Prominent Figures

The Visionary Journey of Nabil Bukhalid

Tribute to the "Father of the Internet" in Lebanon

Nabil Bukhalid, a visionary and pioneering force, left an indelible mark on the world of technology and on the hearts of those who knew him. Known as the “father of the Internet” in Lebanon, his passing on January 3, 2023, at the age of 65, marks the end of an era in the history of global connectivity and digital innovation.

Born in 1957 in Bhamdoun, Lebanon, Nabil’s journey was one of resilience and ingenuity. Amidst the turmoil of the Lebanese Civil War, his quest for knowledge and connectivity led him to the American University of Beirut (AUB), where he earned his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering in 1981 and an EMBA in 2006. His early experience as a biomedical engineer, hiding in a hospital to escape the war’s destruction, became the crucible for his fascination with computers and local area networks.

The internet is often seen as a force of shared resolution, but in my view, it has far surpassed that. It goes beyond the Industrial Revolution, incorporating elements like blockchain, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and IoT. The internet is disrupting industrial structures and is set to shift the global economic model, redefine education, public health, and various industries. It’s a revolution in its own right.

Nabil BuKhalid, 2017 Internet Hall of Fame Inductee interview – Youtube: Imaginingtheinternet

His remarkable career was characterized by a series of groundbreaking achievements. He led the computing and networking team at AUB for over a decade, co-founded the Lebanese Internet Center, and served as CEO. His foundational work in establishing the Lebanese Domain Registry (LBDR) and serving as the administrator and registrar for the .LB ccTLD since 1993, laid the groundwork for Lebanon’s digital future.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, during a period marked by civil unrest and a lack of infrastructure, Nabil and his team faced immense challenges in their mission to connect Lebanon to the global internet. His innovative approach and relentless pursuit of connectivity transformed a mission to access medical journals into a full-fledged effort to bring the internet to Lebanon.

“I believe we were probably one of the only countries where everything was done without the government being involved,” he said. “And that was not all. Rather than facilitating, they were always blocking us. So we had to get around it by creating this ad hoc service that they could not pinpoint on any one person.”

Nabil BuKhalid, ‘Building the Internet in a War Zone’ – internethalloffame.org

This journey was not without its difficulties, as he navigated a landscape devoid of government support and plagued by technical and logistical hurdles. His resourcefulness and courage were instrumental in overcoming these obstacles.

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Nabil Bukhalid’s contributions extended beyond technical achievements. As a co-founder and ex-president of the Internet Society Lebanon Chapter, and an active member of various other technological groups, he fostered a spirit of collaboration and community. His commitment to empowering others through access to information and resources was a testament to his belief in the transformative power of the internet. His approach was not just about connecting machines; it was about connecting people, creating a legacy of knowledge-sharing and mutual support.

The essence of the internet is innovation, which continues to drive its evolution. We couldn’t have imagined in 1993 what we have today, and similarly, we can’t foresee what the future holds. Every connected individual breathes new life into the internet. It’s no longer just a technology; it’s a lifestyle that encompasses everything from social interactions to economics.

Nabil BuKhalid, 2017 Internet Hall of Fame Inductee interview – Youtube: Imaginingtheinternet

Even in his later years, after leaving AUB in 2012, he continued to serve as a consultant and remained active in the Internet Society. His induction into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2017 was a fitting recognition of his lifelong dedication to advancing internet connectivity and governance, particularly in the challenging context of Lebanon.

During Lebanon’s latest economic and financial crisis, Nabil played a vital role in saving the “lb” national domain name, a key component of the country’s internet presence. In 2020, as the crisis deepened, he recognized the gravity of the situation and intervened to prevent the potential collapse of the Lebanese internet infrastructure. He managed to save the national network by finalizing the migration of the “lb” Domain Name System (DNS) to a cloud-based platform abroad. This effort was particularly remarkable as he financed the migration using tens of thousands of dollars of his own funds, demonstrating his commitment to maintaining Lebanon’s digital connectivity.

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Najib Korban, a former chief information officer at the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR), described Bukhalid’s approach as a “one-man show,” highlighting the challenges of relying on a single individual for such critical infrastructure.

My goal at the time was to save the registry and not interrupt the service on the web.

Nabil BuKhalid, ‘How websites registered to Lebanon’s country code domain almost disappeared from the web’ – L’Orient Today

This reliance underscores the systemic issues in Lebanon’s governance and the exceptional nature of Nabil’s contributions.

As we reflect on Nabil Bukhalid’s life and legacy, we are reminded of the profound impact one individual can have on the world. His story is not just about the triumph of technology over adversity; it’s about the human spirit’s capacity for innovation, collaboration, and resilience. His work went beyond connecting Lebanon to the digital world; he connected hearts and minds, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose that will endure well beyond his years.

He was a great man. A patriotic gentleman. An expert with a big heart.

Najla Riachi – former minister of State for Administrative Reform

To those who knew him, Nabil was more than a technological innovator; he was a mentor, a leader, and a friend. His absence leaves a void in the hearts of many, but his legacy continues to inspire future generations to dream big, defy odds, and connect the world in ways we have yet to imagine. Nabil Bukhalid will be deeply missed, but his vision for a connected, empowered Lebanon lives on.

Chronological Timeline of Nabil Bukhalid’s Contributions to Internet Development in Lebanon

Late 1980s – Early 1990s

  • Start of the Journey: Nabil, trained in electrical and biomedical engineering, begins his mission to connect the American University of Beirut (AUB) to the global academic network. This initiative was the genesis of his efforts to introduce the Internet to Lebanon during the challenging times of the Lebanese Civil War.

August 1993

  • Establishing the Lebanese Domain Registry (LBDR): Bukhalid sets up the LBDR and serves as its administrator and registrar. This was a pivotal step in establishing Lebanon’s digital infrastructure and internet presence.
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August 1994

  • Founding the Lebanese Academic and Research Network (LARN): This network furthered academic connectivity and collaboration in Lebanon.

April 2008

  • Co-founding BeirutIX: Bukhalid played a significant role in establishing Lebanon’s first Internet Exchange Point, BeirutIX. This initiative was a collaborative effort between various stakeholders, including the private sector and academia.

May 2008

  • Co-founding the Lebanese Broadband Manifesto Support Group (LBSG): This group advocated for broader and better broadband services in Lebanon.

2000 – 2011

  • Leading AUB’s Computing and Networking Services: As Chief Enterprise Architect, Nabil significantly contributed to both the university’s and Lebanon’s internet development.

2012

  • Consultancy and Continued Involvement Post-AUB: After leaving AUB, Nabil remained active in internet development as a consultant and was involved with the Internet Society.

December 2012

  • Co-founding the Internet Society Lebanon Chapter (ISOC): Nabil was a co-founder and long-time president of the ISLC, promoting internet education and resources in Lebanon.

June 2014

  • Co-founding the Lebanese Internet Center (LINC): As a co-founder and CEO, Nabil continued his commitment to enhancing Lebanon’s internet infrastructure and education. LINC is a not-for-profit organization with a unique governance structure that involves multiple stakeholders. It represents a collaborative effort between various sectors, including civil society organizations, corporations, syndicates, universities, research organizations, and the Lebanese government.

August 2016

  • Advisor to the Lebanese Canadian Tech Hub: Nabil served on the advisory board of this hub, which later merged with LebNet to become LebNet Canada in 2018.

September 2017

  • Induction into the Internet Hall of Fame: Nabil’s efforts in pioneering and developing the Internet in Lebanon were internationally recognized with this honor.

August 2020

  • Averting a Digital Crisis: Amidst national upheavals, AUB announced the need to relocate the LBDR register. Nabil played a critical role in negotiating and implementing a solution to prevent the deactivation of all .lb sites​​​​​​.

December 2020

  • Rescuing Lebanese Domains: Completion of the emergency transfer and preservation of Lebanese domains, ensuring their continued online presence​​.

January – March 2021

  • LBDR Infrastructure Revamp: The new LBDR infrastructure was tested and validated, with a launch planned for February. Facing a lack of official support, Nabil registered the LBDR as a company in Delaware, U.S., to ensure sustainable operations​​.

January 3, 2023

  • Passing of a Pioneer: Nabil Bukhalid, revered as the “father of the Internet” in Lebanon, passed away, leaving a lasting legacy in the field of internet technology and development.

April 2023

  • LebNet remembers Nabil Bukhalid: LebNet Canada held an event to honor the life and accomplishments of Nabil Bukhalid, a Lebanese Internet evangelist and Internet Hall of Fame inductee. The main focus of the event was the inauguration of the Nabil Bukhalid Computer Lab at l’École Notre-Dame de Nareg.
Nabil Bukhalid – Global Connector Inductee in the Internet Hall of Fame 2017 receives his award at UCLA, September 18 2017.
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