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Technology 14 July 2015

Taking the Internet for Granted

By Olaf KolkmanPrincipal - Internet Technology, Policy, and Advocacy

The availability of the Internet, the ubiquity of IP, is something the current generation of ICT professionals takes for granted. Having global reach when their applications and services are connected to the Internet is something that is as logical as the sun coming up in the morning and setting at night. It’s a sign of success, but also has consequences for the future.

Last week I visited Nairobi, Kenya to attend the African DNS forum, the Nairobi Intercommunity 2015 Hub, and to have conversations with students and innovators. What follows are some impressions from my visit to the United States International University in Nairobi where Prof. Meoli Kashorda from the Kenya Education Network (KENET) invited about 300 university students from 24 universities around the country for a public lecture about the Internet.

In a room bursting with ambition, I spoke about Internet architecture and talked about the Internet Invariants. I think that a majority of the students – only one of which had not used the Internet in the hour proceeding the meeting – had not really appreciated the foundational nature of the innovative freedom of the Internet. That, when they develop an application and want to deploy it on the Internet, they do not have to ask anybody for permission; that their application has instant global reach; and that, in order to maintain those properties, real work is being done in the policy and technical spheres.

I talked about Open Standards as technical building blocks and the fact that in some cases collaboration through standardization may bring competitive advantage. Or put differently, that the Internet is about competition where possible and collaboration where needed. I took some time to explain the workings of the IETF and talked about the Code Match initiative that is currently being developed. Code Match is a dating service between specifications and developers that has a great potential to draw in young talents.

While the Internet’s plumbing may not directly be on the radar of these students, it is definitely on the radar of our KENET host, Prof. Kashorda. At the end of the session he offered a travel grant for a talented student to attend a future IETF. I strongly believe that these sorts of initiatives are helping to create a mindset that the Internet’s invariants will not be invariants when they are not being maintained. This is the sort of initiative that strengthens the global and local Internet community.

Deep bow.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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