Latin American Participation in the IETF: IETF LAC Task Force Begins Long-term Mission

By: Alvaro Retana

Date: November 1, 2013

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During the past 20 years, use of the Internet has spread across the globe at an unimaginable rate. However, participation in the development of Internet standards has not grown in all regions at the same rapid pace. This disparity matters—global standards growth serves to both increase the talent pool and ensure that all issues are brought to light and properly addressed.

Holding IETF meetings in regions with high growth rates has spread the word about the organization and attracted new participants. China is a great example: IETF 79 was held in Beijing in 2010, where authorship and participation has been growing rapidly for almost 10 years.

Earlier this year when the IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC) announced its intent to have a meeting in Buenos Aires,1 all kinds of discussions arose around the venue, cost, security, language, politics, and even objectives and value of holding a meeting where local participation is still relatively low. But results from a survey conducted by the IAOC indicated that a significant number of people would attend an IETF meeting in South America.2

What does this mean to the region? Is it an indication of the impending explosive growth in participation from Latin America? Hardly. While having a meeting in the region may help in raising awareness, there’s no clear correlation between it and increased participation or the quality of the work.

Discussions were also held at the regional level. We talked about the potential impact and expectations of having the IETF meet locally and about the barriers of entry. Most important, we talked about what should be done. In true Latin fashion, we put perceived limitations aside and focused on the long term.

Before the end of May 2013, less than a week after the original IAOC message, the Latin American and the Caribbean Network Operators Group (LACNOG)3 chartered the IETF LAC Task Force4 with the objective of encouraging the participation of people from the region in IETF processes and discussions. Some of the goals include:

  • Being a mechanism for introducing new people to the IETF
  • Providing a place where people can discuss drafts in their own language (Spanish, Portuguese, English)
  • Providing a place where Latin authors can send their drafts and get feedback from their peers

Note that the intent of the task force is not to create a parallel organization, but to ease new participants into the IETF process by facilitating discussions in their local languages. Also, the charter of the group is not tied to whether or not an IETF meeting occurs in Latin America. LACNOG’s Program Committee wisely decided to create a task force that will transcend time and promote growth in the region for many years to come.

It is an honor to have been nominated and confirmed as the first chair of the IETF-LAC Task Force. I was born and raised in Costa Rica and have spent the past 18 years working and living in the United States—taking every opportunity to support Latin America’s technological growth. With the strong support from LACNOG, LACNIC, the Internet Society and the whole LAC community, we’re building robust momentum.

Our first order of business is to increase awareness of the IETF standardization process and the work done in it. To that extent, a grassroots effort out of Brazil kicked off to create a bound version of the Tao of IETF5 in Spanish, Portuguese, and English to be available soon so that new participants have a lasting memory of their initial encounter with the IETF. Another local effort is brewing in Mexico to reach out more to both academia and local communication companies.

An IETF Tutorial was first presented at LACNOG 2012 in Uruguay. We are currently refining it for presentation in October at the LACNOG 2013 meeting in Curaçao. In addition, it has become a constant on the agenda to talk about current “Hot Topics” being discussed in the IETF. A pre-IETF meeting was created to share interesting topics to be discussed (guided by the authors and leaders from the region). The first such meeting was held a couple of weeks before IETF 87; another is planned for just before IETF 88.

On the technical side, the group hasn’t been focusing on finding regional problems to be solved; we believe that most of the issues facing the Internet are global in nature. Interesting discussions, which have already resulted in the publication of at least two Internet-Drafts, have been held around topics as varied as peer-to-peer, RDAP bootstrapping, net neutrality, SDN, IPv6 measurement, monitoring, security and address reservation, certificate transparency, and geolocalization. The technical depth and breadth of the region is impressive!

It’s been a very exciting few months. We’ve been able to tap into an active and very diverse group of people in the region. Our plans are ongoing, extensive and include a partnership with the Internet Society. We look forward to expanding the reach of the IETF.


  1. IETF Meeting in South America,
  2. Conclusions on South American IETF Meeting,
  3. Latin American and the Caribbean Network Operators Group (LACNOG),
  4. IETF-LAC mailing list,
  5. The Tao of IETF: A Novice’s Guide to the Internet Engineering Task Force,