Internet service provider Liquid Telecom Kenya has warned that Africa is set to run out of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses as early as next year, potentially slowing down digital growth in the continent.
The IP addresses are the website’s equivalent of telephone numbers. They are used behind the scenes anytime data moves online, for example, when a laptop requests a Web page or a smartphone posts an Instagram photo.
Africa is currently on the older IPv4 addresses, while the world is migrating to the new Internet Protocol, the IPv6. Africa is the last continent with available IPv4 addresses, according to Liquid Telecom, but it is now also running short.
“We are almost eating into the last block of 16 million addresses of the IPv4 space that the regional Internet registry for Africa has available. This means we are soon entering a new phase where getting IPv4 addresses will become far more difficult and eventually impossible — there won’t be any more to give. So it is important that ISPs start to deploy IPv6,” said Liquid Telecom group head of IP strategy Andrew Alston.
Liquid Telecom chief executive Ben Roberts said if Africa mismanages the transition to the new IP addresses, it would affect the ability to add any new devices, as well as cyber security, both of which are seen as vital in achieving a higher level of Internet penetration.
“Africa’s population and especially young population is growing fast, with Kenya expected to hit 62 million people by 2030. This is then multiplied by the growing number of Internet devices we are all carrying, as phones, laptops, tablets, and all these devices need an IP address,” said Mr Roberts.