APNIC addressing the challenges of a growing region

Report on the 'Internet Governance Hui' at APNIC 26 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

APNIC 26 discussed Internet Governance and discovered ways the Asia Pacific region is working to provide Internet infrastructure to the world's fastest growing economies.

Specific challenges facing the Asia Pacific became a topic of discussion at APNIC 26 in Christchurch, New Zealand, this week when the Internet community took part in an 'Internet Governance Hui' to discuss how it could assist developing economies to improve their access to the global Internet.

The Internet Governance Hui (the Maori word for a meeting to achieve consensus) featured speakers representing points of view ranging from Asia Pacific governments, to project leaders involved in hands-on deployment of Internet technology in some of the world's most challenging environments.

The Hui was organised by APNIC in conjunction with the Internet Society (ISOC) to gather stakeholder input ahead of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). APNIC will take part in the IGF to be held in Hyderabad, India on 3-6 December 2008.

Paul Wilson, Director General of APNIC (Asia Pacific Network Information Centre), said there remains significant disparity within the region. It is and always has been the organization's mission and priority to assist in the development of the Internet in the Asia Pacific, he said.

"We see a significant challenge in providing the level of infrastructure required to bring the region to a level comparable with other economies around the world," said Wilson. "This is also influenced by national and international policies which are the subjects of heated debates."

"APNIC is not only involved in resource allocation and registration. We have gradually increased our activities over the years so that now we run a number of education courses and assist with infrastructure such as root server deployments," said Wilson.

Rajnesh Singh, Chair of the Pacific Islands Chapter of ISOC (PICISOC), outlined the not-for-profit's three strategic initiatives to bring the next billion people online.

One is an issue of scaling, said Singh, ensuring that global addressing and infrastructure are able to keep up. The second is trust and identity which ensures we continue to have high confidence levels in the Internet.

Finally, the next billion users will not come from the English speaking countries of the Western, explained Singh. A large part of the next billion Internet users will be from the Asia Pacific where we have different cultures, scripts and languages. We need to ensure users have the ability to choose appropriate levels of service according to their cultures and languages, because there are costs to take into account, he said.

Other speakers at the event included Dr Frank March, Senior Specialist Advisor in the Digital Development Group of the New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development. March, who also serves on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Governmental Advisory Committee, explained the important role Internet infrastructure plays in the governmental goal of providing services to its constituents.

The Internet is a core part of any national structure, he said. Governments looking to deliver better outcomes in health, education, and similar social services, see the Internet as being critical for the delivery of these services.

He explained that while governments are eager to ensure a safe and reliable Internet infrastructure, many, like New Zealand, take a hands-off approach to governance, while others take a more hands-on approach to all aspects of their economy, including critical parts such as the Internet. That range of views needs to be somehow accommodated in the Internet Governance debate, said March.

Don Hollander, General Manager for the Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association (APTLD) explained how the Asia Pacific represented unique challenges to the Industry. Hollander contrasted large, technologically advanced economies to the very small economies which lack resources. It is not just money, he said, but it's time and it's people and it's people with the right skills.

Fred Christopher of the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association (PITA) explained how the Pacific Islands is a vast open space covering almost one third of the planet populated with thousands of small Islands, but only around eight million people. Most of these remote Pacific Islands rely on satellite communications adding significant cost and complexity to their Internet operations.

Christopher pointed to a range of issues from SPAM and peer-to-peer traffic, which consume significant amounts of precious bandwidth, to the difficulty of training and retaining skilled technicians as being the most significant challenges his constituents face.

Kanchana Kanchanasut, a Professor in Computer Science and a Director of Internet Education and Research Laboratory at the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand, presented a compelling case study of a wireless network experiment which unexpectedly met a real world need. DUMBO, for Digital Ubiquitous Mobile Broadband OLSR (Optimized Link State Routing protocol), began life as an experimental project to demonstrate how an ad hoc wireless infrastructure could be quickly deployed in a disaster situation.

The project unexpectedly became a reality after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in May, 2008. The DUMBO team quickly trained people from the Myanmar Computer Association so they could establish a network similar to the one built for research purposes. Kanchanasut thanked APNIC for its role in rallying support for the deployment.

Sylvia Cadena is Program Officer for the Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF), an Asia Pacific grants program sponsored by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Internet Society (ISOC) and APNIC.

Cadena explained how the technology grants program provides small grants to help stimulate creative solutions to the ICT development needs of the region. Money and technical skills are not the only challenge faced in developing economies, she said. Even where development funds are available candidates need a different set of skills, such as being able to write proposals and share their ideas.

Cadena called upon the Internet community to "Step Up" and consider contributing any skills, tools, services or research which could be useful for those working to extend the Internet community in the Asia Pacific.