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Digital Inclusion

Internet Society, Meta partner to grow local Internet ecosystems

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The Internet Society has announced a partnership with Meta to develop local Internet ecosystems and strengthen cross-border interconnections globally, including in Africa.

The announcement marks the expansion of the Internet Society and Meta's relationship, which initially focused on expanding Internet connectivity in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America through the development of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs).

The partnership will now encompass multiple areas of work globally, including training technical communities and measuring Internet resilience in countries around the world.

IXPs are where Internet service providers connect to exchange local traffic. They enable Internet traffic to be exchanged locally instead of abroad. Messages, videos and other Internet traffic can sometimes travel thousands of miles to get to a destination a few blocks away. Traffic exchanged locally results in faster, more affordable and more reliable Internet access.

The Internet Society and Meta have supported the development of IXPs in multiple countries, including the first IXPs in the Maldives and Pakistan.

In Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) now has three IXPs while Burkina Faso has two that exchange close to 40 Gbit/s. As a result, network operators in Burkina Faso are saving on international Internet capacity costs. The savings can now be redirected to extend access and upgrade network infrastructure, the Internet Society said.

The Internet Society is a global nonprofit organization that promotes the development and use of an open, globally connected and secure Internet.

"Recent events – a global pandemic, natural disasters, and Internet shutdowns – have highlighted the importance of a resilient Internet," said Michuki Mwangi, distinguished technologist for the Internet Society. "Partnerships that bring together technical knowledge, capabilities, and resources can make a tangible impact in narrowing the connectivity gap, and collaborations such as this play a key role in expanding Internet access."

Improving affordability and growing local technical capacity

Over the next three years, the partnership will address issues such as barriers to affordable, quality Internet access.

"In many places, Internet access is marked by slow speeds, high costs, and unreliable service, delaying the adoption and growth of local Internet ecosystems," the Internet Society said.

The project will also tackle the absence of adequate local technical capacity to build and maintain Internet infrastructure.

"Local technical communities are essential to sustainable local Internet ecosystems through the provision of an essential platform for increasing the pool of local technical experts and knowledge sharing, as well as increased innovation for addressing community-specific issues," the partners said.

There is also a lack of comprehensive aggregation and analysis of trusted Internet data for understanding the health, availability and evolution of the Internet. This information is critical for better informing policy and infrastructure development and decision making for improving Internet ecosystems.

The Internet Society and Meta partnership aims to improve training for local technical communities and tackle barriers to affordable, quality Internet access.   (Source: wayhomestudio on Freepik)
The Internet Society and Meta partnership aims to improve training for local technical communities and tackle barriers to affordable, quality Internet access.
(Source: wayhomestudio on Freepik)

Meta builds technologies and owns social media giants Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Now, Meta is moving beyond 2D screens toward immersive experiences like augmented and virtual reality to help build the next evolution in social technology.

"Our partnership with the Internet Society complements Meta's infrastructure investments like subsea cables that help make the Internet ecosystem more reliable and lower the overall cost of providing Internet access," said Aaron Russell, head of edge infrastructure at Meta.

Meta is one of the companies involved in a major consortium rolling out the 2Africa subsea cable system, along with partners China Mobile International, Bayobab Africa (previously MTN GlobalConnect), Orange, center3 (stc), Telecom Egypt, Vodafone/Vodacom and the West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC).

2Africa was announced in May 2020 and is set to become the world's largest submarine cable system. The 45,000km subsea cable system will connect Africa, Europe and Asia with 27 landings in Africa across 19 countries.

2Africa made a landing in Madagascar in February 2023, and has already made four landings in South Africa.

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*Top image source: Freepik.

Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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