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Quantifying the Digital Divide from an Internet Point of View. Les Cottrell SLAC , Aziz Rehmatullah NIIT , Jerrod Williams SLAC , Akbar Khan NIIT Presented at the Optimization Technologies for Low-Bandwidth Networks, ICTP Workshop, Trieste, Italy, 9-20 October 2006

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quantifying the digital divide from an internet point of view

Quantifying the Digital Divide from an Internet Point of View

Les CottrellSLAC,

Aziz RehmatullahNIIT, Jerrod WilliamsSLAC, Akbar KhanNIIT

Presented at the Optimization Technologies for Low-Bandwidth Networks, ICTP Workshop, Trieste, Italy, 9-20 October 2006


prolog internet growth
Prolog: Internet growth
  • Internet use, performance & coverage exploding
    • > 1Billion users
    • In 2004 users in China 6 => 78Million
    • Traffic through Amsterdam increased fourfold in 2005
    • CERN-US connection 9.6kbsp ’85 to 10Gbits/s today
    • Typical backbone bandwidths (including transoceanic) 2.5 – 10Gbits for developed world
prolog new technologies
Prolog: New Technologies
  • The transition to the use of "dense wavelength division multiplexing" (DWDM) to support multiple optical links on a single fiber has made these links increasingly affordable, and this has resulted in a substantially increased number of these links coming into service.
  • At the end nodes the commoditization of Gigabit and 10 Gigabit Ethernet, new buses, and faster cpus are driving performance higher and costs lower.
prolog developing world
Prolog: Developing world
  • The Global Ring Network for Advanced Applications Development (GLORIAD[5]) project is providing high speed connectivity especially for Russia and China 10GBps around globe by Mar ’07);
  • The Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN2[6]) is improving the connectivity of the Asia Pacific region;
  • The Latin America Cooperation of Advanced Networks (CLARA[7]) and the Western Hemisphere Research and Education Networks (WHREN[8]) Links Interconnecting Latin America (LILA) projects are bringing Gbits/s to Latin America;
  • EUMEDConnect[9] is improving connectivity to the Mediterranean;
  • The East African Submarine System (EASSy[10]) is bringing fibre to the E. coast of Africa;
  • Four Southern African National Research and Education Networks (NRENS) in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and South Africa have come together to found the Ubuntunet[11] Alliance for Research and Education Networking with the goal of delivering Gigabits/s connectivity to their countries and the rest of the world.
  • PingER project originally (1995) for measuring network performance for US, Europe and Japanese HEP community
  • Extended this century to measure Digital Divide
  • Last year added monitoring sites in S. Africa, Pakistan & India
  • Will report on network performance to these regions from US and Europe – trends, comparisons
  • Plus early results within and between these regions
pinger methodology
PingER Methodology

>ping remhost




a server)




10 ping request packets each 30 mins

Once a Day

Ping response packets

Data Repository @ SLAC

Measure Round Trip Time & Loss

pinger coverage
PingER coverage
  • ~120 countries (99% world’s connected population), 35 monitor sites in 14 countries
  • New monitoring sites in Cape Town, Rawalpindi, Bangalore
  • Monitor 25 African countries, contain 83% African population
minimum rtt from us
Minimum RTT from US
  • Maps show increased coverage
  • Min RTT indicates best possible, i.e. no queuing
  • >600ms probably geo-stationary satellite
  • Between developed regions min-RTT dominated by distance
    • Little improvement possible
  • Only a few places still using satellite, mainly Africa & Central Asia
    • E. African Submarine System (EASSy)



effect of losses
Effect of Losses
  • Losses critical, cause multi-second timeouts
  • Typically depend on a bad link, so ~distance independent
  • > 4-6% video-conf irritating, non-native language speakers unable to communicate
  • > 4-5% irritating for interactive telnet, X windows
  • >2.5% VoIP annoying every 30 seconds or so
  • Burst losses of > 1% slightly annoying for VoIP
losses from slac to world
Losses from SLAC to world
  • # hosts monitored increased seven-fold
  • Increase in fraction with good loss
    • Despite adding more hosts in developing world


>=5% <12%

>=2.5% < 5%

>=1% < 2.5%

< 1%

loss improvement by population
Loss Improvement by Population
  • Loss by country weighted by population of country
unreachability from slac
Unreachability from SLAC
  • All pings of a set fail ≡unreachable
  • Shows fragility, ~ distance independent
  • Developed regions US, Canada, Europe, Oceania lead
    • Factor of 10 improvement in 8 years
  • Africa, S. Asia followed by L. America worst off
world thruput seen from us
World thruput seen from US

Throughput ~

1460Bytes /


Behind Europe

6 Yrs: Russia, Latin America 7 Yrs: Mid-East, SE Asia

10 Yrs: South Asia

11 Yrs: Cent. Asia

12 Yrs: Africa

South Asia, Central Asia, and Africa are in Danger of Falling Even Farther Behind

compare to us residence
Compare to US residence
  • Sites in many countries have bandwidth< US residence
s asia africa from us
S. Asia & Africa from US
  • Data v. noisy but there are noticeable trends
  • India may be holding its own
  • Africa & Pakistan are falling behind


india to india
India to India
  • Monitoring host in Bangalore from Oct ’05
    • Too early to tell much, also need more sites, have some good contacts
  • 3 remote hosts (need to increase):
    • R&E sites in Mumbai, Pune & Hyderabad
    • Government site in AP
  • Lot of difference between sites, Gov. site sees heavy congestion
pakistan to pakistan
Pakistan to Pakistan
  • 3 monitoring sites in Islamabad/Rawalpindi
    • NIIT via NTC, NIIT via Micronet, NTC (PERN supplier)
    • All monitor 7 Universities in ISB, Lahore, KHI, Peshawar
      • Careful: many University sites have proxies in US & Europe
  • Minimum RTTs: best NTC 6ms, NIIT/NTC 10ms - extra 4ms for last mile, NIIT/Micronet 60ms – slower links different routes
  • Queuing = Avg(RTT)-Min(RTT)
    • NIIT/NTC heavily congested
      • 200-400ms queuing
    • Better when students holiday
    • NIIT/Micronet & NTC OK
    • Outages show fragility



pakistan network fragility
Pakistan Network Fragility

Remote host outages




NIIT outage

NIIT/NTC heavily congested

Other sites OK

pakistan international fragility
Pakistan International fragility
  • Typically once a month losses go to 20%
  • Infrastructure appears fragile
  • Losses to QEA & NIIT are 3-8% averaged over month

Loss %

RTT ms


Another fiber outage, this time of 3 hours!

Power cable dug up by excavators of

Karachi Water & Sewage Board


  • Fiber cut off Karachi causes 12 day outage Jun-Jul ’05, Huge losses of confidence and business
routing from s africa
Routing from S Africa
  • Seen from ZA
  • Only Botswana & Zimbabwe are direct
  • Most go via Europe or USA
  • Wastes costly international bandwidth

Many systemic factors:Electricity, Import duties,Skills, disease

915M people 14% world population, 2.2% of world Internet users

satellites vs terrestrial
Satellites vs Terrestrial
  • Terrestrial links via SAT3 & SEAMEW (Mediterranean)
  • Terrestrial not available to all within countries

PingER min-RTT measurements from

S. African TENET monitoring station

between regions
Between Regions
  • Red ellipses show within region
  • Blue = min(RTT)
  • Red = min-avg RTT
  • India/Pak green ellipses
  • ZA heavy congestion
    • Botswana, Argentina, Madascar, Ghana, BF
  • India better off than Pak
overall aug 06
Overall (Aug 06)
  • ~ Sorted by Average throughput
  • Within region performance better (black ellipses)
  • Europe, N. America, E. Asia generally good
  • M. East, Oceania, S.E. Asia, L. America acceptable
  • Africa, C. Asia, S. Asia poor
undp human development index hdi
UNDP Human Development Index (HDI)
  • A long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth
  • Knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weight) and the combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio (with one-third weight)
  • A decent standard of living, as measured by GDP per capita.
undp technology achievement index tai
UNDP Technology Achievement Index (TAI)
  • Creation of technology (e.g. patents, royalties);
  • diffusion of recent innovations (Internet hosts/capita, high & medium tech export);
  • Diffusion of old innovations (log phones/capita, log of electric consumption/capita);
  • Human skills (years of schooling, enrollment in tertiary level in science, math & engineering).
  • Less coverage (50 countries vs. 96 HDI )
  • Linear fit (both variables technology related)
  • Better fit, fewer outliers
why does it matter science
Why does it matter: Science
  • Scientists cannot collaborate as equal partners unless they have connectivity to share data, results, ideas etc.
  • Distance education needs good communication for access to libraries, journals, educational materials, video, access to other teachers and researchers.
why does it matter business
Why does it matter: Business

Traditional MNC

Business Model

>$20K per year

75 to 100 million people

Some MNCs

>$1,500 - 20K per year

1.5 to 1.75 billion people

Local Firms



<$1,500 per year

4 billion people

  • G8 specifically pledged support for African higher education and research by “Helping develop skilled professionals for Africa's private and public sectors, through supporting networks of excellence between African's and other countries' institutions of higher education and centres of excellence in science and technology institutions” G8 specifically pledged support for African higher education and research by “Helping develop skilled professionals for Africa's private and public sectors, through supporting networks of excellence between African's and other countries' institutions of higher education and centres of excellence in science and technology institutions”

Prahalad and Hart

  • Saturating western markets
  • High growth IT markets: BRIC
  • NOT business as usual
    • New business models
    • Distinct needs
    • Dearth of distribution channels
what can we do
What can we do?
  • The worldwide science and education community is in a unique position to facilitate persistent, non-threatening dialog and increased cooperation between nations that have often been at odds.
  • Has a track record:
    • first permanent Internet connection to mainland China[1];
    • initiating the "Silk Road" satellite system[2] to bring connectivity to central Asia;
    • upgrading connectivity to Brazil; leading the installation and demonstrating the first 622 Mbps connection to India;
    • the efforts of the International Committee for Future Accelerators (ICFA) Standing Committee on Inter-regional Connectivity (SCIC[3]);
    • and the free eJournals delivery service[4] of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) etc
      • [1] “Networking with China”, R. L. A. Cottrell, C. Granieri, L. Fan, R. Xu, Y. Karita, CHEP04, Japan, also SLAC-PUB-6478, Aug 1994
      • [2] See http://www.silkproject.org/
      • [3] See http://cern.ch/icfa-scic/
      • [4] See http://www.ejds.org/
  • Extend PingER coverage, contacts for more monitoring & remote sites, jerrodw@slac.stanford.edu, cottrell@slac.stanford.edu
need contacts can you help
Need contacts, can you help?
  • Need monitoring sites in Africa (only have S. Africa)
  • Remote sites in:
    • Africa:
      • All central African countries
      • E. Africa: Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe
      • N Africa: Libya
      • W Africa: Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo
      • S Africa: Swaziland
    • L America
      • Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay
    • Mid East
      • Iraq, Palestine, Syria
    • SE Asia
      • Cambodia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
    • S. Asia
      • Bangladesh
  • S. Asia and Africa ~ 10 years behind and falling further behind creating a Digital Divide within a Digital Divide
  • India appears better than Africa or Pakistan
  • Last mile problems, and network fragility
  • Decreasing use of satellites, still needed for many remote countries in Africa and C. Asia
    • EASSy project will bring fibre to E. Africa
  • Growth in # users 2000-2005 400% Africa, 4000% Pakistan networks not keeping up
  • Need more sites in developing regions and longer time period of measurements