Connecting the unconnected – walking the talk in Central Asia
Access to an open and inclusive Internet has been widely discussed in the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) over the last few months. The Internet Society’s Regional Bureaus work hard to put the good work and messages stemming from these global forums into practice in our respective regions.
Last week, the Internet Society’s European Regional Bureau (ERB) together with our local partners reached another milestone in our ongoing engagement in the Kyrgyz Republic. We launched our first report in Central Asia providing an assessment of the Internet environment in the Kyrgyz Republic during the Open Government Innovation Week in Bishkek, organized by the Kyrgyz government, the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank. The report touches on critical policy and technical issues in the context of Internet development, offering food for thought both for the government and the technical and business communities. You can read the full report in English or in Russian on our website!
Better yet, the ERB, with Tommi Karttaavi in the lead, formally launched the ISOC chapter in the Kyrgyz Republic. The newly created Kyrgyz chapter will focus on development of Internet infrastructure and content to improve national Internet adoption levels. The chapter also plans to organize open debates to discuss and popularize the Internet as a platform for social and economic progress. This is very exciting news for us, as national chapters are the foundation for a sustained ISOC engagement at the local level.
Finally, following various policy and technical discussions on the importance of a well-functioning Internet exchange point (IXP) with the local Internet community, Kurtis Lindqvist and Jane Coffin ran a two-day training workshop on IXPs and the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). The training session was successful in many ways, but most strikingly it was the first time this group of qualified engineers from local ISPs met to discuss the peering environment and common challenges. The content and conclusions of this training will be made available on the IXP toolkit website.
So, what did we learn from this whirlwind of a week in the Kyrgyz Republic? By carrying out policy advocacy and technical capacity building in parallel we can approach the Internet connectivity challenge in a holistic way. Policy is often a long-term tool, whereas technical training can have an impact in a matter of days. Although ISOC believes in driving change through bottom-up processes, we also need to maintain dialogue with high-level decision-makers to have the right top-down messages. And finally, you cannot underestimate the value of building a community. After every event, training and discussion, our community is a little bit larger and more varied – a stronger team to connect the unconnected.
This is all part of an Internet Society philosophy for development – connectivity, community, and capacity development and the policies that sustain them. We believe strongly in this formula for development and look forward to continued engagement with our colleagues in the Kyrgyz Republic and the Central Asian region.
By Maarit Palovirta
Senior Manager, Regional Affairs Europe