This November I was lucky enough to attend my first AFRINIC meeting. Despite the temptation of the beach, I made my way to the Sofitel Hotel in Mauritius each and every day. This was an interesting experience for me. As an academic, I’m very used to attending conferences, but AFRINIC provided a unique vantage into the more practical world of operators and policy. I, myself, am a Internet measurements specialist, who spends his days (and sometimes nights) collecting data to understand the functioning of networks, often in Africa. Hence, I landed in Mauritius with an open mind for how the meeting could feed into my own research.
The first day had a clear technical focus. There were a number of great talks, including studies looking at IPv6 deployment and inter-country delay across Africa. I also did a presentation about a project we’re bootstrapping (“we” covers many partners, including AFRINIC) called AIMO - an African Internet Measurement Observatory. The goal is to automate Internet Data Science by collecting, collating and analysing Internet-related information for regional stakeholders, e.g. regulators, ISPs, content providers. By presenting this work to the very people who may hopefully use AIMO, I managed to garner a lot of helpful feedback and inputs.
The second day shifted gears slightly, focussing on policy. This was an opportunity for the community to discuss policy proposals from members of the community. The day certainly took on a more lively feel, with much debate over the various details of the proposed documents. As a newcomer, this provided a whistlestop tour through the most important questions of the day. This was not only of general interest, but also quite valuable for understanding the areas that people feel most passionate about (a precious insight when working as an academic).
The third and final day took on a different feel as we started to discuss the administration of AFRINIC (e.g. elections). This was a chance to see different candidates putting out their stalls, and to witness the questions asked by the community (again, revealing what is considered of most importance at the moment). This was a lot of fun to experience, not least because of the very open and democratic feel to the whole occasion. Overall, attending the AFRINIC meeting brought a lot of value to me. I got the opportunity the meet many people, present my work and gain insight into the priorities considered important to the community. My advice to any academics reading would be to book your flights for the next meeting!
About the Author
Gareth Tyson is a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, and a visiting researcher at Cambridge Computer Lab. Prior to this, he worked at King's College London and Lancaster University. His research interests centre on user-facing networked systems. He has published at a number of important conferences, including IMC, WWW, ICWSM, HotNets, ICNP, AAMAS and PETS, as well as premier journals such as IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking, IEEE JSAC and Communications of the ACM. His research has received coverage from news outlets such as MIT Tech Review, Washington Post, Slashdot, BBC, Daily Mail, Wired, Ars Technica, The Independent, Business Insider and The Register. He also serves as a reviewer and program committee member for a number of prominent conferences/journals such as IFIP Networking, IEEE IWQoS, ICWSM, IEEE JSAC, IEEE TPDS, IEEE TNSM ACM TMM, IEEE TC. He recently was local chair for ACM DEV, which was hosted at Queen Mary, and recieved the Outstanding Reviewer Award at ICWSM'16.