Review of the first leg of LACNIC Caribbean on the move – Suriname edition, 3-4 July 2015

29/07/2015

Editorial: Kevon Swift

LACNIC Caribbean on the move???

What has happened to LACNIC’s Caribbean event? If you had been to LACNIC’s May meeting this year or recently interacted with LACNIC staff you might have heard of something called “Caribbean on the move.” For some people, this phrase might have been gleaned in passing without much reflection given to what it really meant. We all know that between the May and October events there is usually some kind of LACNIC engagement that takes place at a sunny tropical destination, right? What we might not have known is that the way the Caribbean event is organised and executed has changed significantly as of this year.

LACNIC Caribbean on the move is a reformulation of the traditional Caribbean event where, as the name suggests, LACNIC moves from Internet community to community to get to know Caribbean constituents better and carry out meaningful dialogue with them. Besides the core activity of distributing and managing Internet numbers, LACNIC has always cooperated actively with various Internet actors to ensure the construction of an open, stable and secure Internet at the service of Latin American and Caribbean societies. Though largely composed of islands, the Caribbean area also includes some mainland territories that are attuned to the social, cultural and economic aspects of Caribbean life, and participate in debates and processes hosted by Caribbean actors. There are also some highly comparable challenges that these communities face when it comes to their development. One of these challenges is the issue of limited resources within communities to identify trends within the Internet ecosystem, synthesise information and participate in region-wide processes such as the LACNIC community’s Policy Development Process (PDP) for managing number resources. While there can never be a quick-fix, external solution to face said challenges, LACNIC Caribbean on the move is intended to meet Caribbean Internet communities along the way.

Destination Paramaribo

Against this backdrop we decided to reach out to Suriname, the smallest independent country on the South American continent that is indeed involved in the work of regional organisations in the Caribbean such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organisations (CANTO) and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). Suriname has a population of just under 600,000 with an Internet penetration rate of 37.4%[1]. There are only four LACNIC members in Suriname, namely Telesur, Uniqa, Parbonet and Digicel. With this baseline identified, we contemplated  starting off in Suriname using a broader range of perspectives and cognisant of potential. Suriname is actually the largest territority in the Dutch-speaking Caribbean, and has well-established cultural and economic links with the territories of the former Netherland Antilles. The opportunity to carry out the first edition of LACNIC Caribbean on the move in Suriname became even riper when our key local partner, the Telecommunicatie Autoriteit Suriname (TAS), informed us of  a dynamic event being organised by the ICT Association of Suriname – ICT Summit Paramaribo 2015.

Over the last three years, ICT Summit Paramaribo has become Suriname’s premier annual ICT event addressing topics such as mobile technology, analytics, Internet Governance (IG), Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, social media and security. It boasts of speakers and participants from many countries including the Netherlands, Curaçao, Colombia, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago and South Africa among others. The Summit also includes a bustling commercial space where over 20 exhibitors engage delegates and professionals on the latest products and trends in the ICT industry. The dynamics on the floor during this year’s Summit were indeed noteworthy – there was a high number of spontaneous interprofessional exchanges among technologists, lawyers, media professionals, parliamentarians, businessmen and students.

How did we do it?

Our approach for conducting LACNIC Caribbean on the move is quite simple – partner with interested organisations on the ground prior to elaborating on our baseline information and determining a scope of activity. In the case of Suriname, we started a dialogue in March of this year with TAS – the telecommunications regulator with oversight of new entrants into the Internet market. We were quickly able to localise our ideas for Suriname and better define our prospects for collaboration. The specific visiting LACNIC team for the event and other collaborators from our sister Internet organisations were confirmed based on these initial talks. As it turned out, one of our contacts at TAS was also a member of the ICT Association of Suriname and was therefore able to provide a window for all of our organisations to meet common goals.

The LCOTM event

Through TAS’ good offices, LACNIC Caribbean on the move was set up as an Internet-themed track at the 2015 ICT Summit Paramaribo that was open, not only to paying Summit delegates but rather a wide range of stakeholders including policy makers, regulator staff, technology students, IT instructors, IT business professionals and network technicians. Over the two-day period, we conducted seminars and workshops in one of three on-site meeting rooms on hot-ticket topics including the latest developments in global Internet Governance, live policy discussions within the LACNIC community, routing and management concepts under IPv6 and Internet security. Through the remote participation of Mr Shernon Osepa, a great colleague at the Internet Society (ISOC), we analysed the big picture of the Internet ecosystem before zeroing in on its constituent parts. We even maintained a presence in the exhibition area by sharing a booth with TAS, where we made a wide range of informational materials and tokens available for curious delegates. The exhibition area also provided a number of interview opportunities with other exhibitors, event organisers and the media.

Admittedly, participant numbers varied throughout each day with the afternoon sessions having less people than the morning ones. In fact, an observation in Caribbean ICT/Internet discussions is that there is a focus on infrastructure nuts and bolts, which we can assume is proportionate to the development of the Information Society in Caribbean communities. Number resources, and discussions about them, may not necessarily be in the front line of the ICT Smorgasbord stakeholders at Caribbean conferences face but their importance is considered relatively high all the same. Yet a key constant for each session was the quality and depth of interactions held with participants. Interactions largely centred on the desire to discover more technical knowledge, especially around RPKI and DNSSEC; troubleshooting for operational issues by network managers; and increasing the appreciation for the technical coordination paradigm of the Internet by policy makers, lawyers and students present in the room. As expected, the LACNIC team was able to share information to address each case as presented all the while learning about Suriname’s Internet environment and some of the issues affecting small and micro players with respect to number resources.

Where do we go from here?

We left Suriname with more work (an application for number resources was initiated on the spot on the last day), more contacts, more knowledge and an overall sense of connecting effectively with a Caribbean Internet community so that futher activities will follow. Information on upcoming Internet events was shared and even a few basic proposals for Internet projects were made by some contacts. At this juncture it is difficult to say which of the proposals may come to fruition but what is certain is that we have indeed presented ourselves as a point of reference from the technical community, to assist a national community in its Internet development. This task could not have been made possible on our own, nor should it be done that way. LACNIC is indebted to the Director and staff at TAS, and Mr Shernon Osepa at ISOC, for making LACNIC Caribbean on the move – Suriname a success. Plans for future editions of LACNIC Caribbean on the move are in the making and will be announced in due time.

If you would like to see specific information about the Suriname event such as the agenda and presentations please visit the the LACNIC Caribbean on the move website at the following link: http://www.lacnic.net/en/web/eventos/onthemove. If you work for an organisation based in the Caribbean, and are interested in having this event hosted in your country please write to onthemove@lacnic.net.


[1] Source: ITU (2013) Percentage of Individuals using the Internet. See full statistics at http://goo.gl/kCRClt

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