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Growing the Internet 23 December 2021

Celebrating tech improvements and innovations at Bahrain Internet Day

Nermine El Saadany
By Nermine El SaadanyRegional Vice President - Middle East

Bahrain Internet Day, which celebrates advancements in technology and promotes tech innovations in Bahrain and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, took place in September 2021 on Zoom.

This year’s event, now in its second year, focused on the open Internet model, the role of Network Operator Groups (NOGs) as a catalyst for a successful Internet ecosystem, and Wi-Fi 6 and spectrum. It also looked at the Internet’s role in Bahrain’s economic development.

It was organized by the Internet Society’s MENA team and its Bahrain Chapter, alongside Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, Bahrain’s Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications, the Bahrain Technology Companies Society (BTECH) and WorkSmart.

Ahmed Al Hujairy, president of the Bahrain Chapter, opened the event, saying that better-quality Internet and a strong digital Infrastructure enabled Bahrain’s Internet to remain resilient as life and business moved online during the coronavirus pandemic. He highlighted the importance of protecting the Internet to continue its role in connecting people and empowering nations.

Growing the Internet

Jane Coffin, the former Senior Vice President for Internet Growth at the Internet Society, then discussed how we work to achieve our mission – and the importance of local Internet champions – in building a strong digital infrastructure and bringing the Internet to everyone.

This is especially important given that Internet usage is expected to grow by 400% by 2025, according to Rashed Mohamed, Bahrain Board Secretary at BTECH. He said this projected growth required urgent measures, including uplifting the speed of the Internet through fiber connections, enhancing content services and bringing content closer to the rest of the world through lowering latency.

Strengthening the Internet

Natalie Campbell, the Internet Society’s Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy, then explained why the Internet did not break during the COVID-19 pandemic when life, business, and entertainment shifted online.

She said the following five critical properties of the Internet – also known as the Internet Way of Networking (IWN) ­– kept it up and running:

  • An accessible Infrastructure with a common protocol,
  • Common global identifiers,
  • A decentralized management and distributed routing system,
  • An open architecture of operable and reusable building blocks, and
  • A general purpose network.

Campbell then presented the impact assessment toolkit, a collection of tools put in place to help policymakers, technologists and Internet users protect the Internet and help it to continue operating as an open, connected, secure, and trustworthy network.

The importance of NOGs

NOGs – Network Operator Groups – are informal groups of people that operate the network that makes up the Internet.

These groups – such as MENOG, the Middle East Network Operators Group and Peering Forum – play an important role in the growth of the Internet, as they provide forums for discussion that focus on the human, rather than the technical side of operations. They provide huge opportunities for networking and for expertise exchange.

Hanna Kreitem, the Internet Society’s Technical Expert for the Middle East, presented on the status of NOGs in Africa. There are 11 NOGs on the continent, and two regional groups that work on building capacity, raising awareness of Internet issues, and facilitating national and regional technology discussions

Wi-Fi 6 and wireless communications

Guillaume Lebrun, Public Policy Manager for Global Connectivity at Facebook, then talked about Wi-Fi 6. He said it would enable other fields of industry to develop, for example, Internet of Things (IoT)  and  a whole range of new applications that are becoming extremely important.

Lebrun explained that the global economic value of Wi-Fi in 2021 is $3.3 trillion, and this is expected to reach up to $4.9 trillion by 2025.  Almost a third (30%) of the world’s GDP now works in open spectrum spaces – and the biggest advantage of this, he said, is that it gives people higher quality of access to the Internet.

Other panelists in the session highlighted the Internet Society’s support to the promotion of community networks, which are based on wireless communications.

They encouraged stakeholders to convince governments to adopt new technologies that positively impact economic and social contexts, and to work on recommending security guidelines for users and operators. They also confirmed the need for harmonizing these policies on a global level.

Half the world lacks Internet access. Learn how community networks can help bridge the connectivity gap.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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