The number of websites on the Internet has dramatically increased and this is coupled with the expansion of wide-ranging communication networks, particularly wireless networks, portable spontaneous devices and mobile phones. Hence emerges the need to use a specific mechanism to locate every website address and all peripherals connected to the Internet. This is done through the Internet Protocol which assigns IP addresses and provides routing services. There are major versions of IP and the dominant version is IPv4. Each device connected to the Internet requires an IP address of its own. IPv4 uses 32-bit bandwidth addresses (up to 4.2 billion); this figure seems big but if we consider that about 6.5 billion people are living on earth and that every part of relevant telecommunication equipment connected to the Internet needs an IP address, this renders the current IPv4 capacity insufficient.
IPv6 is the new version of the IP which uses 128-bit bandwidth addresses in order to deal efficiently with unlimited number of websites and various peripherals associated with communication networks. This new protocol is expected to be deployed in 2012.
What is IPv6?
IPv6 protocol as a new generation of IP provides an ideal solution to the problem of IP addresses limited number that has become a major obstacle to the rapid development of technology, the accelerating growth of the Internet and the use of portable devices of all types. Additionally, we must not overlook that small home (spontaneous) devices have become a part of the communication networks where all these developments will require additional addresses that should be IP-provided.
Not only providing many solutions for the limited IP addresses, IPv6 also offers solutions for many existing problems in the current Internet protocols such as security IPs, the lack of mobile device support and the need for auto-configuration of network devices. It is known that IPv4 has proven its competence for its apparent power, easy application and efficiency in dealing with a lot of current protocols and software. Therefore, this protocol has been used from early 1980s up to now since it provides support for Internet services.
However, the unexpected, tremendous growth of information technology and digital devices has increased the growth of the Internet and the expansion of its services, a matter which led to the inability of IPv4 to keep up with this growth. Therefore, serious thinking started to provide a new IP version to cope with the tremendous growth of the Internet and provide support for future developments.
The most important feature of IPv6 is that it will put an end to the narrow scope of the IPv4 address 32-bit bandwidth. No one expected that the Internet growth and the rapid technological development of the communities would require more than 4 billion Internet addresses to configure various devices linked to the network. But this number of addresses was about to run out in the mid-nineties, a matter that forced companies and institutions to use a temporary solution by using Network Address Translation (NAT) for connecting multiple addresses with a single main IP address. NAT contributed to increasing the number of IP addresses, but that massive ongoing evolution will lead to the depletion of IPv4 main public addresses as well.
IPv6 and e-Government Applications
E-government is one of the most important Internet applications for a better life and social advancement in developed countries due to the significant benefits it provides to citizens as well as to government institutions. The Kingdom of Bahrainhas achieved significant progress in this area where the e-government has become one of the most developed e-governments regionally in the Middle East and globally as well. All these achievements necessitate that e-government applications in the Kingdom of Bahrain take into account to immigrate from the existing IPv4 to IPv6. However, this transition is not free of obstacles as most Internet routers are compatible with 32-bit bandwidth addresses as the case in the IPv4 addresses and not with 128-bit bandwidth of IPv6.
Moreover, the transition to IPv6 requires changes to be made to the physical hardware connected to the network and to replace the operating systems, as well as various software. Therefore, when IPv6 is designed to allow gradual transition and support coexistence between IPv4 and IPv6 protocols for years. Thus, no deadline may be set for the complete transition from IPv4 to IPv6.
Benefits of IPv6
IPv6 provides many benefits to the e-government applications:
1. IPv6 provides a much larger address space than in IPv4 where the address bandwidth is expanded up to 128 bits in IPv6 compared to 32 bits in IPv4.
2. High efficiency in transmission and processing of data packets as IPv6p protocol provides multi-layer address system which provides a better and stronger support for the process of routing and data transmission.
3. Supporting the process of automatic adjustment and Plug-and-Play Technology as IPv6 is characterized by its ability to provide IP addresses dynamically; i.e. it changes and gives the address to any device in order to be compatible with the network while ensuring better flexibility than IPv4 where the device automatically configures its own address and maintaining the level of privacy so that any device can change its address when connecting to the external network and maintain a private address in the internal network address and a single main. These features facilitate the management of addresses. It is essential for this support to be compatible with the mobile devices with many wireless devices and appliances that connect to the Internet.
4. Full support for layer security and encryption system as IPv6 provides security additions to data packages which provide easier encryption operations and reliability. Yet, because it provides unique distinctive addresses, this solution provides integrated security protection from the transmitting party to the receiving party, including confidentiality, reliability of data and privacy without affecting the efficiency of the network.
5. Providing better support for wireless networks, mobile devices and mobile phones as it ensures using mobile devices anywhere seamlessly and the possibility of building mobile networks efficiently. IPv6 has the potential to provide automatic settings for all these devices and this helps to give up the provider of this service. Further, this process in the new protocol allows a receiving party to have direct connection with a mobile device and thus provides us with more time and overcomes many IPv4 problems over the process of sending data packages.
The above details clearly demonstrate that IPv6 is the future potential for e-government applications and must be taken into consideration when developing the infrastructure for e-government in the Kingdomof Bahrain in order to keep the Kingdom of Bahrain in advanced position and to maintain its leadership in the implementation of e-government applications.
* Say Yes to e-Government e-Magazine, No. 21, Kingdom of Bahrain, 20/4/2011.