Networking the Internet Community

Growth of the Caribbean Network Operators Group

Rise of the NOGs

From the days when the Internet was still a university project until now, many of the technologies that we take for granted were developed and streamlined in environments where technical specialists and user communities came together to share knowledge and experiences. As the Internet matured it became critically linked to the growth and application of information and communication technologies.

Network Operator Groups, commonly referred to as NOGs, evolved to meet the need for stakeholders to dialogue and debate over technical as well as social issues that impact the advance of information and communication technologies.

NOGs fill a very significant role in the international Internet-community ecosystem. These volunteer communities of technical specialists, security experts, software programmers, analysts and enthusiasts provided an important forum for knowledge and resource sharing, skill development, relationship building and global networking.

Today, NOGs exist in every region of world and are widely regarded as an important point of objective, expert support for the development and nurturing of technical talent and the management of critical Internet resources.

Caribbean NOG for Caribbean Networks

The value and importance of having a strong, vibrant, NOG is no less important for the Caribbean. Throughout the region, Internet service providers, backbone and regional networks, web hosting facilities, firewalls, clouds and corporate networks are being created and deployed at a remarkable pace.

The technicians, managers, entrepreneurs and engineers responsible for these networks are under tremendous pressure to keep pace and master the skills necessary to design, operate and secure these increasingly complex systems. CaribNOG, the Caribbean Network Operators Group, was formed specifically to address these needs.

From its inaugural meeting in St Maarten in 2010 to its most recent regional gathering in Grenada, CaribNOG has been providing an interactive forum for builders of the Caribbean Internet to hone their skills and to learn from their peers and other leaders in the regional and global Internet community.

The volunteer-based, non-profit group is part of a coordinated movement in the region’s tech community to increase Caribbean capacity to manage and treat with increasingly complex Internet development issues.

Building regional expertise 

In its brief history, CaribNOG has already trained more than 400 people in workshops, symposia and technical lectures. Its events typically involve hands-on tutorials and workshops where the attendees can learn about network design; cyber-security; Internet numbering, and routing; domain name and Internet resource management; trends and best practices.

According to Jamaican-born Stephen Lee, CaribNOG’s co-ordinating team lead, “CaribNOG has been steadily building its reputation as an influential forum for network technicians and technology professionals to share experiences and participate in hands-on technical workshops. It has also proven itself as a forum for highlighting important technical issues such as cyber security, Internet exchange points and IP network design. ”

CARIBNOG regional gatherings are held three times each year, and include presentations, tutorials, and technical workshops. The meetings are informal, and membership is open. Conference participants typically include engineering and network administration staff from ISPs, Universities, private sector and government. Participating researchers present short summaries of their work for operator feedback.

Its rapid growth and regional spread has in large part been due to its close association with the Caribbean Telecommunication Union’s (CTU) successful Caribbean ICT Roadshow.

CTU Secretary General, Bernadette Lewis has stated,“The CTU sees supporting CaribNOG as part of its continued commitment to deepening technical expertise within the region.

Furthermore, the goals of CaribNOG are consistent with the CTU's vision for greater technical collaboration within the region.”

CaribNOG events are also being supported by a number of international Internet development organisations including, the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN), the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC) and Packet Clearing House (PCH).

N is for Networking 

CaribNOG is not all about technology, protocols and presentations. The group is also serious about the social networking and relationship building. CaribNOG social events, called LIME-Time, is listed on its agenda as an official session.

Kimron Mills, a network technician from St Kitts, a veteran of three CaribNOG regional meetings, stated “The real human relationships between CaribNOG-ers is as valuable as the technical knowledge we receive. Knowing I can call my counterpart in Trinidad or Antigua or Barbados for assistance on a cyber-attack or network design challenge, makes my participation in CaribNOG really worth it.”

As one of the founding members of CaribNOG, I too can attest first-hand to the value and benefit it brings to network engineers and other technical stakeholders in the growing Caribbean Internet community.

CaribNOG allows us all to look at the issue of technology-based development through the prism of regional collaboration and co-operation.

Company badges and sovereign allegiances all fade in the light of serving the greater good of building, supporting and advancing regional networks and the global Internet.

CaribNOG is now an essential part of the Caribbean technology landscape, and follows a model that has relevance and value well beyond it.

Bevil Wooding is a founding member of CaribNOG and Program Manager for the Caribbean ICT Roadshow He designs and facilitates technology training and capacity building initiatives throughout the region. 

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