Africa will continue using Internet Protocol version four (IPv4) after the global supply is exhausted in coming weeks.
AfriNIC, the African Region Internet Registry (RIR) responsible for allocating IP addresses in Africa, was recently allocated approximately 16.7 million addresses by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and will receive a similar number soon, which will be the last.
Allocation of IP addresses by IANA is based on global policy, which is determined by level of uptake. Africa has recorded growth in data but AfriNIC projects that it will soon be the only regional registry with IPv4 available for allocation. IPv4 is being replaced with IPv6.
"Based on the global allocation policy and recent consumption rates, the next block of 16.7 million addresses AfriNIC will receive will be its last. Despite the evident growth in the demand, AfriNIC is still expected to be the last regional Internet registry with IPv4 addresses available for allocation," said Adiel Akplogan, AfriNIC CEO.
AfriNIC has been preparing the region for transition to IPv6 with training for the private sector as well as government officials, and uptake of IPv6 improved in 2010 compared to 2009.
"The rate of deployment in the region was 6.5 percent in 2010, a 30 percent increase compared to 2009. Globally, the rate of deployment is at 7.9 percent, and with the soon exhaustion of IPv4 globally we hope to see some fundamental changes in habits," added Akplogan.
While most manufacturers are providing equipment that can handle IPv4 as well as IPv6, there are questions whether the process should be driven by government or the private sector.
"Naturally, the private sector is always ready and quick to adopt new technological standards -- IPv6 has been well-received by the private sector," said Vika Mpisane, general manager of .za Domain Name Authority in South Africa.
Governments such as Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, South Africa and Egypt are leading in development of national IPv6 policies, but other governments have yet to move beyond planning. AfriNIC has been conducting training for the past five years, attracting government representatives and the private sector, which has led to increased IPv6 uptake.
"We can clearly link the increase of our membership and IPv6 allocations to these training sessions. We have also noticed an increase[d] interest from government on what we are doing and more participation of their representatives to our events," added Akplogan.
While AfriNIC has recorded considerable progress, challenges and gaps in policy still remain. E-commerce is still growing and Internet business is yet to be appreciated and given priority in policy development.