Africa Tech Shifts from Infrastructure to growing businesses

Africa's tech community is embracing policy concerns for the first time at the annual Africa Internet Summit, after focusing on the goal of affordable connectivity for a number of years.

For the last 15 years, the tech community met for training and discussions on routing, Internet Protocol number allocation, DNS operations, ISP operations and how to expand access.

But this year the techies are holding discussions with members of governments and business. Training is being organized by AFRINIC, the regional Internet registry and AfNOG, the regional network operators group.

"Previously we were talking to each other as technical people, but we have merged it to include policy makers, government officials, businesses and civil society; people that may not be very technical but their contribution is vital for the growth of internet business in Africa," said Adiel Akplogan, AFRINIC CEO.

The summit agenda has also changed to include issues of policy, technical and social engineering.

"This summit symbolizes the maturity of African internet institutions where they can sit together and discuss the issues affecting governments, businesses, educational institutions, and the tech community," said Nii Quaynor, the convenor of AfNOG.

The Summit started last week with AfNOG training on mobile applications, scalable network infrastructure, network monitoring and management, advanced routing techniques and cybersecurity led by Africa Computer Emergency Response Team (AfricaCERT). The plenary sessions on Monday brought together people from all the sectors to discuss emerging issues and solutions.

Lukonga Lindunda, co-founder and director at Bongo Hive, the technology and innovation hub in Lusaka, highlighted how the tech community had come together without any funding.

One innovation coming from Bongo Hive is a collaboration with the U.S.' Peace Corps in which local developers came up with an Android app known as Bantu Babel, designed to allowed the Peace Corps to translate from English to 10 local languages.

"Collaboration between stakeholders is very important for the growth of Internet business; at the hub, people are able to take advantage of technology platforms, bounce ideas off each other and people to innovate," Lindunda said.

During the week, stakeholders will discuss issues of IPv6 adoption, DNS Security Extension deployment, mobile applications business models, cybersecurity and spam, content and use of many languages on the Internet, the growth of internet exchange points and their ability to fuel content growth.

The Africa Internet Summit continues through June 21 in Lusaka.

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