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How to Translate a Gov't IPv6 Mandate Into an Action Plan: Guidance for National IPv6 Task Forces

Mukom Akong Tamon

Last year, I gave a short talk at the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) Forum in (Abuja, Nigeria) on this topic and I thought I'd offer more details here. Let's say an African government has realised that IPv4 address exhaustion imposes limits its country's ICT development. Initial investigations indicate that deploying IPv6 is the only sustainable solution. Governments are however not very skilled in the bottom-up approach that is popular in the Internet world. Traditional regulation — a trusted tool of government is not likely to be effective in this situation as well. Our governments have never been lacking in vision, at least on paper. Converting the Powerpoint presentations and whitepapers into meaningful results is the challenge. I hope this article will get the ball rolling in the right direction.

It often starts when a concerned government sets up an IPv6 committee with a mandate to "drive adoption of IPv6 in the country". This article will guide such a task force get its bearings from translating a government mandate into an action plan. The short version is — just follow 'PDSA (plan, do, study/check and adapt)', rinse and repeat. What does that mean? To set the expectations, let's be clear about some things:

  1. The government-appointed committee (or task force) will not likely be doing any IPv6 deployment. Thus, its deliverables need to be clearly defined and usually include:
    • Come up with an IPv6 Action Plan that other actors will implement.
    • Set up an evaluation framework to monitor, measure and report on progress of the plan and update the plan if need be.
    • Secure and manage resources for implementing the plan.
    • Facilitate collaboration, clarify project specifications and resolve conflict between various stakeholders.
  2. An effective task force should not only comprise government actors. In fact that's a recipe for failure. Local Network Operators' Group (NOGs), ISPs, higher educational institutions and application developers are other important stakeholders. Yes, doing a proper stake-holder analysis before setting up the task force is a good idea. What if the government has already created an 'IPv6 Task Force' whose make-up excludes some key stakeholders? I see two ways to fix this, both start with doing a proper stakeholder analysis and then either:
    • Constituting a proper IPv6 task force according to the analysis. The gov't appointed group will now see itself as a champion for the IPv6 deployment program.
    • Recruit representatives from the missing stakeholders to join the task force. I suspect this is going to be easier and the more realistic thing to do.
  3. Government through the relevant agency must support the task force. It needs financial and logistical support to organising meetings and trainings, information gathering, as well as writing reports. The higher up the hierarchy that agency is, the better it can be in supporting the task force. It is ideal to keep the number of layers between the task force and the decision-making authority small. By decision-maker here, I mean ultimate person (or entity) responsible for resource-allocation.

Step 1: Form the Task Force

This is done by the government through its relevant agency such as the IT regulator or the ministry of ICT. As already mentioned above, it might be something the initial IPv6 'Task Force' set up by the government does. The key input required here is the mandate from the government to come up with an IPv6 strategy or action plan for the country. The process involves at least two activities:

  1. Perform stakeholder analysis to determine the composition of task force. This analysis should also examine dimensions of skill, knowledge and experience expected of members of the task force. These are should not be all technical skills. While having brilliant geeks is necessary, it is also necessary to have influencers who know their way around government circles.
  2. Outreach to any country NOGs or ISP associations to recruit members of the task force.

The outputs of this step are:

  1. A list of members of the task force.
  2. A one page charter of the task force which clearly defines the job of the task force. The project charter should address the following questions:
    • What the grand purpose of the this program?
    • What is the goal? or how will we know if the program is successful?
    • What measures will show progress towards the goal?
    • When should this be completed? What are key milestones?
    • What are the reporting obligations etc.

Step 2: Plan how to come up with the actual IPv6 Strategy or Action Plan

The task force takes the charter, investigates the issues and comes up with an IPv6 Strategy or Action plan. The plan outlines the projects and resources that will move the country from the status quo (IPv4-dominant, little or no IPv6) to the the big goal defined in the charter (critical mass of IPv6).

During the investigation (or study) phase, the task force needs to:

  1. Establish the IP address situation of the country.
    • Number of total IPv4 in the country (allocated and in use)
    • Number of networks from the country visible on the Internet
    • What's the address: person ratio in the country? what are the implications for this (compare to other countries)
  2. Establish the addressing needs of the country
  3. What is the potential number of networks? A rough estimate is the number of registered organisations above a certain size which their own domain name. Small businesses can get their space from ISPs, but any organisation that hosts its own services and for which redundancy is critical may needs its own IP address space.
  4. What is the population of the country?
    • How many devices on average does a person have?
    • What's the size of the broadband market — both fixed and wireless
    • What government initiatives in the horizon may need address space? — smart cities? smart grids, IOT?
  5. Establish the IPv6 status of the country
    • How many networks have IPv6 addresses blocks?
    • How many of the networks that have IPv6 address blocks announce it?
    • How many of the networks that announce their IPv6 address blocks have IPv6 enabled on their public services?
    • What percentage of the Alexa top 20 websites in the country are IPv6 enabled?
    • What percentage of user traffic to the Alexa top 20 sites for the country is over IPv6?

While not an exhaustive list, this investigation should paint a good picture of status quo and the gap that IPv6 deployment should address. It will help the task force come up with and refine meaningful goals along with appropriate milestones and metrics to drive IPv6 deployment.

Step 3: Elaborate the goals and objectives

The goals stated in the initial charter are likely to be very broad goals. In this step, those goals in the project charter are progressively elaborated into a hierarchy of goals and milestones that can be delivered by one or two projects. When setting goals, apart from the time-honoured requirements of making sure they are Measurable and Time-bound, I often like a Balanced Scorecard approach. Most people use the Balanced Scorecard as a measurement and evaluation framework (that indeed was its initial purpose). However I also find it very useful during the goal setting process to make sure that the formulated goals are balanced according to the vision of the organisation. The Balanced Scorecard perspectives will come from an analysis of the role of the Internet and ICTs in the economy. The vision of IPv6 deployment is not going to be significantly different between countries. Here is a list of sample goals that tend to be common across all countries.

  1. "All government public services to be IPv6-enabled by date DD/MM/YY"
  2. "As from DD/MM/YY, 100% of all new government services must be developed and optimised first for IPv6, with support for IPv4."
  3. "X% of the end-user Internet connectivity to support IPv6 by DD/MM/YY"
  4. "Y% of the major content providers of the country (as measured for example by Alexa Top 20 sites for the country) to support IPv6 by DD/MM/YY"

Step 4: Develop measures and metrics for each goal

Together with goals, measures and metrics are the critical link between vision and implementation. Quite often, you can foretell a project or strategy that is going to fail simply by observing it's lack of any objective and measurable goals, measures and metrics.

Measures are concrete, quantitative in nature and measure one thing e.g 12 workshops, 300 networks. Metrics describe a quality and require a measurement baseline e.g 5 more IPv6-enabled networks this quarter over last quarter. Measures are useful for demonstrating workloads and activity while metrics are useful for evaluating compliance, processes effectiveness, and measuring success against established objectives. A potential list of measures/metrics are:

  1. IP address: person ratio
  2. Number of networks in the country having IPv6 space
  3. Number of networks announcing IPv6 space
  4. Number of websites with non-differentiated DNS entries for IPv4 and IPv6
  5. Number of website that serve content over IPv6
  6. Number of networks with IPv6-enabled public websites
  7. Percentage of Alexa top 20 websites for the country that are IPv6-enabled
  8. IPv4:IPv6 traffic ratio
  9. Percentage of IPv6-enabled network equipment being imported and sold in the country
  10. Number of network engineers who have received IPv6 training

Step 5: Identify sub-projects and initiatives to deliver the goals

One of my favourite quotes by Dwight D. Eisenhower is "Planning is everything. Plans are nothing". I love it because until you get out of the building and actually start doing something, IPv6 deployment is never going to happen. The 'DOing' part happens within the context of small project with clear deliverables. The Task Force should come up with a list of projects which will deliver each of the goals previously elaborated. This is one of those steps that benefits a lot from an active technical community in the country. Sources of project ideas include:

  • Brainstorming between themselves
  • Asking for inputs from the technical community (NOGs, ISPAs, LUGs etc)
  • Review the websites of other national IPv6 task forces to see what projects they did.

Off the top of my head, here are some projects that could be part of that list

  1. Public campaign to drive awareness and buy-in from various stakeholders. This should be done during creation of the charter as well as twice a year at national IPv6 conferences or similar events.
  2. Training for both engineers and decision-makers . This should be done following a proper training needs analysis. The broad types of training to consider are:
    • Basic technical training for engineers. Target audience is engineers who plan, deploy and maintain network infrastructure and services. After this training, these engineers will be able to perform IPv6 infrastructure audits, create IPv6 address plans and enabling IPv6 on the core network.
    • Advanced & specialised technical training for network engineers and systems engineers. This training should cover more advanced topics specific to the target audience e.g. routing and transition techniques for network engineers and deploying IPv6 services for systems engineers.
    • Strategy and planning training for decision makers and project managers. This enables them properly plan, resource and monitor IPv6 deployment projects.
  3. Setup collaborative tools that will help the task force and project teams to do with your work effectively. At least, there should be a mailing list for exchanging experiences and helping others. A wiki to document experiences and work done and a project management system to manage the work being done.
  4. Set up monitoring evaluation infrastructure. The most visible part of this is a web page to track the progress of deployment according to metrics chosen by the Task Force.
  5. Review all national ICT policies to ensure that they do not sabotage the deployment of a IPv6. Synchronisation between initiatives is often a problem in big organisations, especially governments. There are often various national strategies and policies that all relate to ICTs e.g. Broadband Strategy, ICT Strategy, e-Infrastructure Strategy etc. It is worth reviewing all these documents to ensure they do not contain any prescriptions that may sabotage IPv6 deployment.
  6. Review and implement a government IT procurement policy to not buy products and services from contractors who themselves don't run IPv6. I single out this policy because I believe it is the biggest lever that the government possesses, far more effective than regulation. Government is a big buyer of IT services. By choosing to only buy from IPv6 capable providers it creates a business incentive that suppliers will can respond to and without resentment that regulation might bring.
  7. IPv6 application contests where engineers in the country win prizes for developing innovative applications that leverage IPv6.

For each project, the Task Force needs to:

  • Write out a clear project deliverable and timeline.
  • Clarify where the resources for the project will come from.
  • Identify and give responsibility for delivering the project to the appropriate stakeholder(s)

These could be done in a project charter for each project.

Step 6: Meet periodically to review progress, share lessons learnt, celebrate progress and agree next steps

This meeting should happen every 3 months and at each session, the following need to be done.

  • Verification of project deliverables due for that period.
  • Verification of milestones expected for that period.
  • Study data from the monitoring infrastructure for progress.
  • Troubleshoot stalled any troubled projects (clarify objectives where needed, facilitate resources, resolve conflicts etc)

Conclusion

Like previously stated, this is one big PDSA.

P = Plan what you will do, ensure there are measurable goals which associated measures, metrics and projects
D = DO the projects
S = Study the results regularly
A = Adapt the next steps based upon the results being achieved.

Are you involved in such a national IPv6 engagement? I'd like to hear your suggestions, critiques and suggestions for what is effective. You can mail me at mukom [dot] tamon [at] gmail [dot] com.

By Mukom Akong Tamon, IPv6 Consultant/Trainer | Lean Six Sigma Green Belt | GTD Guru. Mukom works for a Regional Internet Registry (RIR). Everything he writes are his opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employers, past, present or future.

Related topics: IPv6

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