Intertitle: Briefly describe your most vital con­tri­bu­tions; what led you to become an Internet Hall of Fame member?

Adiel Akplogan: The first is the fact that as a young engi­neer in the 90s, we learned about the Internet and start­ed in a very small room—five by five—to con­nect the whole coun­try to the Internet. We start­ed by get­ting the domain name of the coun­try. We were just out of uni­ver­si­ty. And every­body was laugh­ing at us because at that time in Africa specif­i­cal­ly, all the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion was government-led. We were just by our­selves try­ing to con­nect the coun­try, try­ing to find the tech­nol­o­gy that can help us con­nect the coun­try. That has been a very enlight­en­ing expe­ri­ence for me, but also for the local com­mu­ni­ty because we man­aged to do that and it was one of the first pri­vate ISPs in the region to pro­vide Internet ser­vice at the time. 

The sec­ond one was some­thing that came out from that expe­ri­ence of build­ing an ISP in the ear­ly 90s, which was to be able to bring to Africa the man­age­ment of the num­ber resources. We as an ISP at the time were strug­gling to get num­ber resources because we had to obtain them from our upstream provider, which at the time were either in the US or in Europe, and we had to go through a very long and tedious process to get them. So we joined forces and start­ed work­ing on build­ing an orig­i­nal reg­istry. So what real­ly was inter­est­ing and my con­tri­bu­tion there is that the [?] in Africa is a very diverse region with diverse back­grounds, diverse lan­guage. And build­ing con­sen­sus was a very big chal­lenge. So I joined the ini­tia­tive and what I’m very hap­py and proud about is the work that we did to build con­sen­sus in such a com­plex environment. 

Intertitle: What are the biggest chal­lenges you had to over­come to achieve suc­cess; how did you over­come them? Was there an aha” moment, a peri­od of impact or a break­through real­iza­tion or a steady flow?

Akplogan: One of the key chal­lenges is the lan­guage bar­ri­er. In Africa there are three major lan­guages spo­ken, or used in pro­fes­sion­al envi­ron­ments: French, English, some Portuguese. And try­ing to bring the com­mu­ni­ty from all those dif­fer­ent lan­guage back­grounds to focus on a project like AFRINIC was hard. First you need to make sure that peo­ple speak­ing French under­stand, get, and read all the doc­u­ments relat­ed to the project, and at the same time con­vinc­ing those speak­ing English that we need to bring all our French col­leagues on board. I am myself from a French-speaking coun­try so I under­stand the chal­lenge for doing that because most of the work has to be done in English to start with. That’s the first thing. 

And also cul­tur­al­ly, being able to match the dif­fer­ent under­stand­ings. Some coun­tries have a more strong gov­ern­men­tal lead, some have not. Some have a very well-developed busi­ness ecosys­tem, some don’t. So you have to find the right bal­ance to get those dif­fer­ent lev­els and those dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al back­grounds togeth­er and to have the same under­stand­ing of where we want to go with AFRINIC, specif­i­cal­ly to get them to under­stand it’s for the region. It’s allowed the region for once to be present at the glob­al scene, to be able to defend some of our speci­fici­ty, because we may not have the same issues as oth­er regions because of where we’re com­ing from, and be able to defend those at the glob­al level.

So that has been one of the key chal­lenges that we have worked around, and to build a con­sen­sus does require a lot of engage­ment. A lot of courage as well to con­front some of the things that were hold­ing peo­ple back, try­ing to dis­cuss with them, to con­vince them. And also use some very dis­ci­plined and I will say steady progress process rules through­out all of this. So that was the first challenge. 

The sec­ond chal­lenge of course has been the tech­nol­o­gy chal­lenge. Managing those crit­i­cal resources means putting in place infra­struc­ture that is reli­able, that can have the trust of the com­mu­ni­ty as well. And that requires us to be very trans­par­ent in what we were doing and try­ing to build stuff that’s based on our lim­it­ed resources but that’s pret­ty much focused and based on best prac­tices. And that has been also very impor­tant to reas­sure the glob­al com­mu­ni­ty but also to reas­sure our com­mu­ni­ty that what we are doing is seri­ous and they can trust us.

Intertitle: Which peo­ple, expe­ri­ences or devel­op­ments were most cru­cial in your pro­fes­sion­al suc­cess and its impact?

Akplogan: People who you know, give you the dri­ve to con­tin­ue doing what you are doing. I will always men­tion Vint Cerf, for instance. Although he’s the father of the Internet, he’s a very renowned per­son, when we were in the process of AFRINIC he has been some­body that has lis­tened a lot, that has paid atten­tion to what we are doing but also that has been some­body that gave us the con­fi­dence that we can do it. 

Intertitle: What are your hopes for the future Internet? Your fears? What action should be tak­en now for the best future?

Adiel Akplogan: My hope is that the Internet con­tin­ues to devel­op based on its under­ly­ing cul­ture, which is an open tech­nol­o­gy that is acces­si­ble to every­one. A tech­nol­o­gy that allows inno­va­tion with­out per­mis­sion. I think that is key, and from my own exam­ple, if I did­n’t have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to take that tech­nol­o­gy open­ly because it was acces­si­ble and inno­vate and do things with­out ask­ing any­one, I would­n’t have done what I did. So my hope is for the Internet to con­tin­ue to be that tech­nol­o­gy. The tech­nol­o­gy that gives oppor­tu­ni­ty to peo­ple to do things with­out hav­ing to ask anyone.

That said, it has anoth­er corol­lary which is because it is open, because it’s avail­able for every­one, because every­one can do what­ev­er they want with the Internet, it pos­es anoth­er social issue. Which is secu­ri­ty. How do we make sure that every­body knows and imple­ments the best prac­tices that make the Internet sta­ble, secure, where peo­ple can still have con­fi­dence in the tech­nol­o­gy. And that I think is my fear. How do we make sure that we close, as much as pos­si­ble, the gap between the devel­op­ment of the tech­nol­o­gy and the policymaking?

Intertitle: What advice do you have for the next gen­er­a­tion work­ing in your field?

Akplogan: Not to be afraid to tack­le chal­lenges, and also to embrace the Internet tech­nol­o­gy as a tool for solv­ing prob­lems, as a tool to…coming from a devel­op­ing coun­try, as a tool for devel­op­ment. We— The young gen­er­a­tion has to see the Internet just as some­thing that they have to con­sume but also as a real tool that they can use to shape their envi­ron­ment, to change things, and to move the nee­dle when it comes to some of the issues. 

The sec­ond impor­tant thing for the young gen­er­a­tion as well is that pri­va­cy has to be bal­anced with the tech­nol­o­gy. We are the mas­ters of our future online and the future of our data online as well. We have to make sure that we…I mean the young gen­er­a­tion, that is the dig­i­tal gen­er­a­tion, they are born into the Internet, they know noth­ing else. So it’s nat­ur­al for them to live online. But it’s impor­tant as well while doing that that noth­ing is free. Our data has a val­ue. And we have to observe as much as pos­si­ble the best prac­tices that pro­tect our pri­vate data. 

Intertitle: What has sur­prised you most about the Internet as it has developed?

Akplogan: Human beings are always after a way to com­mu­ni­cate, a way to build human net­works. And I think the abil­i­ty for the Internet, beyond build­ing com­put­er net­works, is allow­ing peo­ple to build human net­works around the world. And the speed at which the evo­lu­tion, the inno­va­tion also spread has impressed me and con­tin­ues to impress me. Everywhere in the world you will see the same kind of ser­vices, espe­cial­ly the social ser­vices. And the social aspect of the Internet is what has made it boom.

Further Reference

Internet Hall of Fame pro­file


Help Support Open Transcripts

If you found this useful or interesting, please consider supporting the project monthly at Patreon or once via Cash App, or even just sharing the link. Thanks.