TEAMS Cable lands in Mombasa

The East African Marine System, TEAMS has landed in Mombasa, Kenya. President Mwai Kibaki of the Republic of Kenya officially launched the landing of the cable on 12th June 2009 at a function which was also attended by Uganda’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister, Aggrey Awori.

The launch has made headline news in the region and brings hope to the research and education community in that it will facilitate give NRENs of a choice of means of accessing international fibre bandwidth. UbuntuNet Alliance congratulates our Kenyan fraternity on this achievement and especially Victor Kyalo, former and founding Director of the Alliance Board who, since he moved from KENET to Government, has been involved at various stages in the challenge of moving in “uncharted waters” to plan and implement the TEAMS project.

The landing of TEAMS in Mombasa brings the number of cables to 2 after SEACOM landed in March and is about to be commissioned in a few weeks.

Digital Infrastructure and Digital Knowledge: Participation in Inter Academies Panel (IAP) at CSIR Pretoria on 11 – 12 May 2009

Academies of Science represent the best of science in their countries and beyond. Some African academies have long histories, but some countries have not yet established their academies. The good news is that more and more African Academies are being established and gaining strength with valuable support from the African Academy of Sciences. One of important roles of Academies of Science is as a source of sound counsel for their Governments, sometimes through White Papers. However, there is far from a level playing field in ability to carry out and manage research in the countries represented in the Inter Academy Panel. Nowadays so much depends on access to knowledge resources through fast reliable Internet for the conduct and communication of research. For example, those in Africa who largely depend on VSAT bandwidth for connectivity may pay more than a hundred times more for their connectivity than those in countries whose fibre infrastructure is in place. Many of the Caribbean and Central American countries find themselves in similar situations.

Recognizing this, the Inter Academy Panel (IAP) decided last year to form two new inter-related “Task Groups”: one on Knowledge Resources in Developing Countries, and one on Knowledge Infrastructure in Developing Countries. The initial focus regions for the task groups are Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central America and the Caribbean.

The first meeting of the two Task Groups and the IAP Steering Group was just held in Pretoria, South Africa, hosted by the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf). The purpose of the meeting was to review and revise the work plans for each Task Group, review related IAP activities in the last year, and discuss and approve the activities that are being planned for the coming year especially regarding digital content (open access repositories) and e-infrastructure. One objective will be to develop a White Paper on the topics and to examine the advisory role that could be played by the Panel. Distinguished participants such as Professor Leslie Chan, a pioneer of Open Access Publishing, were present. Alliance friends such as Dr Boubakar Barry of AAU, Professor Don Riley and Professor Emmanel Tonye were also present. Mrs M Ngwira, a director of the Alliance, represented eng Dr Tusubira, the CEO, at the Steering Committee.

The ARAPKE Flagship Project on the African Internet Exchange System

The African Union Commission in its African Regional Action Plan on the Knowledge Economy (ARAPKE) framework has published Phase 1 of flagship projects. Eleven projects were chosen through a long consultative process and a series of meeting which ended with the African Union Ministerial Conference of Ministers in charge of Communication and Information Technologies held from 11-14 May 2008 in Cairo, Egypt.

One of the projects is “the African Internet Exchange System” developed by the African Internet Service Providers’ Association (AfrISPA). The project aims to support the work of AfrISPA in facilitating the establishment of a truly African Internet infrastructure through providing policy and regulatory reform, capacity building, technical assistance for ISP Association and Internet Exchange Points in Africa.

The objectives of the project are:

  • A robust and fully redundant African Internet backbone infrastructure with exchange points at the core
  • A body of research data that can facilitate deeper study into trends of African data; mapping of impact of ongoing infrastructure development and growth in ‘local’ traffic
  • A fully accredited and operationally relevant academic programme to support development of Internet technical capacity in Africa

The project will be implemented in 3 years with a budget of US$4,064,120 and is expected to start as soon as funds are available. More details about AfrISPA are available on www.afrispa.org.

A taste of the Ancient and the Modern at Bibliotheca Alexandrina Leadership Planning Conference

By F.F. Tusubira
The Leadership Planning Workshop was a think tank aimed at formulating strategies for the future leadership of the Library and ICT sectors in Africa, and it brought together a truly stimulating group of Library and ICT from Africa and Stanford University. The setting could not have been more appropriate: the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The original library, borne out of the desire by the youthful Alexander the Great to create a new capital that would also be an intellectual center in the style of old Athens, was sadly burnt down and priceless scrolls lost: only one scroll survived.

In the photo: Aerial view of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Each window (mounted on the roof) is individually designed and positioned to always allow light in without direct sunlight getting into the Library.

Eight years ago, the President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, with his wife Suzanne Mubarak as the leading light, embarked on recreating the ancient intentions and, in my view, they succeeded beyond their dreams.  The Library is an architectural and structural masterpiece – but that is the Engineer in me speaking. It has an understated exterior that only gives a hint of the internal beauty and harmony of space and function. One can choose between poring over ancient scrolls written in hieroglyphics (I was fascinated by The Book of the Dead that I have hitherto only read about – not that I could read it!) or searching the web from any of the many computer terminals.  You could learn the art of the restoration of ancient books, or load your new electronic manuscript into a computer driven machine that will generate a printed and bound copy of the book – covers and all – every twenty minutes.  There is a choice between visiting one of the only two Internet Archives in the world (where every web page that has existed since the world wide web started up to now is captured) or look at the mummies in one of the library museums. One can pore over the first printed bible, or examine a molecule from the inside using 3D projections (OK, with the right combination of eye pieces).

The setting created the intellectual stimulation for the group to brainstorm and identify challenges in creating Library and ICT leadership for tomorrow, a leadership that recognizes that in the new world, access to information should not have boundaries of space, time, language, or polity.  A Task Team was set up to define how the learning environment of tomorrow’s leadership in Africa, within these two areas, will be realized.  More as details of direction emerge about this initiative.

Our dream as the Alliance is to ensure well-connected research and education networks in Africa that will enable easy access to the resources of organizations like the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (www.bibalex.org) for every student, scholar, and researcher in Africa.

Another award at IST-Africa – well done Chipo!

The prestigious IST-Africa Conference was this year held in Kampala. Following last year’s award at IST-Africa to Ali Ndiwalana of Makerere University and RENU, this year Ms Chipo Kanjo of University of Malawi (Chancellor College) and MAREN received runner-up best paper award for IST- Africa 2009 entitled “Towards Harmonisation of Health Information Systems in Malawi: Challenges and Prospects.

Chipo is part of a research group from University of Oslo Health Information Systems.

The photo shows a radiant Chipo receiving her award from Hon. Aggrey Awori, Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Uganda, at the closing ceremony of IST Africa 2009. Which NREN will produce a prize winner at IST Africa next year in South Africa?

FEAST and Africa-Connect at IST-Africa, Kampala

The FEAST Team was present at the IST-Africa Conference & Exhibition 2009 held in Kampala from 6 – 8 May 2009. This time in a 1 day parallel workshop with an aim of gathering more information to strengthen the feasibility study. The objective of FEAST is to study the feasibility of interconnecting existing and emerging African research and education networking infrastructures and connecting them to the European network, GÉANT. (FEAST brochure). The Team comprised Prof Bjorn Pehrson, Gerti Foest, Mike Nowlan, and Dr John Dyer.

The one day workshop/consultation brought together participants from the African research and education networking community, including the FEAST Team and UbuntuNet Alliance, NRENs and those with relevant applications, UbuntuNetters such as Dr Tusubira, Prof Kashorda Dr Kondoro and Mrs Ngwira made presentations. Mr Kostats Glinos who is. Head of Unit, Géant and e-Infrastructures of the EU DG INFSO and Ms Brenda Vera Ngosi, the Director, Human Resources, Science and Technology (HRST) Department of the African Union.

The FEAST Project is a 10 month project, which started in October 2008. KTH of Sweden is the Coordinator and the partners are DANTE, TERENA and DFN. For further details visit www.feast-project.org

“Reduce your personal expenditure and invest in ICT for your Children!” pleads Hon Aggrey Awori

Will our children be “digital immigrants” or “digital natives”? Young people who are exposed to ICT from their earliest years are natives to the territory of ICT and known as “Digital natives.” For those of us who came to ICT later, we will always be “Digital Immigrants. “

During IST-Africa Conference 2009 in Kampala, Hon. Aggrey Awori, Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Uganda, made an impassioned plea to the audience. He requested them to spend a little less on their leisure and personal expenditure and invest the savings on the purchase of a computer for home so that the children can benefit fully and early as so many of their peers do on other continents. Then the children of the region can be digital natives and be as at home and productive in the global e-village as their peers anywhere.

Coordinating Committee for Intercontinental Research Networking (CCIRN) looks at adding value to meetings

Apart from the briefing presentations about regional and continental networking progress in different parts of the world, the CCIRN, at its meeting held from 29th – 30th April 2009, considered the issue of giving the forum more value through setting specific action agendas. The meeting took place in Arlington, USA as a follow on event to the Internet2 Spring meeting.  A key area of focus of CCIRN for the future is emerging as providing a forum for members to agree and progress a set of activities to achieve inter-operable networking services between participating international entities so as to support open research and scholarly pursuit.  This would address policy, management, and technical issues. The agenda of CCIRN is currently open for discussion, and members of the Alliance are invited to give input through the CEO.
CCIRN members, normally at CEO level ,  target meeting once per year in conjunction with a rotating set of regional/continental-scale R&E networking meetings, for example the TERENA and Internet2 Member Meeting.  We look forward to the time in the near future when we can host CCIRN as part of the UbuntuNet-Connect annual conference.

The meeting in Arlington brought together CEOs or equivalent from Red-CLARA, Internet2, TERENA, IEEAF, Dante, UbuntuNet Alliance, Surfnet, AARNet, and others from Asia and the Far East.  The Alliance was represented by the CEO, Eng Dr F F Tusubira.  The CCIRN agenda and presentations can be accessed at the CCIRN website: https://wiki.internet2.edu/confluence/display/CCIRN/Home

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