IETF 104 and some thoughts about participation from Africa.

Loganaden Velvindron
Mar 30 · 2 min read

As the NOC team switches off the network equipment during IETF 104 and we we were packing up here in Mauritius, I was taking a look at my twitter feeds. I’m just amazed at the number of hubs with packed rooms participating remotely. It appears that there are a lot of students from Universities.

There are 11 hubs and 10 countries represented. In all, there are 54 african countries. If we divide it into countries, we would have 18% participation from African countries during IETF 104. Will we ever get to 80% ? I believe that it is possible with more collaboration between IETF viewing hubs and supporting organizations. Compared to 2016, there is definitely an increase.

As a first step, we decided to take time during IETF 104 to collaborate with hubs that had contacted us to help them get up to speed. Integrating IETF into the high school & university programmes is still a challenge due to perceived high barrier of entry for participating into the IETF both as a protocol designer and an implementor.

If you’re only doing operational work (network engineering), then you would restrict your IETF sessions to a select few dealing with BGP and TCPM for example.

A fully prepared IETF participant would need to understand protocol design theory and have programming knowledge in a language such as python or golang at minimum. Does our industry need such expertise ? I would argue that we do if we want to grow beyond being merely consuming technology. With the current debate over trust with some equipment manufacturers coming from some countries, there will be a growing market to be filled with trustworthy network equipment. The best equipment that you can trust is equipment you build yourself.

During the hackathon, I believe that many participants from Mauritius learned more than they expected about TCP/IP, great tools like wireshark, and how the internet works under the hood. The IETF hackathon has never been about competition but about collaboration. It was a fun hackathon and we got great internet thanks to our sponsor Mauritius Telecom. It was fun to show to a 15-year old student how netperf runs on the wire, interpreting an Internet Draft and how to test his implementation using wireshark.

I wish we had more time, more resources and more participants. It’s a difficult task with the small number of mentors available right now in Mauritius. Scaling participation will an ongoing challenge that other IETF remote hubs will encounter in the coming years.

Loganaden Velvindron

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I am interested in making the Internet better. I also lead from #mauritius.