Paving the way for internet expansion – Adiel Akplogan
When Adiel Akplogan started Africa’s only internet registry in 2005, the continent had roughly 15m internet protocol (IP) addresses (the numbers given to every device connected to the internet).
“We have about 55m [in use today],” he says, pointing to the continent’s rapid internet growth over the past decade.
Akplogan, a trained engineer who used to run an internet service provider in his native Togo, is the chief executive of African Network Information Center (AfriNIC), a Mauritius-based body charged with giving out IP addresses to mobile and internet operators.
It is one of five continental bodies that manage the world’s IP addresses, assigned by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.
When African operators run out of IP addresses, Akplogan asks for more.
Although other parts of the world have run out of older addresses, known as IPv4, Akplogan says AfriNIC has enough to last for the next three to four years.
Despite this, it is now working to raise awareness about the need to switch to IPv6, a new protocol better suited to mobile devices that each need a unique IP address.
“If we project the internet usage that we are doing right now in the region, IPv6 is the only sustainable way out,” he says.
It will be on the agenda of the second Africa Internet Summit, organised by AfriNIC in mid-June in the Zambian capital Lusaka.
In June, a decision is also due from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) about who will manage a new .africa domain name.
It has been a complex and politically charged process, with fierce lobbying between the two applicants, one known as UniForum, supported by the African Union (AU), and the other called DotConnectAfrica, led by Ethiopian entrepreneur Sophia Bekele.
Akplogan is part of the steering committee of the UniForum bid and explained that the AU’s involvement stemmed from concern about the bidding process.
“My personal objective sitting on the committee is to make sure that politics does not interfere with the technical aspect of the business,” he says.
Once ICANN makes its decision, the AU can step back so the registry can be “run with the necessary autonomy and business practices […] to be successful”.
He also hopes the new domain name will help boost the technical knowledge and management skills often lacking in the operation of country-specific domain names in Africa●