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Africa embracing IPv6 more slowly than expected

The availability of IPv4 from AfriNIC has slowed the rate of IPv6 adoption

Africa's lack of legacy systems was expected to help it lead the world in adopting IPv6, but as it stands only Mauritius and Namibia have fully embraced the latest version of the protocol.

"AfriNIC will be allocating IPv4 for the next two years, meaning people are not in urgency mode compared to other regions. Organizations are still in their comfort zone," said Adiel Akplogan, CEO of AfriNIC, the regional Internet registrar.

Most hardware shipped to the region can support both IPv4 and IPv6, which Akplogan says is helpful to operators in the region. AfriNIC is working to raise awareness of the benefits of IPv6 adoption, but is changing its message about the two protocols to de-emphasize concerns about the diminishing supply of IPv4 addresses.

"AfriNIC is shifting focus from insisting that IPv4 resources are depleting to educating organizations on the benefits of IPv6, especially in mobile data," Akplogan said.

The new version of the Internet Protocol is expected to benefit the region because every gadget can be allocated an IP address. Currently, not all devices have IP addresses, so their visibility online is low.

AfriNIC has been working with governments and the private sector to encourage IPv6 adoption, but one challenge is the lack of African content on sites that support IPv6. Where available, content relevant to Africa is largely hosted abroad, on sites that are still using IPv4.

"The opportunity to grow IPv6 was definitely bigger in Africa because of lack of legacy systems, but Africa is largely a consumer of online content. If the content is running on IPv6, then we will be forced to adopt, if not, we continue running on IPv4," said Michuki Mwangi, senior regional development manager at ISOC.

Speaking at the recently concluded Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum, Mwangi said that he expects the pace for IPv6 adoption to pick up with investment in IT infrastructure and the continued IPv6 training conducted by ISOC and AfriNIC every year.

In 2006, Malawi was part of the IPv6 testbed, running services on IPv6 and allowing the tech community to test how the services would perform on the newer version. However the tests were closed because there were no websites running on IPv6 and there was no justification in investing in a service that people were not using.

While IPv6 adoption is expected to be driven mostly by the private sector, Akplogan said that governments also play a role, with the continued opening up of government data through e-government services. He said that AfriNIC will work with ICT policy implementation bodies to promote faster IPv6 adoption.

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