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Transitioning to IPv6; Opportunities and Challenges for the developing world

The continued exponential growth of Internet usage has led to the diminishing of the IPv4 address pool hence IPv6; IPv6 is the new protocol that was introduced to replace IPv4 in the long term. This exponential growth has mainly been accounted for by the rapid adoption of the Internet in the developing world (DW) which is a “newcomer” onto the Internet scene. The early transition to IPv6, therefore, offers several opportunities the developing world (DW) can benefit from as discussed below.

The major reason for IPv6 development is the address space it offers. Early adoption by the DW prepares them for the predicted avalanche of IP address demand as uptake of Internet services continues to grow steadily. Similarly, the late adoption of the Internet in the DW meant that it received less addresses and at a higher price given that their need emerged at a time when it had been realized that the IPv4 protocol was not scalable enough to handle the demand. Early adoption (migration) to IPv6 will thus enable the DW to compete on the same terms with the developed world hence relieving them of the “catch-up” burden but rather be part of the development process.

The recent explosion of Internet adoption in developing countries (DCs) has mainly been attributed to the emergence of wireless and mobile Internet technologies; this is basically because mobility is a key characteristic of natives in the DW and enables higher production levels as people are constrained by neither time nor space.  One of the main strengths of IPv6 is its in built support for mobility. This implies that it is already suitable to the Internet development process of the DW.  Therefore, IPv6 will accelerate rather than impede the progress towards Internet adoption. A fast adoption avails the opportunity to test and experiment with the new protocol before the “definitive” time when the IPv4 will completely disappear from the Internet. As it stands, IPv6 and IPv4 will run concurrently for sometime before a complete shift to an IPv6 only internet. This is time for network engineers, managers and all concerned to evaluate the potential and benefits of IPv6 as well as mitigate risks involved with the protocol. It also gives the DW a chance to develop Internet applications relevant to their communities.

 

Access to limitless resources; at the height of efforts to see a faster adoption of IPv6, many international organizations (ITU, ISOC, etc) are offering resources in terms of funds, training and personnel for this cause. Efforts by DCs to transition will provide them access to these resources and a chance to build their capacity cheaper. Early adoption also allows for an incremental form of transition which is cheaper and less risky than the “onetime” overhaul transition. 

 

Challenges facing the DW include the lack of an institutional framework for IPv6 transition. The lack of a structured coordination of transition activities can lead to several duplicate efforts and later conflicts of interest from the different parties and eventually power struggles. Such scenarios lead to wastage of the limited resources available with little or no success. It is, therefore, prudent for the DCs to mandate a taskforce composed of all relevant stakeholders to spearhead and oversee an effective transition. Mainstreaming of IPv6 issues by government can also help to provide a “driving force/champion” toward the transition as it avails more resources to the task and shows how critical the issues are.

Inadequate resources; DCs lack adequate funds; human resource capacity and equipment to execute a smooth transition. This is compounded by the general lack of awareness and capacity to comprehend the gist of IPv6 at the management and policy level. This implies that the projects will be limited in scope with a high risk of mismanagement and failure; the lack of experience also implies reliance on expertise from the developed world which is not only expensive but unsustainable in the long term since the “local” capacity would not built after the transition and yet the expertise would not be available. This can be addressed by targeting access to resources from development partners that can help supplement the few resources and public private partnerships (PPP ).

Transition to IPv6 provides challenges and opportunities to the developing world. The challenges can however, be mitigated and turned into opportunities which requires creativity and cooperation from all Internet stakeholders. There is thus more to gain from by the developing world through early transitioning to IPv6.

 

References

  1. http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/worksem/ipv6/200506/presentations/s2-1-bla...
  2. http://meeting.afrinic.net/afrinic-15/sites/default/files/img/hisha...
  3. http://tech.slashdot.org/story/09/08/20/1423224/ipv6-challenges-and...

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