Monday, April 09, 2012

Kenya Internet Exchange Point Losing it's Relevance?



About 7 or 8 years ago, when I was still on the board of directors of TESPOK, I suggested a governance structure that gave KIXP independence from TESPOK, it's 'mother' institution. The main rationale here was to ensure that KIXP maintains a separate, independent existence, regardless of what happened to TESPOK. 

This was during a TESPOK strategy meeting where the key message was "The African ISP is dead, long live the African ISP" based on a paper by Russell Southwood of Balancing Act Africa. The essence of which was that with the onslaught of mobile operators going into internet access provision, the only way that ISPs would survive would be through consolidation via mergers/acquisition or a complete redefinition of business focus and strategy. What was evident to me (but seemingly not to others) was that as the ISP industry transformed, there would be fewer players, and thus, less democracy - especially with regards to governance issues. 

At the same time, KIXP was attracting plenty of interest from non-ISPs and already had non-ISP members such as KENIC, KRA and others - it was evident that the interest would continue, especially as the sector evolved with greater participation from content creators, hosting companies, data-centres etc... KIXP would become the de-facto facility for providing industry actors with data interconnection and interchange.

For those of you unfamiliar with KIXP's history - in 2001 we had to register a company KIXP Ltd, and file for an IXP license from CCK, in order to become operational after the forced closure of the IXP in 2000. My proposal was that KIXP Ltd be given full autonomy from TESPOK, have a board of directors appointed by members in full standing, and be run as a business, similar to LINX in the UK, and other successful IXPs around the world. As part of my proposals I shared the attached diagram (which I have just found in my archives). The Board would identify and appoint a CEO, who would then identify suitable staff to meet organisational growth. Being a business, some implied issues were self-sustainability, a business plan with clear growth, and social or financial returns for the 'shareholders'.

My proposals fell upon deaf ears and it is sad for me now to see a frail and seemingly weak KIXP that cannot seem to consistently engage newcomers to the industry with the benefits of local traffic exchange.

A simple question - how many of the TEAMs/SEACOM/EASSY bandwidth-holders are peering at KIXP? As mentioned by someone else concerned about optimal traffic flows in Kenya, some of our local traffic is being exchanged in exotic places like Mumbai, London etc instead of right here at home.

So, I continue shaking my head...

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