In just eight years a dedicated community helped Kenya and Nigeria to boost the levels of Internet traffic that is locally exchanged from 30% to 70%.
That happened because of a vibrant community of people united around a common cause: bringing faster, cheaper, and better Internet to their neighbours. They did this by focusing on their local Internet ecosystem that is dependent on the IXP.
Building an IXP takes humans and tech. We often say it takes 80% human engineering and 20% network engineering. It certainly is no easy task. Building a strong local Internet community facilitates this collaboration and results in neutral, even, and good local governance and understandings.
In Africa, too much of our Internet traffic has to travel too far. This results in higher costs and slower speeds, especially compared to Europe.
IXPs are like markets, malls, or international airport hubs. They attract and bring large and small traders or airlines closer to a location which results in better experiences and at a lower cost for those who are near such facilities.
According to the African IXP Association, there are 46 active IXPs across 34 African countries. South Africa has the most, with six IXPs, followed by four in Tanzania and three in Nigeria.
IXPs are a critical piece of technical infrastructure that help improve Internet access by keeping local Internet traffic localized and, because of that, faster and more affordable. IXPs are anchors for the Internet ecosystem and the key to unlocking the potential of the Internet in Africa. But to truly work and be effective long term, they need people: Engineers, service providers, content developers, and supportive government officials, who share the belief that a strong, collaborative community can leverage the Internet ecosystem on the local IXPs.
While the rapid pace of Internet ecosystem development in both Kenya and Nigeria since 2012 underscores the important role played by IXPs, this could not have been possible without stakeholder relationship building, infrastructure development, fostering community mobilization, collaboration, trust, and capacity building.
You can read more By Michuki Mwangi on the Infrastructure and Community Development, ISOC Website.