I was paying attention when the internet was first developing in the
west, here in Canada in particular. I think that the history of the
internet is largely ignored by those who are developing connectivity for
the developing world. But ignored, at the risk of going off in the
completely wrong direction.

The internet is all about "nodes". A node is a knot between strands, a
place where many lines come together. In a computer network, it's a
point of interconnection, where two data lines cross. What happens in
the node, is that the data intermingles and doubles. Data that enters a
node can exit in any direction, or in all directions at once.

Practically speaking, if you are in the West there are internet nodes
all around you. Especially in the early days of the internet,
universities had many nodes. My uncle ran the internet node at a
Canadian university for many years in the 80s. Today, the nodes at
universities remain, but there are many other nodes. Most ISPs have
nodes, where they connect to two types of lines, called peering lines
and transit lines. Peering lines connect to other equally important
nodes, while transit lines connect to larger nodes. There are
super-nodes in most of the biggest cities of the world. They are often
in the form of an Internet Exchange Point.

The power behind the internet is in interconnections. The names give it
away. The World Wide Web is called a web where each page is a node, with
lines of hyperlinks going to other pages, criss-crossing each other.
Look at a picture of the internet like these:
     <http://research.lumeta.com/ches/map/gallery/isp-ss.gif>
      
<http://www.thinkgeek.com/images/products/front/lg-internet-poster-
black.gif>
    or this one:
    <http://www.hpcc.gov/fnc/internet.jpg>

This one is by far the most interesting but it takes work to understand.
It's worthwhile IMO. It plots a large circle around the equator. Inside
the circle, the closer to the center a node is, the more "perfectly"
interconnected it is. You can trace each node out to the edge to see
what continent it is in (written in small letters around the edge).
     <http://www.computer.org/internet/v5n1/ascore/>
The most central nodes are, by axiom the most important!

Every country has a "local internet". The local internet is the sum of
the nodes that reside inside the country. As long as data moves withiin
the local internet, all of the benefits and any payments are also local.
As the local internet grows, the ability of people locally, to "peer"
instead of "pay" with other parts of the internet grows as well.

The benefits of buliding local nodes are immediate. You don't need to
wait, check out the success stories of the few African IXPs that have
launched so far (Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and others). For
starters the people who are connected through an IXP save a LOT of money
and that means lower prices and/or better service passed on to the
users.

So ... connectivity is not the right goal. The goal should be, what are
you doing to build the LOCAL internet. Not just to connect people but to
interconnect them by creating internet nodes?


simon




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