Pushing the Frontier: Exploring the African Web Ecosystem
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It is well known that Africa’s mobile and fixed Internet infrastructure is progressing at a rapid pace. A flurry of recent research has quantified this, highlighting the expansion of its underlying connectivity network. However, improving the infrastructure is not useful without appropriately provisioned services to utilize it. This paper measures the availability of web content infrastructure in Africa. Whereas others have explored web infrastructure in developed regions, we shed light on practices in developing regions. To achieve this, we apply a comprehensive measurement methodology to collect data from a variety of sources. We focus on a large content delivery network to reveal that Africa’s content infrastructure is, indeed, expanding. However, we find much web content is still served from the US and Europe. We discover that many of the problems faced are actually caused by significant inter-AS delays in Africa, which contribute to local ISPs not sharing their cache capacity. We discover that a related problem is the poor DNS configuration used by some ISPs, which confounds the attempts of providers to optimize their delivery. We then explore a number of other websites to show that large web infrastructure deployments are a rarity in Africa and that even regional websites host their services abroad. We conclude by making suggestions for improvements.