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Across the Asia Pacific, the availability, stability, speed, cost and security of Internet services vary widely from place to place. Users in many developing economies tolerate conditions that are unacceptable in the developed world, and which seriously limit the benefits the Internet can deliver.

Recognized solutions exist to all these challenges; we just need to invest more in their implementation. From adopting networking best practices to building more open and neutral Internet Exchange Points (IXPs); from providing cybersecurity training to establishing more CERTs and NOGs — we know what needs to be done, we just don’t have the resources.

“The Internet is a grand project of benefit to all corners of society. The “network effect” ensures that when one part of the Internet is developed, the rest will also benefit; that in effect, Internet development activities are magnified exponentially.”

Paul Wilson, Director General, APNIC

In 2021, the APNIC Foundation Board approved a Strategic Plan, to guide the Foundation’s priorities.

Technical and Regulatory

With its growth and increasing importance around the world, the Internet also faces a range technical and regulatory challenges. Where these are not met, the Internet’s benefits will be greatly limited.

  • Security and stability: From Denial of Service (DoS) attacks to hacking, malware and data breaches, security remains the top priority of network engineers and managers. Governments are also increasingly concerned with security issues, especially those that affect confidence in the Internet.
  • Available address resources: The Internet addressing capacity provided by what’s known as Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) is almost exhausted globally. Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the only viable option for the Internet’s future growth in the Asia Pacific but it is a significant operational challenge to effectively deploy.
  • Efficiency and cost: One way to ensure efficiency and low cost is to localize traffic and content wherever possible. IXPs and data centres allow local traffic and content to stay local, lowering network costs, and increasing speed and efficiency.
  • Regulation and governance: The Internet faces novel and unique regulatory challenges, often dominated by new and evolving technologies and services that operate across national borders. Resolving these challenges depends on our ability to nurture the multistakeholder processes of global Internet governance.
  • Research: With the Internet’s rapid growth and evolving technologies has come increased complexity and greater technical challenges. Practical, operational research is needed to help us understand where the problems are now, where they will be in the future, and what we need to do to fix them.

If we can invest more in resolving these technical and regulatory challenges, they can be overcome. The Asia Pacific Internet community must find the resources to strengthen and develop new and specific skills and expertise. The success of the Internet will depend on our ability to do this.

Skills building

Today, the Asia Pacific region – and especially its least developed economies – has a crucial shortage of the properly trained and experienced Internet engineers, technicians and managers needed to overcome these challenges. Just as we all need well-trained doctors to help keep us fit and healthy, the Internet needs well-trained professionals to keep it stable, reliable, efficient and most importantly, secure.

This is the single biggest challenge facing the Internet in the region today. The Internet cannot continue to grow securely and efficiently unless we invest more in capacity building. By 2019, the region will have the most Internet traffic from mobile devices in the world. Another report on Pacific Island economies shows how recent submarine cable installations have resulted in an explosion of capacity. Across the Pacific, international Internet bandwidth jumped more than 1,500% between 2007 and 2014.

“At the end of 2012 there was a shortage of over 250,000 professionals with networking skills in the region (excluding Greater China and Japan). It predicted this shortage would grow to more than 450,000 networking professionals by the end of 2016 and from there, continue to worsen.”

The Evolution of the Networking Skills Gap in Asia / Pacific by technical analysts IDC.

Technical professionals are on the frontline of the Internet’s infrastructure: constantly challenged to build new services, adapt to new technologies, increase capacity, and deal with security threats; all while also ensuring reliable and efficient 24×7 operations. This is a huge challenge, and one that grows in importance as our dependence on the Internet grows.

A report from technology analysts, IDC, warns of a shortage of such technical skills saying: “The Asia Pacific trends show an increasing need for people with network skills in emerging technologies and for well-trained teams that focus on higher value-added activities”.

The single biggest factor limiting the positive impact of the Internet – despite this success – is the capacity of service providers to properly design, build and manage their networks. To achieve a secure, reliable and efficient Internet, the managers, engineers, and officers responsible, and their respective communities, must all have the technical skills – the capacity – to run and manage their networks to a recognized global standard of best practice.