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Opportunities and Challenges for IPv6 in Developing Countries

Compelling Reasons for Developing Countries to Migrate to IPv6

Given that the Internet is now a critical global infrastructure for socio-economic growth and is growing faster in developing countries, there are a number of key rationalizations for IPv6 migration to be accelerated in these nations. A number of these are highlighted below:

1. Many developing countries have made considerable strides in ICT but still trail developed nations as it pertains to Internet access. This ‘digital divide’ can be reduced by extending wireless networking
and mobility through the provisioning of a larger address space via IPv6.

2. By expediting the migration of IPv6, governments can deliver enhanced support for public safety networks, as well as reduce the complexity associated with the management of such. These
broadband networks better allow emergency services, such as police, fire and emergency medical services, to respond to a wide array of natural, man-made and emerging threats.

3. IPv6 is the ideal platform on which m-Health capabilities can be built. M-Health applications include the application of mobile devices in gathering clinical data, conveyance of health-related data to
medical practitioners, researchers, and patients, real-time patient monitoring systems, and remote home care by means of mobile telemedicine.

4. The underlying protocol for smart grid technology is preferably IPv6. Smart grid computing provides monitoring, analysis, control, increased cyber-security and communication capabilities to electrical delivery systems in order to maximize the throughput of the system while reducing the energy consumption.

5. Mobile banking can substantially improve access to banking products – such as savings, deposits and insurance – for lower income demographics. These services provide ways and means for lower income persons to invest in productive assets, expand their businesses and protect their livelihoods. IPv6 is emerging as the preferred platform and is a core component of the wireless Internet architecture (2G, 3G and beyond).

Despite the obvious developmental potential of IPv6 adoption and pervasive Internet networks, a number of challenges will need to be overcome before the aforementioned benefits can be realized.

Key IPv6 Migration Challenges for Developing Countries

Until now, market pressures and fragmented efforts have largely stalled the progress of IPv6 migrations.  Furthermore, the absence of a definitive migration strategy has left many developing countries in the lurch as it pertains to reaping the benefits associated with IPv6. Key challenges impacting developing countries are as follows:

1. In the context of international policymaking for IPv6, it has proven an arduous undertaking for developing countries to provide input and voice their concerns. Increased participation at international multi-stakeholder forums like IGF coupled with the creation of local and regional IG forums will serve to negate this non-productive trend. The rationale is that broadening the dialogue will foster greater awareness and allow for more creative inputs and effective solutions.

2. The governments of many developing nations are not demonstrating the steadfast commitment needed to effectuate the transition to IPv6. Governments in developing countries must lead by example through the announcement and support of IPv6 as a fundamental technology to drive national development and economic growth. They should follow this up by setting a realistic deadline for all public agencies to migrate to IPv6.

3. There is little will to make the IPv6 transition right now because of the economic climate, as well as the cost and complexity for service providers / network operators. Still, I maintain ISPs need to stop patching their networks with Carrier-Grade NATs, Content Delivery Networks and Application Level Gateways, and focus on an open, end-to-end Internet system; one that does not have scarcity as an underlying precept.

4. A lack of effective technical coordination by Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) has retarded IPv6 migrations in general. To reverse this unfortunate situation, RIRs need to stop working in isolation and agree on a methodology for moving forward. If the effort is not collaborative on a global scale, then it is doomed to fail. And finally, RIRs also need to just let the IPv4 addresses run out and stop trying to hoard them and prolong the process. The longer the wait, the more diversion will occur across the different RIRs, and then the entire concept of IPv6 transition will be lost.

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