A Climate of Change for the Caribbean Internet

Spring storms with winter qualities clobbered North America this week, threatening Canada with slow-moving storms, and pounding the United States with near-record snowfall in the midwest, low temperatures in the south and tornadoes further east. You could say change was in the air.

And although the unseasonable weather didn't reach as far south as Florida, the climate of change still dominated the atmosphere at the fifteenth regional meeting of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), held in downtown Miami from April 18 to 20.

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Internet Registry to host Caribbean forum at CaribNOG 15

An upcoming gathering of Internet experts could change the conversation around cyber security, network autonomy and network resilience in the Caribbean.

On April 19, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) will convene a special forum to address the needs of its Caribbean stakeholders. ARIN is one of five bodies, called Regional Internet Registries, that coordinate Internet number resources worldwide.

"The ARIN Caribbean forum will feature keynote speakers, presentations, panel discussions and case studies on topics relevant to strengthening and safeguarding the Caribbean Internet," said Bevil Wooding, Caribbean Outreach Liaison at ARIN.

Organisers expect dozens of regional and international delegates to attend, including government ministers, public sector technocrats, network operators, law enforcement agents, business executives, and members of the judiciary, legal fraternity, academia and civil society.

The one-day forum will focus on three main streams: public policy, justice sector and technical capacity-building. The public policy stream will give a high-level view of current issues in the  regional and international Internet governance space.

The justice sector stream targets law enforcement and judicial officers, giving an overview of major issues related to defending against and responding to cyber threats.

"Regional governments and security agencies are struggling to respond to illicit activities being coordinated in the Caribbean by large, well-funded, and highly organised international crime syndicates. Sessions at the ARIN Caribbean Forum will outline some practical approaches to regional collaboration to strengthen national and regional network security," Wooding said.

The technical capacity-building stream will promote network autonomy, security and resilience. Network resilience refers to the ability to maintain acceptable levels of service in the face of a range of challenges, including technical misconfiguration, targeted attacks and large-scale natural disasters, including hurricanes.

The forum follows the launch in February of an outreach initiative called ARIN in the Caribbean, which has so far held events in Grenada, Barbados, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, with another planned for Dominica in the coming months.

“Strengthening regional communications networks is a priority for the entire Caribbean. As our citizens, businesses and institutions place greater reliance on Internet-based technologies, closer attention has to be paid to safeguarding Internet infrastructure from threats in the physical and virtual world,” Wooding said.

ARIN's Caribbean Forum will immediately follow its public policy meeting, which takes place at the same venue in downtown Miami from April 15 to 18.

The Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) will hold its 15th regional meeting at the same location from April 18 to 20, with the support of ARIN, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, the Internet Society, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Registry and Packet Clearing House.

Internet expert calls for stronger Caribbean network resilience

The threat of climate-driven natural disaster and the struggle to keep pace with the global digital economy are among the key factors driving the need for Caribbean Internet stakeholders to strengthen the resilience of the region's communications networks.

The term 'resilience' refers to a network's ability to maintain an acceptable level of service in the face of a range of threats, such as technical misconfiguration, natural disasters or targeted attacks. In the Caribbean, where several nations are susceptible to extreme weather events or natural disasters, the importance of network resilience has come into sharp focus.

“In today’s world, the security, resilience and robustness of computer networks are critical to the development of the digital economy,” said Bevil Wooding, Caribbean Outreach Liaison at the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), a US-based not-for-profit organisation responsible for Internet number resource management.

Wooding, who is also the Strategic Information and Communications Technology Advisor for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, emphasised the importance of the issue as he addressed regional officials at the 36th Executive Council meeting of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), held in St Vincent and the Grenadines in March.

"The Caribbean can no longer afford to leave important decisions about network buildout, network resource management and network infrastructure spend only to commercial telecommunications providers. Those issues are now the concern and the responsibility of governments, private network operators and even end users," he said.

Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS Commission, pointed out that the devastating 2017 Atlantic hurricane season heightened the need to boost the resilience of regional communications infrastructure.

“As a region, we must have a clear, strategic approach to building out Internet infrastructure to drive business innovation and economic development,” Jules said.

He warned that the global economy will become increasingly unforgiving to regions with failing, outdated or unsecured technology.

“If we do not act with urgency to address this, the impact on our economic and social development can be more devastating than last season’s hurricanes.”

Wooding added that a number of collaborative initiatives are already underway in the region. The CTU recently empanelled a special commission to identify actionable recommendations for improving Caribbean network resilience. And a meeting of the Caribbean Network Operators Group, to be held in Miami in April, will focus on building technical capacity in computer network design, management and security.

Internet orgs team up to curb climate impact on Caribbean networks

A new initiative to make Caribbean Internet infrastructure less vulnerable to the impact of climate change and natural disasters is gaining momentum across the region. Several Internet organisations recently held talks in Puerto Rico to flesh out a more collaborative approach to boosting Caribbean communications network resilience.

"Organisations with a responsibility for coordinating the development of the internet globally are committed to partnering with our stakeholders across the Caribbean to ensure that the region is better prepared for the expected increase in climate-change related events," said Bevil Wooding, Director of Caribbean Outreach at the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN).

"We have a collective responsibility to ensure that our region is adequately prepared, resourced and secured to deal with threats in the physical and virtual world."

Wooding, who is also a strategic advisor to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, co-chaired the meeting, which included representatives from the Internet Society, Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Registry (LACNIC), the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunication Organisation (CANTO), and the Southern School of Internet Governance, among others.

"It is clear that the region needs more robust electrical and telecommunications infrastructure. Without electricity, there is no Internet either," said Shernon Osepa, meeting co-chair and Regional Affairs Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society.

"The Internet Society is developing a Disaster Relief Fund as part of our Beyond The Net funding program. This new program will enable Internet Society Chapters in affected regions after a natural disaster to apply for funds for projects that restore Internet connectivity," he added.

The latest talks were held parallel to a Community Forum hosted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, commonly called ICANN 61, which took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico from March 10 to 15. Puerto Rico is among several Caribbean islands still recovering from the unprecedented 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season.

Sharing real-world stories and lessons learnt from lived experience was a major feature of the interactive and lively session. Dr. Oscar Moreno de Ayala, CEO of NIC .PR, shared perspectives from the ongoing recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico.

Lance Hinds, Special Advisor to the Minister of Public Telecommunications in Guyana, said that while the South American nation is not as susceptible to hurricanes as its island-neighbours, the rural and hinterland areas of Guyana are susceptible to flooding during the rainy season, and there is no less urgency in the need to recover quickly after an adverse environmental event. Hinds explained that the indigenous communities in the hinterland are sometimes severely affected and difficult to assist because of challenges with terrain and distance.

"As we consider our expanding communications sector, the Ministry of Public Telecommunications is looking for ways to increase the resilience of our networks to the impact of these kinds of extreme events. That involves engaging the major telcos and the smaller service providers operating in those locations to make sure that there is swift restoration of power and connectivity post-disaster," Hinds said.

Dr. Luis Martinez, President of the Mexico Chapter of the Internet Society, recounted some lessons learnt after a series of earthquakes and aftershock struck Mexico in September 2017.

"After a major earthquake, your best chance to carry out successful search and rescue operations to identify, locate and extract survivors is within the first 48 hours. That means that within two days, we had to set up low-bandwidth community networks to enable simple (SMS-based) communication."

The community of volunteers who were using the network had to learn some basic rules to minimise bandwidth use, prolong battery life, share mobile handsets, and avoid inadvertently hampering official rescue efforts, Martinez said.

"Within two days, the way in which people started using the network fell into three basic categories."

He explained that there were fact-finders who were gathering and reporting fresh information, data publishers who were extracting the raw data from the reports and tabling them into open-source spreadsheets and databases, and data verifiers who were working to confirm, correct or debunk reports.

"There are many important lessons to be drawn from the experience of the previous natural disasters across the region. We recognize that greater dialog and a more collaborative approach to disaster preparedness and response is key," Wooding said.

Significant attention has been paid over the past few months to the issue of strengthening the resilience of Caribbean networks and to the development of greater technical capacity in the region. Officials from Caribbean ministries with responsibility for Internet and telecommunications policy development recently discussed collaborative approaches to strengthening regional network security and resilience at the CTU's Caribbean Internet Governance Forum, held in St Vincent and the Grenadines last month.

The CTU has also formed a special commission to identify actionable recommendations for improving Caribbean network resilience. Also, the upcoming CaribNOG Regional meeting from April 18 to 20 in Miami will focus on building technical capacity for Caribbean Network engineers and administrators to design resilient networks.

ICANN spearheads VDECC project to build Internet economy in the Caribbean HILTON

FEBRUARY 19, 2018

A group of global and regional technology organisations are partnering to help Caribbean professionals get more out of the Internet economy.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) spearheaded the launch of the Virtual DNS Entrepreneurship Center of the Caribbean (VDECC). The term DNS refers to the domain name system, a core component of the technology behind the Internet. The DNS automatically translates human-readable website addresses into the numeric machine addresses that computers use. 

VDECC aims to open up new money-making opportunities in the DNS industry for Internet businesses and entrepreneurs across the region, including Internet service providers, web hosting companies, top-level domain operators, domain name registrars and resellers, web developers, digital marketers, e-commerce startups and Internet legal experts.

“With the right mindset, a wide range of Internet stakeholders can take advantage of emerging opportunities to offer their services. Entrepreneurs with the right vision taking the right action can create new and sustainable business ventures,” said Albert Daniels, Stakeholder Engagement Senior Manager for the Caribbean at ICANN.

The initiative was launched in Port of Spain on February 19, in partnership with the Latin American and Caribbean Country Code Top-Level Domain Association (LACTLD), CANTO, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, and the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), the volunteer-based community of computer network administrators from across the Caribbean. 

Daniels described VDECC as the fruit of ICANN’s collaboration with organisations such as CANTO, CTU and CaribNOG. Delivering opening remarks at the launch, representatives of those bodies also voiced a desire to build strategic partnerships with ICANN.

“The VDECC initiative represents a new wave of possibility for how the Caribbean region is represented on the global DNS marketplace. We have the chance to engage a new cadre of entrepreneurially minded computer engineers, who are interested in playing a part on the global scale but may not fully understand the pathway to getting there,” said Bevil Wooding, Caribbean Outreach Liaison at the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and one of the founders of CaribNOG. 

Meeting sessions covered a range of topics, such as the domain name aftermarket, and how to become an ICANN-accredited registrar. Plenary question-and-answer sessions peppered the agenda, creating a rich atmosphere of free-flowing dialogue among an audience that included a mix of technical, policy, legal and business interests. A number of online participants from across the Caribbean and Latin America also joined the dialogue through a live video stream. The open discussion identified a number of potentially lucrative business opportunities but also pinpointed specific hurdles that have to be overcome.

“We have a long road ahead, and this is just the first step,” said Daniel Fink, Stakeholder Engagement Senior Manager for Brazil at ICANN.

Upcoming events are being planned for Belize, Guyana and Jamaica later this year. More information is available on the VDECC website: http://www.vdecc.online

From Crisis to Resilience - the Path to Sustainable Communications Infrastructure in the Caribbean

The increased intensity of severe weather events in the Caribbean is putting a spotlight on the need to improve critical Internet infrastructure in the region. Strengthening Caribbean network resiliency is the theme for our fifteenth gathering, which takes place on April 18-20 in Miami, USA. And it is the focus of a special Commission for Caribbean Communications Resilience, which has been empaneled to examine the region's communications vulnerabilities and make recommendations for greater resiliency.

The Caribbean suffered six major storms in 2017, including the record-breaking Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria. In the unprecedented destruction, the islands of Dominica and Barbuda lost all communication and telecommunications service, and eight other Caribbean countries were severely disrupted.

Each hurricane season wreaks greater devastation than the last, yet decreased telecommunications competition, inadequate regulation, and high national debt burdens in the region yield ever-diminishing infrastructural investment. In effect, the Caribbean enters each hurricane season with more fragile communications infrastructure than the year before. Consequently, the region's capacity to rebound diminishes each year. Drawing from the devastation and experience of the last hurricane season, the region is now taking steps to ensure that its networks are more robust and more resilient.

The New Normal?

The increasing frequency and intensity of storms in the Caribbean are concerning to both its residents, who have to find ways of surviving, as well as those tasked with maintaining life-supporting infrastructure in the region. The escalating devastation is also profoundly challenging given the historic constraints of economy, infrastructure and human capacity that define the Caribbean's small states.

Hurricane Maria destroyed every building in Barbuda, and all of its infrastructure, requiring that the entirety of the country's population be evacuated to other islands. In Dominica, 29 lives were lost, more than 30 persons are still missing, and the country's agriculture reserves were entirely lost. Barbuda, Dominica, Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla sustained severe disruptions in communications networks and entire communities were completely disconnected from the Internet, severely hampering recovery and humanitarian relief efforts. The damage and losses in Dominica alone totaled at least 1.3 billion US dollars, more than double the nation's GDP.
While unprecedented, the 2017 hurricane season was not unanticipated, and it is part of a larger system of related problems. For the Caribbean, the challenge is not only climate-change fueled hurricanes, but includes rising sea levels, coral bleaching, drought, and other consequences of the earth's changing climate patterns.

Opportunity in the Storm

The Director General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean, (OECS) Dr. Didacus Jules, recently stated,

"The existential challenge of smallness is the contradiction of opportunity coexisting with vulnerability. On the one hand, smallness provides the scale ideal for field-testing innovation and integrated ecological solutions to the dilemmas of human civilization… On the other hand, at the core of smallness is vulnerability. The vulnerability of small states is inversely proportional to size because the mathematics of disaster does not move the human conscience as it does on a larger stage."

The small size of markets and populations in the region make the Caribbean particularly vulnerable to exogenous shocks. However, small size also makes it possible to experiment with and implement solutions that can benefit entire national communities. It allows for national models to be tested before being applied on a regional or even a global scale. This is the opportunity before the Caribbean.

Focus on Network Resilience

The failure of Caribbean communications networks was a particularly worrying consequence of the recent storms. It highlighted the urgent need to strengthen the region's communications infrastructure. Critical telecommunications services, including mobile networks and Internet connectivity, were severely disrupted. Relief efforts were hampered not only by disabled networks, but also by limited technical personnel, and the absence of regulations and plans to allow for emergency spectrum and infrastructure sharing.

Thankfully, regional organizations like the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and the volunteer-based, non-profit Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), are focusing special attention on strengthening Caribbean network resilience. They have found solid support from Internet organizations such as Packet Clearing House (PCH) and the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), each with a strong interest and history in supporting critical Internet Infrastructure in the region.

The CTU has empaneled a special Commission for Caribbean Communications Resilience to critically examine the region's communications vulnerabilities and make recommendations for more resilient infrastructure, technologies, and practices. There is strong support for the Commission from industry, including IBM, Cisco, and Intel, as well as intergovernmental organizations like the World Bank and Organization of American States as it works to develop actionable recommendations for regional governments, regulators and communications ministries. It is hoped that these recommendations, expected before the start of the 2018 hurricane season, will help strengthen local and regional network infrastructure and spur the creation of more autonomous networks in the region.

CaribNOG is overseeing the development of special software applications to address specific disaster preparedness and response gaps that were exposed. It is also designing technical workshops targeting network operators and computer engineers to help with the proliferation of autonomous networks and strengthening of critical Internet infrastructure in the Caribbean. The CTU and CaribNOG are also collaborating on capacity building efforts aimed at regulators and policymakers.

The scale of the devastation wrought by this season's hurricanes is unprecedented in recent Caribbean communications history. Now, there is unprecedented commitment to work collaboratively to strengthen network resilience in the region. There is also new resolve to ensure that the Caribbean is better prepared for whatever the future brings.

By Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist at Packet Clearing House Packet Clearing House (PCH) is an international non-profit organization responsible for providing operational support and security to critical Internet infrastructure. Follow Wooding on Twitter: @bevilwooding and Facebook: facebook.com/bevilwooding or email bevil@pch.net Visit Page

Internet Week Guyana to kick off with ICT Awareness Day

In the Caribbean, our growing inventory of web-connected gadgets is constantly changing the way that we do routine business transactions and access critical services. It is also raising interesting questions about how we can get more from information and communications technology, or ICT, while staying safe online. An upcoming ICT Awareness Day in Guyana, on October 9, aims to answer some of those questions. 

“The ICT Awareness Day is free of charge and open to the public. It is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to learn more about how to stay safe online, and how to get involved in the governance of the global Internet,” said Kevon Swift, Head of Strategic Relations and Integration at the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC), an organisation that distributes and manages Internet number resources in the region.

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