Report on the Developing Countries Workshop '97
In 1993, the Internet Society organized a training workshop in conjunction with its INET’93 meeting in San Francisco. The aims of the workshop was to assist countries to connect to the Internet and to extend the Internet in these countries, to learn how to obtain and supply services on the net, and to manage their own national networks to ensure growth and sustainability. This workshop, and the ones that have followed annually, have been an overwhelming success, training over 850 students from an estimated 120 countries.
The fifth annual Workshop On Network Technology For Countries In The Early Stages Of Internetworking, as the workshop is formally called, was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on June 22-29, 1997, preceding the INET’97 meeting. This year’s workshop brought together 135 students from 65 countries, and a training and support staff of 25 from 13 countries. All training staff were volunteers who donated their time. The student geographic distribution was interesting was interesting, especially compared to the distribution in previous years.
The change in distribution is not surprising. As networking matures in such areas as parts of the Former Soviet Union, and as local training initiatives emerge, the need for Internet Society training in these regions decreases. Africa is clearly the region most in need of training now.
The training courses consist of six days of intense classroom and laboratory activity. This year, the four courses (called tracks) were:
Host-based Internetworking Technology (Track Leader: Brian Candler)
TCP/IP based services using PC-based UNIX hosts including gatewaying to the international Internet; transitioning a network from older technologies to TCP/IP based services; providing TCP/IP services to end users (typically DOS/Windows/Macintosh based) including mail and news services.
Backbone Internetworking Technology (Track Leaders: Alan Barrett and Ken Lindahl)
Techniques for design, set-up, and operation of a metropolitan, regional, or national TCP/IP dedicated backbone network. Detailed knowledge of routing, network troubleshooting, routing protocols, domain name system, NIC name and address co-ordination.
Network Navigation And Services (Track Leader: Jill Foster)
How to set up and design quality Internet Information services including Web servers and clients, search services, security issues, legal and ethical issues, National infrastructure issues, setting up and maintaining quality information services, special problems with servers at the end of slow links, caching strategies and mirroring, communication services and HTML authoring as well sessions on how to support and train users and providers of information.
National Network Management (Track Leader: Geoff Huston)
Management of a public Internet network on a national scale, including areas of operational and policy management commonly found with Internet development.
Prior to the regular workshop courses, a three day UNIX course was held for those participants in the networking program who did not have sufficient UNIX experience.
The first three tracks provide extensive hands-on exercises. A workroom with 30 PCs and Macs was also provided to allow give the students Internet access in the evenings. The equipment for all labs and their associated infrastructure included nearly 150 workstations, two dozen routers, 40 hubs, several ethernet switches, terminal servers, a telephone PBX, several kilometers of CAT5 and telephone cable as well as a host of other specialised equipment. Internet access was via a 2 Mbps E1 telephone connection.
The workshop was held at the Permata Training Center, about 45 minutes from downtown Kuala Lumpur. Permata is a modern facility incorporating training rooms, hostel, dining hall and athletics facilities operated by the Petronas, the Malaysian national oil company. The local host for the workshop as well as the INET meeting was MIMOS, the Malaysian Institute for Microelectronic Systems.
The workshop operates on many levels. Clearly the prime purpose is to train the participants in various aspects of internetworking. The daily classes and labs serve this end, and it was not unusual to find many students and instructors working until midnight many evenings. Each track provides their students with several inches of notes on paper. In addition, the notes for all tracks plus a large quantity of public domain software are compiled onto a master CD at the end of the week of classes. Copies are manufactured during the next few days, and all students leave with a CD. Each student also receives about 10 books (largely donated by O’Reilly and Associates). The CD and books have proven to be an extremely valuable part of the workshop, because they allow continued learning when the participants return home.
On another level, the students make contacts with people from within their own country, region and around the world. Such contacts are obviously valuable on a personal level. However they have also proven to be a catalyst to various regional activities. As an example, a current plan to establish an African NIC came out of several informal workshop activities.
Lastly, all students attend the INET meeting that follows the workshop. The INET meeting exposes them to an entirely different but no less productive and exciting environment.
The workshop is not only technically challenging, it is expensive. Most students cannot afford to pay the full cost of the workshop (typically about $4,500 including airfare), so many scholarships are awarded. This year’s workshop was made possible thanks to the financial contributions of the Internet Society, United Nations Development Programme, the infoDev Program of the World Bank, Open Society Institute, US State Department and the Japan Internet Association, and the generous donations-in-kind of O’Reilly and Associates, Cisco Systems, BSDI, Petronas, MIMOS Bhd, 3Com Asia, Sun Microsystems, US Robotics, Livingston Enterprises, SDL Communications and many others.
As mentioned above, 135 professionals from 65 countries were trained at this year’s workshop. Of these, 69 were trained in core network infrastructure technologies, 38 in network services, and 28 in network management. Although one cannot immediately assess the impact that these people will have on their national networks and related facilities, experiences from past years has shown that many of the participants will be key players in local networking. Perhaps more important, many will teach the skills they acquired to others within their country and region. This multiplying factor is key to the spread of networking technologies in developing countries. Workshop management will be performing follow-up surveys with all attendees both to evaluate the success of training and to understand how to further adapt the workshops in the future. When selecting candidates for this workshop, it is difficult to identify those with "leadership" qualities. However, at the workshop itself, they often easily stand out. In past years, such students have proven to be valuable contacts in their region, and we plan to use this resource to ensure that the workshops continue to best serve the needs of those in developing regions.
Although only anecdotal evidence, it is interesting to see how many former workshop students now attend INET meetings, often presenting formal papers at the meeting. From discussions with them, it is clear that the workshop provided a major boost allowing them to participate completely in national and international networking.
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