The Challenge of Developing the Internet for Latin America and the Caribbean
by Ernesto Majó
Beyond the basic role for which it was originally created, LACNIC has been seen as a great promoter of actions that benefit the development of the Internet within the region. This challenge has been acknowledged and formally incorporated into the organization’s Mission and Vision and, consequently, to the set of actions defined during the Strategic Planning exercise at the end of 2006.
Although from the very beginning actions have been developed with the aim of strengthening the Internet, as of the moment of this definition LACNIC acquires the commitment to promote the construction of collaborative spaces for Internet development within the region. The definition that was adopted implies a strong commitment to joint efforts and tasks in which the broadest possible spectrum of regional actors will participate, such as regional and international Internet organizations, governments, civil society organizations, academic institutions, international technical cooperation organizations, and other stakeholders. It is with all these groups that we must work and find the synergies necessary for achieving Internet growth and stability in our extremely rich and complex region.
During the first eight months of 2007 we have been able to translate part of this challenge into concrete actions. Some of them were initiated a long time ago, such as the installation of Root Servers, while others are the result of the formalization of the new role we have assumed, such as for example the Internet Exchange Point (IXP) Workshop held in El Salvador on July 18-19 and the actions carried out in the Caribbean.
It is interesting to quickly review some of the most important actions that have been implemented:
+ Raíces Project
This project is the fruit of the agreement with the Internet System Consortium (ISC), the organization responsible for administrating the F Root Server, signed in 2004 in Montevideo during LACNIC VI. In 2007, two new Root Servers were installed in Panama and Ecuador, which add to the three servers that had already been installed in Santiago, Buenos Aires and Caracas. As groundwork for their installation, during the LACNIC X meeting at Isla Margarita the agreements necessary to allow installing copies in these countries were signed. The +Raices project is an example of an inclusive action that brings together actors from different sectors, aligned in their search of a common objective: strengthening Internet stability. Thus, the copy installed in Panama on July 17 is hosted by the Technological University of Panama through its academic network PANNet and NIC Panama (responsible for allocating domain names), but also with the participation of Cisco, who donated equipment, and Cable & Wireless Panama, who provided the necessary connectivity. In turn, the copy installed in Quito, Ecuador on August 14, is hosted by AEPROVI, the local ISP association, jointly with NIC.EC, the organization responsible for administrating domain names in Ecuador, with the participation of Cisco who donated equipment to make this installation feasible.
Regional Plan of Action eLAC2007
The Regional Plan of Action eLAC2007 is a broad commitment of Political Priorities concerning the Information Society assumed by the region’s governments during the Rio de Janeiro ministerial summit in June 2005. The Plan has been under evaluation during 2007 and will continue to be updated to a new commitment comprising 30 policy goals or priorities that the region must implement towards 2010 (eLAC2010). The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), the organization responsible for eLAC follow-up, has developed actions to verify its compliance while at the same time coordinating the preparation of the new set of goals that the region must agree on during the ministerial conference that will be held in El Salvador in the month of November. LACNIC is fully committed to the existence of a Regional Plan of priorities that encompasses a broad consensus of all the region’s stakeholders.
In this sense, we have participated in the follow-up and contributed to the fulfillment of eLAC2007, as well as to the discussion and identification of a new consensus of priorities for 2010. In addition, some of the actions promoted by LACNIC have a direct impact on some of the eLAC priorities, such as Goal 1 (Infrastructure). Here the installation of new root servers (+Raices), the support provided to the Regional Interconnection Forum, or the capacity building activities for NAP/IXP operation (Workshop in El Salvador, Regional Interconnection Forum – NAPLA), are goals explicitly mentioned in the Plan and to which LACNIC is making a significant contribution.
Calling once more for ICT investigation project proposals has been possible thanks to the formulation of a new phase of the FRIDA program, which is financially supported by IDRC – ICA, ISOC and LACNIC itself. For this phase a fund of US$ 630,000 has been constituted. The subjects that have been prioritized for receiving financial support are aligned with the main goals of eLAC2007, which is why the selected projects will have a greater impact on those goals. Future calls for proposals shall consider any new priorities that may be included in the new eLAC 2010 Plan, which will be approved by the end of the year. The first group of projects that were selected for this second phase of the FRIDA program from among the 200 proposals that were received from 20 different countries will begin to be executed in the upcoming months.
Internet in the Caribbean
An example of the institutional emphasis on promoting the strengthening of the Internet community working in cooperation with other actors is the work that was carried out in 2007 in relation to the Caribbean community.
This year LACNIC implemented numerous actions aimed at strengthening Internet participation of the Caribbean community. In this sense, the organization participated in the 16th Executive Council Meeting held in Anguilla (16/04), the 23rd CANTO Meeting (Barbados, June24-27) and the 3rd Caribbean Internet Governance Forum (August 16) at Curacao island, Dutch Antilles, organized by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). In addition, we visited members and operators in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana (August 2-4). Likewise, we have strengthened the multilingual nature of our organization, providing opportunities to communicate the work that has been carried out throughout the region. A corollary of all this work has been the signing of the agreement between the CTU, LACNIC and ARIN, the two Regional Internet Registries (RIR) responsible for the Caribbean. This important agreement will allow strengthening actions and promoting mutual assistance in technical areas, training human resources, and creating awareness on relevant current issues that impact the sustained growth of the Internet in the Caribbean. The first joint activities within the framework of this agreement will be carried out in the upcoming months.
Regional Interconnection Forum
The Sixth Meeting of the Regional Interconnection Forum (NAPLA), which was held within the framework of LACNIC X, allowed consolidating the work that has been carried out within the region into cooperation on aspects relating to traffic exchange within countries and particularly in relation to the greater challenge of achieving interconnection at regional level that will result in concrete benefits for the individuals and companies located in our region. Strengthening NAPLA as a true forum that can approach the issue broadly, with a diversity of actors and a complete vision is an achievement that should be furthered.
Within this framework, LACNIC promoted the first Internet Exchange Point (IXP) Seminar/Workshop in El Salvador. This important event was organized jointly with the National Commission for the Information Society of El Salvador, Plan Puebla Panama (PPP), the Domain Name Registry at El Salvador (SVNet) and CISCO Systems, with the support of Packet Clearing House (PCH) and the Internet Society (ISOC). The Workshop took place on July 18-19, and its objective was to present and discuss IXP models and experiences around the World and in Latin America with the aim of providing information and criteria necessary for establishing and operating an IXP in those countries where there is none and exchanging ideas with the countries that already operate IXPs. The event was attended by more than 80 participants from El Salvador, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Dutch Antilles (Saint Maarten), Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, all of them government officials, telecommunications operators, professionals within the field of information and communications technologies, and representatives of other areas interested in the subject.
As can be concluded from this brief summary, 2007 has been a year of intense work. However, we hope to continue working even harder, as we are convinced that only by promoting actions in permanent cooperation with the other regional stakeholders it will be possible to achieve full development of the Internet in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Periodic bulletin of LACNIC Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry