Can Kenya move to new internet version IPV6 in time?
Wednesday was IPv6 day. IP stands for Internet Protocol and the whole term refers to how the internet locates devices connected to it. Of the billion plus devices connected to the internet, it needs to have a way of keeping their information so that it can move information from one to the other just like the Post Office assigns people boxes so that it knows in which one to put a letter. Another way of looking at it is that while a mobile network need not know your name, it must recognise that the phone number you are using belongs to its network and when that number is dialed, the call comes to your phone.
Unfortunately, for the internet, the system it has been using to assign addresses to computers or other devices connected to it, known as IP version 4, has exhausted numbers to give out. A new system, IP version 6, is to eventually replace it. This IPv6 has more numbers than there are grains of sand on the ocean floor. For example, the total number of addresses under v4 was 4.3 billion. Safaricom alone has been allocated an IPv6 block of 2^96 addresses, according to the Chief Technical Officer, Thibaud Reroulle. Two to the power of 96 works out to what Wolfram Alpha calls 79 octillion or 79 billion billion billion.
Written in full, this number is: 79228162514264337593543950336. That is a whole lot of addresses. It is envisaged that not just computers, hand helds and mobile phones will have internet addresses under this scheme, but a myriad of other home devices such as cameras, refrigerators, ovens and so on. The list is only limited by human imagination and innovation. But until then, there has to be migration from IP v4 to IP v6 which has not been easy owing to several challenges.
Kenyan internet technicians, operators and government officials met at the iHub on Ngong Road in Nairobi on Wednesday to announce the World IP v6 day and discuss what needs to be done to migrate to the new technology. One of this is the fact that the IP v4 and IP v6 are not compatible. The two technologies are different and therefore there will be need for complete migration to the v6.
This means that carriers, device makers, networks and so on will have to be IP v6 compliant. Kenya is far from getting there even though it had set a 2012 deadline to do so. A series of tests can be done to determine if you are already IPv6. One, if you type “What's my IP” in Google, if you are already on version 6, you should get an IPv6 number.
Further, you can link to http://v4.testmyipv6.com/ where you can test if you are connecting via v4 or v6. For us we got the message, “You are connecting to this server via IPv4, your address being X. It's time to step up to IPv6!” A Kenyan task force on IP v6 already exists and is chaired by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Dr Bitange Ndemo. Its work is to come up with a national strategy for the adoption of IP v6 countrywide.
One of the issues that arose is that it lacks funding. That already has set its work back. The PS who attended the event was asked to keep lobbying. Members who include KeNIC, the body which assigns .KE domain names in Kenya, TESPOK representing service providers, KENET the education network, universities, the Kenya ICT Action Network among others have been engaged in trying to map out Kenya's journey to v6.
Trainings have been carried out for about 500 techies, trainers of trainers and international speakers have been invited to speak at gatherings. The taskforce has also acquired an IPv6 testbed for firms to test their readiness. The journey ahead remains long though.