How Panama Is Advancing in IPv6 Adoption in Government Networks


How Panama Is Advancing in IPv6 Adoption in Government Networks

Deploying the IPv6 protocol is a strategic step towards realizing any government’s digital agenda plans.

There are currently no more available IPv4 addresses, yet in Latin America and the Caribbean approximately 200 million users —or just over 30% of the population, as reported by ECLAC— remain unconnected. Adopting the IPv6 protocol is the only way to guarantee that they can participate in the opportunities afforded by the digital age. In addition, the number of interconnected devices is growing exponentially, which also creates a huge demand for IP addresses.

Thus, the challenge is to ensure that every country can achieve high levels of IPv6 deployment so they will not be left behind, neither in terms of access for their citizens or technological development.

In the case of Panama, in 2022 the National Authority for Government Innovation (AIG) presented the results of the Project for the Coexistence of the IPv4 and IPv6 Protocols in the National Multiservice Network (RNMS), a platform that provides telecommunications services to more than 5,000 public entity sites, including communication link services (data), Internet, data center and voice services. The goal was to kick off the IPv6 adoption process in Panama’s public entities, preparing and modernizing public administration for the growing demand for connectivity that is expected in the coming years.

Alkin Saucedo B., AIG Telecommunications Director, spoke with LACNIC about the challenges of adopting the new protocol.

Why is transitioning to IPv6 important for modernizing public administration in Panama? What is the status of connectivity in the public sphere?

We at the National Authority for Government Innovation (AIG) are considering the project for introducing IPv6 as part of the strategies for the development of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector and the strengthening of the Panama Digital Hub initiative, the main goal of which is to promote the use of ICT in Panama. One of its multiple verticals is connectivity. For us, the implementation of IPv6 plays an important role in the modernization of public administration, particularly considering that LACNIC has been talking about IPv4 exhaustion and the need to transition to IPv6 for several years.

What has the implementation been like and why did you design a roadmap and a phased process?  Why is this format suitable for IPv6 implementation?

The plan we have established concludes in a roadmap and is the result of a process that included a diagnosis we previously carried out with public entities to identify not only the technology level of their infrastructure, but also their knowledge of IPv6 and the importance and priority that each public entity assigns to IPv6. This diagnosis included the RNMS, and results showed that the network is prepared to support public entities as they progressively transition to IPv6. In fact, we are already managing some IPv6 addresses through the RNMS. In this sense, creating a roadmap not only provides an order but also enables a phased implementation of IPv6 based on the specific needs of the public entities identified in the diagnosis. The roadmap establishes the actions that must be implemented in the short, medium, and long term, acknowledging the unique requirements of each public entity.

The roadmap contemplates not only training, support, and technical guidelines, but also proposes a reasonable timeframe for public entities to implement this change in technology.

What lessons have you learned from the process?

It is important to stress that the scope of the AIG focuses on public entities, yet the implementation of IPv6 will also have an impact on the private sector and private citizens. In any case, my first suggestion is to avoid forcing the transition to IPv6. I believe we must create an IPv6 culture driven by the conviction of the benefits that this technological change has to offer. I am convinced that the implementation of IPv6 in public entities will promote the adoption of this technology at the national level. However, it is necessary to invest and for these entities to begin the training phase. If we don’t move forward with this, immediate adoption is unlikely to happen. I insist. Even though we have the authority to establish mandatory regulations, I believe that this is not the way to move forward. Instead, we should establish guidelines on how to deploy IPv6, and accompany and monitor public entities as they undertake the process.

What we’ve learned from this process is that we don’t expect public entities to discard their equipment and purchase new devices in order to adopt IPv6. I think it is best to do what we are doing now, in other words, to begin a pilot for the coexistence of IPv4 and IPv6. This will provide us with the technical and administrative experience to operate networks in this environment, making it easier to complete the process with the least amount of pain. And by “pain” I am not only talking from a technological point of view, but also about the economic pain that can be caused by the new investments that may be required.

What best practices would you recommend to other governments that are also on this journey?

LACNIC’s support throughout the process has facilitated the process and should be commended.

In this sense, we insist that, rather than being mandated, the transition to IPv6 should be based on the conviction of the benefits offered by this technological change. We must focus on formalizing governance, detailing the procedures and parameters to be followed for IPv6 adoption by each public entity, recognizing the differences that exist between them. The implementation period must also be formalized. It is important for us to provide public entities with manuals and technical guidelines for IPv6 adoption, as well as the existence of a support service that can answer any questions that may arise.

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