Jonathan B. Postel Service Award Granted to EsLaRed

By: Wendy Rickard

Date: February 7, 2009

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Lois Postel, Postel Award winner Ermanno Pietrosemoli, and ISOC president Lynn St. Amour at the Postel Service Award ceremony in Minneapolis in November 2008. Photo by Kevin Craemer 


Internet Society president Lynn St. Amour announced at the IETF 73 plenary that Fundación Escuela Latinoamericana de Redes (EsLaRed) had been granted the coveted Jonathan B. Postel Service Award. It is the first time in the 10-year history of the award that it has been given to an organization rather than to an individual.

The 2008 award commemorates the 10-year passing of Internet pioneer Jonathan B. Postel, who is best known for being editor of the RFC series and for administering the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (see article, next page). A private dinner and award ceremony, which took place later in the week, was attended by Jon Postel’s brother, Russ Postel, and Jon’s mother, Lois Postel, who presented the award to EsLaRed president Ermanno Pietrosemoli.

Ermanno spoke of the announcement of the award as an emotional moment for both him and his organization. “We have been working for many years in the shadows, without much public fanfare or recognition,” he said. “This is a very special occasion, and I am very deeply grateful to the Internet Society and to the IETF, which have been supporting us for the past 10 years.” At the ceremony, Ermanno recalled having attended the INET meeting in Geneva in 1998, where he had the opportunity to meet and to get to know Jon, whom he described as a luminary. “I really feel very honoured to be somewhat humbly associated with his name,” he added.

For the past 16 years, the little-known, Venezuela-based nonprofit EsLaRed has been training a new – and in some cases, the first – generation of Internet trainers and professionals, many of whom are forging Internet access in re-mote and under-served areas within and outside South America. EsLaRed’s efforts to facilitate scientific and technical progress in Latin America and the Caribbean have been instrumental in forming what is today a vibrant and dy-namic Internet community in the region.

In August 2008, EsLaRed participated in the effort to build a high-speed, 162-kilometre long wireless network in Malawi. The network is being used to enhance medical and educational applications at the University of Malawi. EsLaRed is also responsible for the design of a wireless data network in the Galápagos Islands.

What makes EsLaRed’s approach to network training unique is its insistence on teaching the technology that is available. “Even if we could afford more-sophisticated technologies, what would be the point?” Ermanno asked during an interview in Minneapolis. “It’s more important to have students master what they have and what they need to get the job done.” In one case, students were taught how to build an antenna out of a can, and then they were in-structed to take their antennas home and make them work. “Most of the time, people don’t see technology as belonging to them,” he said. “It’s not part of their daily life. So for them, to build an antenna and realize that it works makes a big difference in their lives.”

Seeing the difference that the Internet makes on people’s lives has been a key motivator for both Ermanno and EsLaRed. “I’m very excited because we are in a part of the world that isn’t a hot spot for technology,” he said. “So we can see how the Intenet actually changes lives.”

Since 1992, EsLaRed, with support from its worldwide and regional spon-sors, has conducted network training workshops nearly every year in locations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, including Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru. “We have been working at this for many years,” said Ermanno, “and it has been hard at times.”

At the ceremony, Lynn read a statement called Remembering Jon that was prepared by Vint Cerf . “Always a strong believer in the open and bottom-up style of the Internet,” wrote Cerf, “Jon would . . . be pleased to see that the management of the Internet address space has become regionalized and that there are now five Regional Internet Registries cooperating on global policy and serving and adapting to regional needs as they evolve. He would be equally relieved to find that the loose collaboration of DNS root zone operators has withstood the test of time and the demands of a hugely larger Inter-net, showing that their commitment has served the Internet community well.”