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L-Root server copies to strengthen internet infrastructure in Africa

Africa's critical Internet infrastructure has received a boost with the deployment of new copies of the L-root server, which are expected to improve the security and resiliency of the Web in the region.

Copies, or instances, of the L-root server copy have been deployed in six African countries as part of a project managed by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) in conjunction with AfriNIC, the regional registry. The L-root server is operated by ICANN and is now available in Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Mauritius and Mozambique. There are eight instances of the server in total, with South Africa and Ivory Coast hosting two copies each.

AfriNic helped with several of the deployments.

"Since October last year, when AfriNIC exchanged cooperation letters with ICANN, we have helped in the implementation of three root server copies in the region; two in Ivory Coast and one under way in Mauritius," said Adiel Akplogan, AfriNIC CEO.

The L-root server is one of 13 name servers under the supervision of ICANN. The root servers resolve human readable domain names into IP Addresses. There are now about 350 instances of the 13 root servers deployed around the world, according to IANA (Internet Assigned Number Authority).

The root server instances help the security and resilience of the Internet in case of Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS) against specific servers. They also provide for better load management on root servers, and lower round trip latency times between the clients and servers. In cases where a country loses connectivity to the Internet, availability of root server copies allows connectivity to continue for those connected on root server copies.

"The Africa ecosystem and internet environment is rapidly changing; mobile technology is driving the change in this environment so fast that we need to radically change our approach to the sector," added Akplogan.

One of the challenges faced in Africa is the lack of critical infrastructure like Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). Ideally, the root server serves more people if it is deployed at an IXP but if none exists, the root server copy is deployed at a network provider or ISP.

"There is no functioning IXP in Ivory Coast, we went with the option of two separate premises of the key operators, while continuing to work with them with the intention of merging them as soon as the IXP is revived," Akplogan said.

There is an ongoing project by the Internet Society and the African Union Commission to set up more IXPs in the region, with a major push to have more IXPs running in two years.

The L-root server is IPv6 enabled and will help AfriNIC in its efforts to promote IPv6 adoption in the region. There are IPv4 addresses still available, but AfriNIC is hoping for smooth transition for big and small operators.

"The L-Root Server deployment is IPv6-enabled, which aims to bring functional DNS service on IPv6 at the local level; we see this as an important opportunity to encourage the community that will host the instance to adopt IPv6 to fully benefit from the service," said Dawit Bekele, Regional Bureau Director for Africa ISOC (Information Security Operations Center).

While Akplogan expects the project to be a success, he said that more support from governments and related bodies is needed to work toward policy and an ecosystem that contributes effectively to realization of benefits to internet growth in the region.


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