Exchanging internet traffic locally will help the industry to grow, says DICT


Mr Choppy addressing delegates at the opening of the workshop yesterday

According to the head of the Information Society Division at the African Union Commission (AUC), Moctar Yedaly, this is precisely the reason why accessing online local content in many African countries is often slow and at times unappealing to users. It’s also why Seychelles is one of over 30 African countries identified by the AUC as being in need of a national internet exchange point (IXP).

“Many years ago, if you wanted to travel from one African country to another African, you had to go through a hub outside Africa, like London or France, and go back to Africa,” Mr Yedaly explained.

“The same thing is happening now in terms of internet traffic. The consequence of that is the user will pay the link up and the link down and this makes it very expensive in terms of communication and inefficient in terms of delivery.”

Mr Yedaly said that the AUC had found that $600 million was being paid to outside service providers for communications between African countries per year, a figure which he said could be drastically reduced with the widespread implementation of national and regional IXPs.

In this vein, the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), in collaboration with the AUC and the Internet Society are conducting a two-day best practice capacity building workshop to support the establishment of an IXP in Seychelles.

The workshop, which commenced yesterday at Le Meridien Barbarons hotel, is part of the AU’s African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) project to support the establishment of IXPs across Africa.

The Internet Society, an international, non-profit organisation that provides leadership in internet related standards, education, and policy, has been selected to deliver best practices and hands-on technical workshops in which all internet service providers (ISPs) and stakeholders in Seychelles were invited to take part.

The AXIS project aims at keeping Africa’s internet traffic local to the continent by providing capacity building and technical assistance to facilitate the establishment of IXPs in Africa. As countries establish their own IXPs, internet traffic will be routed locally, creating a downward pressure on costs and stimulating growth in and distribution of local internet content.

As the IXP would need to be built as a bridge between the internet service providers, it would have to be undertaken by the private sector, but the AUC would facilitate technical assistance, project management and also financial assistance for the purchase of infrastructure needed to set up the IXP.

The principal secretary for ICT, Benjamin Choppy, said that the government had always believed the private sector should be the main players of developing the internet industry in Seychelles.

“The possible setting up of a national IXP infrastructure is to be viewed in the same light. We do expect that the private telecommunications sector undertake this, and from the government’s side, we will do as much as possible to facilitate and support it,” he said.

“The primary benefit that I foresee will particularly apply to Seychelles is that the local internet service providers will be able to exchange traffic between local networks more readily by using a common exchange point.”

As a result, said Mr Choppy, it can be expected that there will be local benefits such as the improvement on the speed of access to locally-hosted websites and other interactive services. The latter is regarded a special development now that government is making more use of the internet to make its services and information more accessible to the population.

The end goal of the workshop is to establish a mutual agreement from the participants to establish an IXP. Mr Yedaly said that the common obstacle experienced in trying to convince ISPs to build national exchanges was the natural instinct of the operators to keep their traffic within their own network.

“That mindset of operators keeping the traffic in their own quarters, and then from there sending it back, has to be changed because it doesn’t help them in terms of capacity and it doesn’t make them competitive on price,” Mr Yedaly said.

Speaking on behalf of one of the local ISPs, Kokonet, Bernard Moutia said that he was in favour of the proposed IXP.
“We welcome anything that encourages the development of the internet in Seychelles,” said Mr Moutia. “Kokonet has always taken a position of being forward-looking, and if setting up an internet exchange point is going to encourage that, we support it wholeheartedly.”

The best practice capacity building workshop is the first of two workshops. The second workshop, which focuses on the technical training required to build an IXP, will be planned once the consensus has been reached among the local service providers to build the exchange.

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