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Infrastructure and Community Development 1 September 2021

In Rwanda, Paving the Way to Keep Local Content Local

Israel Nyoh
By Israel NyohCommunications and Outreach Manager - Africa

A little over a decade ago, the African Internet community set an ambitious goal. With the 80/20 Initiative, they committed to exchange 80% of Internet traffic locally, with just 20% routed from outside the continent.

Establishing Internet exchange points (IXPs) is key to not only achieving this goal—but also to making the Internet faster and more affordable.

The Rwanda Internet Community and Technology Association (RICTA) is a nonprofit which represents the interests of the Rwandan Internet community. RICTA was already familiar with the benefits of IXPs when the 80/20 inititiave launched. Since 2004 it has managed the Rwandan Internet Exchange (RINEX).

RINEX was one of the first IXPs to be established in Africa. Now in its second decade, it has 18 members, including ISPs, telecommunications operators, government institutions, banks, educational institutions, and content delivery networks.

RINEX paves the way for different networks and content providers to keep local content local.

As Grace Ingabire, chief executive officer of RICTA, says, helping partners to localize content means that transit costs and latency in the network are reduced. And improved latency leads to a much better user experience.

Ingabire sees the Internet Society as a valuable partner. As well as supporting RICTA’s vision for capacity building and the technical development of IXPs in Africa, we’ve donated IXP equipment like switches, optical transceivers, servers, and routers. “It has left us in a position to support new and existing IXPs in the region,” she says.

She also credits the African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) for giving her the opportunity to meet people from diverse sectors—and to connect with other women in technology. She says AfPIF has helped her reach and connect with important players in the industry, particularly content delivery networks.

In 2017, RICTA carried out a pilot to repatriate some of its websites back to Rwanda, with assistance from the Internet Society. Moving to local hosting resulted in a dramatic drop in loading times. This increased the number of visits to the repatriated websites and improved visitor engagement, with both more page views per session and more return visits. Importantly, it also expanded business opportunities for hosting resellers and local data centers for website developers.

The 80/20 goal has become part of RICTA’s desire to grow local traffic. “What we have been doing in Rwanda is creating awareness in the country,” says Ingabire. “It’s been achieved through campaigns, training, and engagement with the community.”

“Government support guarantees that we will have more institutions coming on board,” she adds. One of those organizations connected to RINEX is the Rwandan Revenue Authority, which helps people access government services.

RICTA has also reached out to banks and financial institutions, but there remains a need for education and awareness. With more outreach, Rwanda can create an enabling environment and incentives that help local players to host more in-country content.

“It’s a sector that’s trying to develop in almost every African country, but there is still lack of trust for local platforms,” Ingabire says.

RINEX, a trailblazer in Africa, is ready to take on the challenge.

Building a successful IXP isn’t just about engineering. It takes time and effort to develop trust in local communities. Join us and help grow the Internet!

Image by Michael Muli via Unsplash

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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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