By: Wendy Rickard
Date: June 7, 2009
Four Internet and network technologists from Africa and South America travelled to San Francisco to attend their first IETF meeting, a trip made possible by the Internet Society as part of their Fellowship to the IETF Programme. Now in its fourth year, the programme helps stimulate Internet growth in developing nations by immersing technologists from those regions in the work being done by the IETF. Fellows are given the opportunity to hone their technical skills and to become more engaged in the standards-development process.
The fellows attending IETF 74 were JoÃ£o Marcelo Ceron of Brazil, Coko Tracy Mirindi Musaza of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Blessings Msowoya of Malawi, and Noah Sematimba of Uganda. Each fellow is paired with a mentor, typically a seasoned IETF participant who can help the fellow navigate the meeting and who can answer questions.
Joao Marcelo Ceron
As a network manager at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, Joao Marcelo oversees device and protocol configuration as well as management of the Internet exchange point. He also conducts research in the areas of network management and network security, focusing on empirical experiences and problems he encounters in his professional activities. The results of his research are disseminated in presentations and papers, which, he says, helps other network operators who are working with similar issues. In 2008, he presented a paper at the LACNIC (Latin American and Caribbean Network Information Center) conference exploring the limitations of and the potential solutions for BGP 4 management.
Joao said the RFCs that the IETF generated are important resources for network administrators like himself, mainly because they assist with problems that come up on a daily basis. They also help him understand the characteristics of various protocols.
Joao is interested primarily in network management issues, such as the work being done within the Inter-Domain Routing working group. He plans to disseminate the knowledge he gained at IETF 74 through presentations to other network managers at his university and to use what he learned in his postgraduate study programme. He also plans to write an article about the experience for publication in his university’s journal.
Coko Tracy Mirindi Musaza
In his position as IT consultant at the African Network Operator Group (AFNOG), IETF fellow Coko Tracy specializes in networking and scalable Internet services under FreeBDS, GNU/Linux, and Debian. He also serves as an instructor for AFNOG, teaching the fundamentals of scalable network infrastructures to students and professionals.
His interest in wireless protocol standardization led Coko Tracy in February 2009 to the 2nd Awareness Workshop on Relevance of Low Cost Wireless ICT Solutions. Since then, he has been working on a project to build a wireless communities association in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition, he is working with MHDeafCafNet, a wireless network in central Africa, to help connect associations of deaf people and people living with disabilities in the region (see the link). As part of those efforts, Coko Tracy has learned to build antennas that will be used in his projects. “Often, spending money for purchasing antennas makes no sense when I can build them myself and teach others to do so,”? he said.
Through the IETF, Coko Tracy wants to deepen his understanding of the standardization of wireless protocols. He had subscribed to the Control And Provisioning of Wireless Access Points (CAPWAP) mailing list, but without assistance or a mentor, he found it difficult to understand how the working group was getting things done. Having attended an IETF meeting helped quite a bit. Eventually, he would like to contribute ideas to the working group, as well as to participate in writing a draft for standardization of wireless protocols.
In the meantime, he plans to use what he learned at IETF 74 in his work with the wireless communities association in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as in his other projects.
The Malawi Sustainable Development Network is a United Nations Development Programme-supported government Internet Service Provider (ISP) that is executed by the National Research Council of Malawi. The ISP assists in the development of Internet and information services, with an emphasis on sustainable development. As a network engineer for the Malawi Sustainable Development Network Programme (SDNP), Blessings is responsible for supervising network design staff as well as for network implementation and maintenance. Previously, he led a technical team that worked on the Malawi Internet Exchange, and he’s on another team that manages the .mw top-level domain.
According to Blessings, it is imperative that the technical section of the Malawi SDNP “be in sync with current best practices,”? which includes any RFCs that impact them directly. “We provide long-distance wireless connections in remote areas; hence, following best practices and standards is very important for things like deciding which frequencies and bands to use and whether to use public or private address space,”? he said.
At IETF 74, Blessings was impressed with the discussions that focused on IPv4 and IPv6 issues. The Malawi SDNP has an experimental IPv6 network in which it tests basic Internet services, such as the Domain Name System, firewalls, and mail services. Blessings’s attendance at the meeting, he wrote, “will help us increase the services that are running on the IPv6 network.”? In addition, he will be able to offer guidance to colleagues on current best practices and standards that contribute to the growth of Internet services in Malawi.
IETF fellow Noah Sematimba has been working in the networking and IT fields for the past eight years, including positions with Africa Online, MTN Uganda (the largest telecom in Uganda), and, currently, with Warid Telecom Uganda, where he serves as assistant manager for IT systems. Noah played a key role in setting up the Internet exchange point in Uganda, and he still serves as technical chair of the Uganda Internet exchange point.
Noah says his work with the .ug country code top-level domain drives his interest in the DNSSEC as well as in IP-related developments. He is taking part in his organization’s deployment of IPv6, and a lot of the work he is doing is deeply influenced by work being done by the IETF.
Since 2002, when he first began subscribing to the mailing lists, Noah has followed with great interest the activity in the namedroppers and dnsops working groups. Attending an IETF meeting offered him the opportunity to meet many of the people involved in creating standards and to get involved in the process in a way he could not otherwise. He said that building relationships with key people would facilitate his ability to work with those people on future projects.
Since attending IETF 74, Noah says he plans to take a much more active role in the IETF. He also plans to promote the work of the IETF to his peers in Uganda as well as to encourage more active participation in the IETF.
The Internet Society extends its deepest gratitude to its ISOC Fellowship to the IETF Programme sponsors: Afilias, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Nominet Trust.
Sponsorship to assist future fellowship programme fellows is strongly encouraged. In addition to demonstrating an organization’s commitment to technical capacity building and leadership development in less-developed regions, sponsorship affords an organization a range of sponsorship benefits. For information on how to become a sponsor and to learn how sponsorship can benefit your organization,visit the page or e-mail [email protected].