Building The Caribbean Internet Through Relationships.
WILLEMSTAD, Curacao—It seems the region’s tech community is on to something that has eluded our politicians. Human networks are key to our development. And there is an unique group dedicated to getting the right people in the same place at the same time, so that the right deals and partnerships can help strengthen and expand the Internet in the Caribbean.
Computer network engineers use the term Peering to describe the arrangement between two or more networks that exchange Internet traffic between their networks without cost, typically at an Internet exchange point. But peering is also an apt term to describe the human connections that make these arrangements possible.
Around the world, Peering Forums are held to promote regional Internet development and grow the global Internet economy. The Caribbean held its first Peering Forum, dubbed CarPIF, in May 2015 in Barbados.
Last week, more than 100 key decision makers from the Caribbean, Latin America, USA and Europe gathered in Curaçao for the second edition of this unique regional forum. The event was held at the Renaissance Resort in the capital, Willemstad, from June 7 to 10.
Participants included senior officials from regional governments, Internet organisations, service providers, exchange points operators and telecommunications regulators—along with international content providers from companies like Facebook, Google and Akamai.
One of the things that makes CarPIF unique in the growing pantheon of Caribbean tech events is the opportunity it provides regional and international stakeholders to meet each other in an environment specifically designed for building relationship and raising awareness of development opportunities. That’s a big draw, and the two-day event did not disappoint.
Short sessions were punctuated by long breaks filled with coffee-fueled conversation among participants eager to shake hands, share knowledge and broker deals.
“CarPIF is much more than just great technical presentations. It’s about the interactions, human relationships and the shared experiences that help national, regional and international participants shape the future of development of the Internet in the Caribbean in a tangible and meaningful way,” said Bevil Wooding, CarPIF founder and Caribbean Outreach Manager for the US-based non-profit Packet Clearing House (PCH).
CarPIF is an initiative of PCH and the Internet Society (ISOC), with the support of the Caribbean Network Operators Group and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, an inter-governmental Caribbean organisation.
“Given the growth of Internet usage and the increasing importance of Internet infrastructure to every facet of development today, the Caribbean has come to the point where a forum specifically to address issues of Peering and Interconnection is critical to the long-term growth and resilience of the region’s telecommunication networks. And so, the purpose of CarPIF is to facilitate those kinds of interactions and the human relationships that underpin them,” Wooding said.
Shernon Osepa, ISOC manager of Regional Affairs for Latin America and the Caribbean, agreed, describing CarPIF as “a testament to the growth and maturity that continues to take place in the Caribbean Internet landscape.”
The organisers received support from the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Registry, the American Registry of Internet Numbers, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and other organisations that have been working to increase awareness of what is required to grow the region’s Internet ecosystem.
The big lesson from CarPIF: behind every good Internet connection is a good human relationship. In that sense, the real work of building the Caribbean internet is not technical but human. And that is key to a better connected Caribbean.