|UbuntuNet Alliance held its 2nd Council of Members Meeting in Lusaka, Zambia on 18th April 2008. The meeting was called in accordance with the Alliance’s statutes that call for an annual meeting of members. The 2nd Council of Members meeting witnessed four NRENs from DRC (Eb@le), Tanzania (TERNET), Uganda (RENU) and Zambia (ZAMREN) being welcomed as full members of the Alliance, making the number of member NRENs ten. The other members are MAREN (Malawi), KENET (Kenya), RwEdNet (Rwanda), MoRENet (Mozambique), TENET (South Africa) and SUIN (Sudan).
Speaking on the occasion as he welcomed the new members, Professor Zimani Kadzamira, the Chairperson of the Alliance emphasised that the growth of NRENs in Africa means that the African research and education community are working for a common goal – affordable bandwidth and research networking.
The Council of Members is the policy body of the Alliance that consists of Representative Members from Member NRENs, and Observer Members from non-member NRENs as well as NRENs in Construction. Observer Members present at the meeting were from Ethiopia, Namibia, Botswana, and Sudan.
|The Zambian research and education community is not lagging in efforts to secure enough and affordable bandwidth. On 17th April 2008, ZAMREN, the Zambian Research and Education Network was launched in the capital Lusaka.
“The launch of ZAMREN today is our victory because the next step is for us to capitalize on the offers that the private sector companies are making to us,” said Dr Jameson Mbale, the ZAMREN Coordinator, who is also one of the Directors of UbuntuNet Alliance.
ZAMREN was founded in 2007 by the University of Zambia (UNZA), Copperbelt University (CBU), Ministry of Communications and Transport (MCT), Communication Authority of Zambia (CAZ), Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO), Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC), and Zambia Telecommunications (ZAMTEL).
ZAMREN was welcomed as a full member of UbuntuNet Alliance on the following at the 2nd Council of Members meeting, which was held in Lusaka. ZAMREN is working with the private sector to develop the academic and research network.
|As one of seven partners in an EU FP7 research project coordinated by ZSI, Austria, UbuntuNet Alliance Secretariat, together with six other sites from around the world, participated plenary session of the TERENA Networking Conference 2008 in Brugge, Belgium remotely. This was made possible using ISABEL, under the auspices of the GLOBAL (Global Linkage Over BroadbAnd Links) Project. We were able to participate also in the question session.
UbuntuNet Alliance may also facilitate global participation in the IST-Africa Conference & Exhibition 2009.ISABEL is a multipoint group collaboration tool which provides a more effective management of multipoint session than existing videoconferencing systems.
GLOBAL provides a virtual conference centre using advanced communication technologies and concepts to support the promotion of e-infrastructure topics in Europe and around the world. It is being implemented by a consortium of 7 institutions: Zentrum für Soziale Innovation (Austria); Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain); Agora Systems S.A. (Spain); Cooperación Latino Americana de Redes Avanzadas (Uruguay); University College London (UK); Jozef Stefan Institute (Slovenia); and UbuntuNet Alliance (Malawi).
|The place to be from 7th – 9th May was sunny Windhoek, very temperate at that time of the year, for the IST-Africa Conference and exhibition. One of the parallel workshops on the second day was the workshop on “Building a Research Network Infrastructure”. The African Union Commission and the European Community were key participants.
The workshop attracted participation from eleven African and seven European countries. A day of presentations and sometimes very energetic discussions led to the synthesis of various action recommendations: The AAU and UbuntuNet were tasked with increasing advocacy and lobbying to build on the momentum already created, learn from the experiences and lessons from parts of Africa and world-wide, and work on a bankable proposal for regional REN connectivity within Africa and to the world. UbuntuNet was specifically asked to create a strong engineering base starting with the setting up of an engineering task force, and to interconnect at least two African countries as a showcase. On its part, the European Community was asked to give Africa/UbuntuNet Alliance the same level of support as CLARA received in Latin America and to support capacity building activities in the African R&E networking community.
In addition to the Workshop, a paper on the Alliance was presented on the final day of the Conference.
Download the full report of the workshop from here.
|With an aim of building partnerships at both regional and international levels, UbuntuNet signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Internet Education Equal Access Foundation (IEEAF) www.ieeaf.org. The MOU which is aimed at enhancing the partnership between the two parties, will run for a period of 2 years. On behalf of UbuntuNet Alliance, the MOU was signed by the Chairperson, Professor Zimani Kadzamira, and Professor Don Riley signed for the IEEAF.
The two parties agree to work together to promote research and education networking in Africa based on optical fibre and any alternative access technology. Within the terms of the MOU, UbuntuNet Alliance is an affiliate of the IEEAF and the Alliance will extend reciprocal recognition to IEEAF. Download the MOU from here.
|UbuntuNet Alliance participated in a planning and review workshop run in conjunction with INASP [ www.inasp.info ] and KENET [www.kenet.or.ke ] at the end of April. The workshop involved selected professionals working in the areas of bandwidth management at African universities, Research and Education Network development and invited experts.
The key findings and recommendations towards improved capacity in bandwidth management and optimisation include: strengthening policy and management environments at institutional and national levels; building capacity in technical skills at all levels; improving ICT Leadership at institutional level; and strengthening RENs and their services.
RENs were identified as key enablers and drivers of change in the areas of ICTs in general and bandwidth management and optimisation in particular. However, it is recognised that most RENs in the region are not yet in a position to actually deliver in this regard due to lack of capacity and resources. Strengthening RENs is therefore critical to enabling them to lead or contribute to capacity development in these areas at the level that is required.
|African stakeholders have set up a Fibre Consultative Committee (Fibrecom) as one of the outputs agreed upon in the Abuja consultative meeting. This meeting brought together the AAU, UbuntuNet Alliance, the African Universities Bandwidth Consortium (BWC), the Nigerian ICT Forum, IDRC, and the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, with the main objective of finding a new home for the BWC Secretariat. The outcome was an agreement to address the challenge of research and education networking in Africa more holistically through the establishment of three consultative committees.One committee, led by the AAU, will focus on stimulating and strengthening content networks, they key drivers of research and education networking. The second committee, led by the Nigerian ICT Forum (also the new BWC host), will focus on increasing bandwidth consolidation among institutions that access the internet via VSAT in order to obtain the lowest possible prices. UbuntuNet Alliance was charged with spearheading the effort to increase/establish access using optical fibre within and to the continent.
Fibrecom (also a statement on commonality of vision and unity of purpose) is a voluntary and informal forum with responsibilities including making recommendations on a common architecture that will enable network sections developed independently to link seamlessly; promoting and supporting, through experience sharing and capacity building, the development of NRENS in areas of Africa where there is no REN activity; providing a forum for sharing information about plans and ongoing initiatives in each part of Africa in order to avoid conflicting direction, avoid overlap, and create synergy; and carrying out any other consultative assignments that the parent organizations may task it to carry out.
The committee will be chaired by the UbuntuNet CEO with representation from the AAU REN Unit, the Chair of WARREN in construction, and nominees of the Nigerian ICT Forum as well as the UbuntuNet South and East clusters. An industry expert will be co-opted to the committee.
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|UbuntuNet Alliance has developed a major proposal, currently estimated to require USD160million, for Consolidating Research and Education Networking in Africa (CORENA). Phase 1 of this project is aimed at developing the comprehensive knowledge base (through various studies and research) that will enable the refinement of the Master Plan, costs, and strategy. Phase 1 has been funded by IDRC, Canada to cost US$300,000. Implementation started during April 2008 and will be accelerated to end by Dec 2008 to enable UbuntuNet engage development partners for Master Plan support starting 2009.
Member NRENs have been asked to submit proposals for implementing some of the project activities.
|Rwanda Education Network (RwEdNet) through Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) Universal Access Fund, has arrangedl with a local service provider to subsidize bandwidth. Research and education institutions in Rwanda will be getting subsidized bandwidth at US$500 per megabit per month using Universal Access Funds.Under this programme, RURA will subsidize the bandwidth costs provided by the international provider to the local ISP who in turn will re-sell this bandwidth at a predetermined price agreed between RURA and the ISP per 1 mbps.
This arrangement will run for an initial 12 months with continuous review after which Rwanda is expected to have access to submarine fiber by the end of 2009.