swift, Head of Strategic Relations and Integration at LACNIC, another coordinator for the event.

Throughout the week, representatives from participating organisations demonstrated practical ways in which stakeholders could work together to strengthen and secure Caribbean networks.

Stephen Lee, a CaribNOG co-founder, translated global cybersecurity issues into Caribbean priorities, outlining some of the challenges and opportunities of special relevance to the region.

Albert Daniels, Senior Manager for Stakeholder Engagement in the Caribbean at ICANN, outlined that organisation’s work in supporting secure network deployments around the world.

Shernon Osepa, Manager, Regional Affairs for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society, took the occasion to formally launch the Internet Society Guyana Chapter, with Nancy Quiros, Manager of Chapter Development in Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society. Lance Hinds, Special Advisor to the Minister of Public Telecommunications, is serving as the chapter’s Interim President.

But the exclamation mark on the weeklong event was undoubtedly a gathering of young people, hosted by the CTU, on the conference’s closing day. About 300 students representing secondary schools from across the country took part in the all-day agenda. Educational videos, interactive presentations and lively Q&A sessions all helped bring new awareness to cyber-safety and cyber security for youth.

“The CTU continues to support the development of the Information and Communication Technologies sector in the region, including an emphasis on harnessing the potential of the youth,” said Michelle Garcia, Communications Specialist at the CTU.

Following the meeting there were several calls for Internet Week Guyana to be made a fixture on the country’s event calendar. Now the real work continues, to convert the high interest in the meeting into tangible national benefit.

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.

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.

 

ICANN backs Caribbean technology development

Albert Daniels, Senior Manager of Stakeholder Engagement for the Caribbean at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers delivers remarks at the organisation’s LAC-I-Roadshow, at Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, October 24, 2016.

A global Internet giant is partnering with a Caribbean-based group to advance regional technology development.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is joining forces with the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) to build the capacity of the region’s technical community.

ICANN coordinates the Internet’s system of unique addresses. The global nonprofit organization is dedicated to ensuring an open, stable and secure Internet.

“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 speaking at the joint opening of ICANN’s LAC-I-Roadshow and CaribNOG’s twelfth regional meeting, held at Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg from October 24 to 26.

The spirit of collaboration goes far beyond ICANN and CaribNOG. It includes several other major players in the global Internet landscape, such as the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC) and the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN). LACNIC and ARIN are the two regional Internet registries that share responsibility for the Caribbean sub-region.

“We are pleased to be working together with Carlos Martinez, Chief Technology Officer of LACNIC, and Mark Kosters, Chief Technology Officer of ARIN, to deliver training on critical issues such as domain name system security,” Daniels said.

The U.S. government helped create ICANN in 1998 with the goal of building a stable, multi-stakeholder organisation that could take over the management of the Internet’s naming and number system. To accomplish this goal, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration partnered with ICANN to transition important coordination functions, known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, to the private sector. On October 1, the IANA stewardship function was formally transitioned to the global multi-stakeholder community.

At LAC-I-Roadshow, Daniels presented on technical issues like cyber security, and policy issues such as the IANA stewardship transition. The slate of international experts conducted hands-on sessions covering a broad range of topics, including Internet exchange points.

The LAC-I-Roadshow and CaribNOG 12 are part of Internet Week Sint Maarten, a five-day conference focused on developing the Caribbean Internet.

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

Internet Week Sint Maarten ends 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.

Tech Matters: Building the Human Networking to Grow the Caribbean Internet

by Bevil Wooding

The inaugural Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Connection Forum (CarPIF), held in Barbados last April, quietly marked the opening of a new chapter in the development of the Internet in the Caribbean.
Such gatherings, called peering forums, are designed to bring together senior decision makers from internet service providers, cloud providers, content delivery networks and other related entities in a neutral environment to discuss the interconnection of their networks. Peering forums are commonplace in other regions, from Europe and North America, to Africa and Latin America.

Peering Matters

Why are peering forums important? Simple – Interconnection of the computer networks that comprise the Internet is dependent on human networking to establish those connections. The functionality we enjoy when we view a photograph, watch a video posted by someone half-way around the world, or send an email to a friend in a distant land is brought about by the decision of network and cloud service providers to interconnect their network. The quality of the service we receive from those providers is dependent, among other things, on how far or near those interconnection points are from sender and the recipient.
This is why CarPIF was such a special and historic event. It was the first time such a forum was organized to specifically encourage greater interconnection among providers delivering Internet content and services to Caribbean consumers. It was also the first time the economic underpinnings of the peering arrangements that define the Internet, were discussed in such a context, using Caribbean data and Caribbean examples to a Caribbean audience.
Importantly, the event saw peering coordinators from the Caribbean building relationships directly with their international counterparts from major Internet companies such as Google and Akamai. Peering forums are a main way for service providers to establish the relationships and
agreements that allow them to get content closer to final destination. The actual events may not have public appeal, however, their outcomes can directly influence the quality of internet services, and economic opportunities in a region.

IXP Enabled Development
Peering can be defined as the exchange of data between IP networks on primarily a settlement free basis. Network providers such as Cable and Wireless, Sprint, Digicel and others own high-speed connections that make up the Internet. These providers transfer data between each other at locations called “peering” points or Internet Exchanges. At these sites the networks ‘meet’ or interconnection with one another over so called layer-2 infrastructure. These systems are then globally tied together by connecting high-capacity fiber optic lines owned by network service providers.
The proliferation of Internet exchange points in the Caribbean has created the opportunity for content providers to now deliver their content closer to Caribbean audiences. In practical terms, this can translate into a tangible improvement in the quality of Internet surfing experience for users. YouTube videos, for example, can be download with little to no buffering, because internet servers can deliver them from a local source, as opposed to a far way international source.
“The ever-increasing amount of video and other rich media content is placing new demands on the Internet. Peering is now an essential component of most network strategies to improve their customer experience and cost efficiencies,” said Martin Hannigan, Director, Networks and Data Center Architecture for Akamai Technologies, a major cloud computing services and content delivery network (CDN) provider.
“This Caribbean peering forum was a great opportunity to meet our customers in the region and establish important new connections. We are actively exploring options for putting our content caches at the internet exchange points that are being built in the Caribbean.”
In the past, when there were no internet exchange points in the Caribbean, service providers like LIME and Columbus (FLOW) would have to pick up the content all the way in Miami, or elsewhere, to deliver to local users. With the implementation of local IXPs in the Caribbean, ISPs can now all benefit by picking up the content users want to access much closer to home at content caches stored at the IXP. And that’s a good thing for Caribbean Internet users.

First of Many
The CarPIF event organized by the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), a volunteer-based community of Caribbean technology practitioners. It attracted over forty technology experts from major regional and international Internet companies, telecoms regulators and Internet exchange point operators to Barbados. Organizers intend to make it an annual event and plans are already afoot for a second, larger CarPIF event in Curacao in 2016.
The meeting was supported by two non-profit internet organizations, Packet Clearing House (PCH) and the Internet Society (ISOC), along with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union. It agenda included expert speakers from major internet organizations including Google, Akamai, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and the Latin American Internet Registry (LACNIC).

Milestone not Destination
The fact that the region’s first peering forum has been so successful is testament to the increasing maturity of the Caribbean Internet community, and the increasing regard for that community by international players in the Internet space.
There is certainly cause to celebrate the positive strides the Caribbean has made in deploying critical Internet infrastructure over the past few years. However, there is still considerable room for improvement, particularly as it relates to the reliability and efficiency delivery of Internet content to Caribbean consumers.
Implementation of some exchange points is still being hindered by oppositional and self-serving actions of dominant ISPs, seemingly to be desperate to cling to models of operation that are proven to not be in the interest of consumers or market growth.
There is also room for greater technical training and broader local community awareness and support, especially from developers of local content and services.
The process of changing attitudes, increasing awareness, encouraging innovation and fostering greater collaboration amongst competitors and encouraging will take time.
The inaugural CarPIF is a great milestone, but the journey to a more robust and resilient
Caribbean Internet has only just begun.

Bevil Wooding - Profile PhotoBevil Wooding is an Internet Strategist for Packet Clearing House (PCH), a US-based non-profit research organization. He is also a founding member of the Caribbean Network Operators Group. Follow on Twitter: @bevilwooding