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Measuring the Internet 25 November 2020

Measuring Internet Resilience in Africa

By Kevin ChegeDirector, Internet Development

For many in the African region, Internet interruptions or service degradations occur frequently, which results in a disjointed Internet experience. In order to help improve this experience, we need to track and measure various Internet characteristics through network telemetry. This data can help to identify infrastructure and traffic issues and can provide key information to help decision makers decide where infrastructure investment and policy change might need to be made.

However, as shown by a survey carried out by AFRINIC, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Africa, in 2019, Internet measurement is not a common practice in the African region. This is largely due to a scarcity of deployed measurement tools, platforms and equipment, a lack of awareness in the subject, and the lack of relevant skills to carry out the measurement tasks. The shortage of measurement equipment in African countries makes it very challenging to accurately determine the problem areas that need to be addressed in order to improve Internet reliability and resilience in Africa.

Collaborative Measurements 

Assessing the resilience of the Internet is a key component of the Internet Society’s work on Measuring the Internet. To help identify the causes of Internet interruptions and service degradations, we need to increase the number of measurement vantage points or points from where data measurements can be initiated across the continent. The Measuring Internet Resilience in Africa (MIRA) project is a partnership between the Internet Society and AFRINIC that aims to do just that by facilitating and carrying out sustained Internet measurements in the African region.

The main goals of the MIRA project are to:

  • Determine metrics to evaluate Internet resilience in Africa. 
  • Present this Internet resilience data on the Internet Society’s Internet Insights platform to help policy makers, network operators, engineers, and end users get the information they need.

You can find out more about MIRA and our work with AFRINIC in this video*. 

Kick Off

We’re starting our work by increasing the number of Internet measurement vantage points in Africa by supplying measurement infrastructure and supporting deployment. We are already collecting – or preparing to collect – metrics on throughput, round trip time (RTT), and latency measurements in Benin, Congo DRC, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia, Madagascar, Kenya, Tunisia, and Burkina Faso. More countries will be added as soon as suitable vantage points are identified.

Measurement Infrastructure

The MIRA project will carry out measurements using M-Lab’s Murakami tool initially and will add in the RIPE NCC’s RIPE Atlas in the coming months. Both of these tools support software clients that can be installed on a variety of operating systems and can carry out various Internet measurements. The software will be installed on small Raspberry PIs that we call measurement probes. We chose this technology to allow uninterrupted and dedicated measurements to be carried out on lightweight, low power hardware that can easily be obtained in many parts of the region.

Community Participation

Several Internet Society Chapters are currently contributing to this project by hosting probes, which is helping to increase the number of measurement vantage points in Africa. Currently, the Madagascar, Benin, Tunisia, and Ethiopia Chapters are actively engaged in setting up measurement probes and are expected to have their infrastructure up and running before the end of November 2020. We are already collecting data in Kenya and Mauritius on infrastructure that has been deployed by Internet Society staff (Kenya) and AFRINIC staff (Mauritius).

Looking Ahead

Over the next few months, we’ll continue our ongoing work to increase the number of countries hosting MIRA measurement infrastructure. We’ll also bring additional data partners and sources on board to help us build a better picture of how resilient Africa’s Internet is and where improvements could be made. In 2021, the MIRA project plans to have:

  • A dedicated Internet Resilience section on the Internet Insights platform.
  • Up-to-date information on the quality of Internet connectivity in different African countries.
  • Data on historical growth on improvements to Internet reliability in African countries.
  • Easy-to-access data for Internet users to determine their Internet reliability.
  • Insights into policies that contribute to stable and improved Internet connectivity throughout Africa.
  • A scalable model for future Internet measurements in other regions.

More Information:

* This video was originally part of the RIPE NCC’s RIPE Atlas Open House event, which took place on 18 November, 2020. Watch the full video of the event.

Image by Tamarcus Brown via Unsplash

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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