Internet Society CEO sets sights on next 'Net users

Not deploying IPv6 threatens Internet, Lynn St. Amour warns

Is IPv6 deployment going to happen in the United States?

I hope so. I hope it's not regulated. I hope industry does rise to the challenge. I hope we can make an argument to ISPs and network operators. The argument is the protection of the Internet, the common Internet. It's the same parallel of why you would support open standards development. It is about increasing the market, increasing creativity, increasing benefits. By not deploying IPv6, all those things are at risk. We will see a more heavily NAT environment. We hate to see islands of Internet connectivity, but that's the world we are facing without IPv6.

What is the Internet Society's position on the development of standards for internationalized domain names and internationalized e-mail addresses?

We believe that's a very, very important area as well. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is very important in the internationalized domain name space. We support all of their activities. The IETF is working on standards for internationalized domain names and e-mail addresses. But ISOC is more engaged in getting content available in local languages. Most people don't realize that this is a problem. They think internationalized domain names are the stumbling block, and they're not. It really is the amount of content that's available to people in their local languages. People don't create content. Particularly in Africa, there is relatively little to stop people from getting content in their languages, but it just doesn't happen. Sometimes it's a problem of access to computers or access to the Internet. If you want to get people on the Internet, particularly in countries that aren't as developed, you need to put up content in the local language. Whose responsibility is that? I can choose the easy answer and say it's the government in that country. But really it's the responsibility of every country, every educational institution, every nonprofit.

What's your prediction for how long it will take for the next billion Internet users to get online?

That's a hard question. We have 1.3 billion Internet users today. We tend to think of it with respect to the kind of online access that you and I have become accustomed to, from a computer, not from a mobile phone. MIT's Media Lab has a program to provide one laptop per child [in developing countries.] I'm interested to see how that goes, to see if that gives us a kick-start, particularly if that's rolled out through the government with education. Without that, we're just looking at organic growth. I believe it will be in less than a decade.

What advice would you offer to corporate network managers about what they need to be doing to prepare for the next billion Internet users to come online?

It's less of a network management issue than a CEO issue. From a network perspective, it's a provisioning issue, which is pretty straightforward. But the real issue in getting that many more people online from different environments and different cultures and different backbones, is how do you reach out to them and make an important link with them and make them want to be a part of your experience? That is a much broader issue than just the CIO office would handle.

In what developing countries is the Internet Society seeing the most success in Internet deployment? What countries are lagging and why?

Africa has a lot of success stories. Kenya, in particular, is doing a lot with Internet exchange points. Countries that are lagging are the ones with aggressive filtering regimes. Also lagging are some of the poorest countries in the world. Certainly Sierra Leone, which has had a difficult situation in terms of war is suffering. I really think it's those countries suffering significant deprivation, whether it's economic or because it's a war-torn environment.

We have a fellowship program where we bring people from developing countries to participate in the IETF meetings. We're doing outreach in both areas: by training people locally and by paying for them to attend our programs. We've put a strong mentorship program in place. There are five students here from lesser-developed countries. We find a leader in the IETF community to mentor them, and we set up meetings for them throughout the course of the week. We follow up with meetings. We also ask them to structure outreach in their country or community to help sustain their interest locally. We've had people here from Moldova, Mongolia, Brazil, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Kenya.

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