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Assessing the current status of Internet Measurement in Africa

Internet use in Africa has recorded tremendous growth since the turn of the century with the penetration rate of 35.2% at the beginning of 2018 against the rest of the world’s average of 58.4%. According to Cisco, the leading global company in the supply of networking equipment, Africa is one of the two regions – the other being middle-east – with the fastest growth in Internet traffic in the world and this is set to continue over the next half-decade. The increase in traffic across the continent is largely due to the widespread use of smartphones and the gradual migration of day-to-day services to online platforms. As smartphone use becomes ubiquitous, there is increased access to videos online, significant growth in average traffic per device, an increase in bandwidth-hungry applications, as well as the impact of 4G connections.

As the traffic volume increases, network operators are faced with the vital task of ensuring that users access Internet service with a reasonable quality that is commensurate to the level of their subscriptions. There is also the need for regulators and civil society organisations to regularly monitor the Internet – albeit for different reasons – to ensure that users are provided with the services as per the service level agreement in the case of regulators, and to monitor surveillance, net neutrality, censorship, manipulation, etc., with regards to the civil society groups. There is also a number of users who are interested in knowing the quality of service (QoS) provided by the ISP or the Telecom operator providing them with the Internet service. Enterprise and institutional networks also try to ensure that the users of their networks are provided with a quality service to ensure smooth running of operations on these networks. The need to understand the behavior of the Internet and its performance from the perspectives of these different entities in the Internet ecosystem prompted the need for a regular, precise, and longitudinal measurement of the Internet.

Internet measurement is vital in improving network design and provisioning by an operator and could also enable the operator to build new protocol/architecture or modify an existing one to suit a unique need of their network. Furthermore, an Internet measurement project could help a network operator and/or a regulator in accounting the quality of services provided to clients. Performance measurement could also provide insights necessary for network modelling and development of network services on the Internet. In order to have a good understanding of the needs of the African Internet community in terms of Internet measurement, AFRINIC is conducting a survey with the aim of capturing the state of Internet measurement platforms availability, capabilities, and challenges in Africa.

In its May 2017 report titled ‘The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa', the World Economic Forum identified the dearth of ICT skills in Africa and the need for Africa’s educators to “design future-ready curricula that encourage critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence as well as accelerate acquisition of digital and STEM skills to match the way people will work and collaborate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” To bridge the skills gap, we aim to use the responses from the survey to guide AFRINIC in building an Internet measurement programme to train network operators, regulators, end users, and other stakeholders on the subject of Internet measurement. The survey seeks input from potential beneficiaries of the training programme. Responses from participants will help AFRINIC to understand the available measurement infrastructure on the continent as well as the gap in the infrastructure and skills that need to be filled.

In a remote presentation delivered at AFRINIC-29 meeting held in Hammamet Tunisia last November (from time 3:13:25 on the video here), I highlighted different aspects of the survey and what we plan to do with the outcome in addition to building a training programme. While respondents remain anonymous as no personal data or IP addresses will be collected, we intend to share the findings with the general public for the perusal of the different stakeholders in the Internet ecosystem. This will be achieved through journal publications, mailing lists, AFRINIC’s website, presentations at Internet related fora, and through social media platforms.

The short survey is available in English and French. Responses are expected from myriad of sources including but not limited to Internet Service Providers, Internet eXchange Points, Cable Operators, Enterprise Networks, Academic Networks (NRENs), Content Delivery Networks, ccTLD/DNS operator, Telecom Operator, Regulator/Government Agency, Wireless Network Operator, Community Network, Civil Society groups, Academic Institutions, End-User (Home/Mobile Broadband), and other network operators and users.

 

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