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Africa, Let's Embrace v6 Now!

 Vymala Thuron

AFRINIC is the regional Internet registry for Africa, and our core activity is to manage and distribute Internet numbers resources (IPv4, IPv6 and ASN's) to the 57 economies in Africa. IPv4 address scarcity is a very real issue worldwide, the internet keeps growing and the demand for Internet addresses will continue to grow. Africa has the lowest number of Internet users in the world. Internet's penetration in Africa jumped from very low level in 2009, to around 16% of individuals in 2013 and over 20% in 2015. While the number of African's getting online has increased enormously over the last few years, and continues to grow, one of the biggest barriers to getting online, aside from prohibitive costs and lack of infrastructure, is the issue of network reliability and stability.

To account for the massive expansion in Internet-enabled services and devices, a new system of addressing had to be introduced to ensure enough unique IP addresses were available, i.e. IPv6. IPv6 is an important enabler for the next wave of Internet of Things and mobile technologies which also cater for the increase of devices connected to the Internet.

One of AFRINIC's critical missions is to ensure that everyone — from Government to network operators, to the general public — know the urgent need to deploy v6. Here are some recommendations that can help plan for the future. Government, ISP's and operators should, in the meantime, skill up their technicians and engineers on IPv6. AFRINIC provides training free of charge to Network Engineers all over Africa. As of now, AFRINIC has trained more than 3000 Network Engineers to deploy IPv6 in the last 10 years. Businesses and website operators, your public-facing services need to be accessible to the entire Internet — including those who have IPv6 only. On the upside, most large service, equipment and connectivity providers worldwide have already made the effort to ensure their infrastructure is ready for IPv6. Now it is vital for the African Internet companies to align with IPv6 so that networks, services and content remain relavant as global players.

Government organisations should,

  • coordinate with the industry and promote awareness and educational activities,
  • adopt regulatory and economic incentives to encourage IPv6 adoption,
  • require IPv6 compatibility in procurement procedures,
  • and officially adopt IPv6 within government agencies.

It is crucial that decision makers get involved in the planning and implementation of IPv6 deployment. Some deployment of v6 is delayed because organisations do not understand the value of investing in upgrading the network as the business is still running on v4.

The networks and ISPs who will face the biggest challenge are those with legacy infrastructure that are completely unprepared for IPv6. They need to start revamping their networks to ensure they are ready in good time. Multiple transition technologies are available, and each provider needs to make its own architectural decisions.

Though AFRINIC still has IPv4 addresses to spare, it is time for African government, ISP's, network operators, academia and big enterprises to consider deployment and integration of the new protocol as an imperative measure for the long-term growth and stability of the Internet. Future of the Internet is IPv6 and it is time to embrace that future now as the implications of failing to embrace IPv6 might be damaging to Africa's Internet growth and deployment.

By Vymala Thuron, Head of External Relations
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