SEACOM Cable goes live

At long last, the SEACOM cable from London and Marseilles to South Africa was finally switched on towards the end of July 2009, ultimately connecting the coastal countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. The cable has brought hope and excitement in the region as users expect bandwidth prices to dramatically go down.

The cable, with a capacity of 1.28Tb/s is the first undersea fibre optic cable along the East African coast. The expectations of the research and education community in Eastern and Southern Africa are high at the prospect of getting much more bandwidth with the money they are spending now (the current expenditure of about $1.3million per month buys less than 750Mbps: for the same expenditure, the institutions will be able to buy at least 15Gbps). This will be a huge boost to access to online resources as well as collaboration.,p>

When BBC reported the launch of SEACOM, they cited the site http://manypossibilities.net which is developed and maintained by Steve Song, a member of the Board of the UbuntuNet Alliance. It is a must visit site for insights into the growing fibre connectivity to Africa

Looking together toward Africa-Connect!

Since the conceptualization of the Alliance in 2005, being part of the Global Research Network through connection to GÉANT has been an important goal.  The EU funded Africa-Connect Project will lead not only to the realization of this goal, but will also enable regional research and education networking at the infrastructure level.  In the lovely University town of Cambridge, DANTE hosted the Africa-Connect pre-planning meeting from 27 – 28 in July 2009. Present at the meeting were F F Tusubira and  Margaret Ngwira of UbuntuNet Alliance, Meoli Kashorda of KENET,  Duncan Greaves of TENET and the DANTE Team comprising  Dai Davies, Cathrin Stover and Hans Dobbeling together with Mike Nowlan. Bjorn Pehrson (KTH), leader of FEAST (the Feasibility Study phase) was also present.

The meeting addressed the various aspects of European Commission / African Union Africa-Connect Project implementation. It is hoped that Africa-Connect will operationalise the recommendations of the FEAST Project and interconnect NRENs in the UbuntuNet East Cluster, extending to Malawi and Mozambique. NREN selection in the initial phase will be based on state of readiness of the NRENs.

As a wrap-up of the FEAST Project and following up from the Cambridge meeting, the CEOs of SUIN, EthERNet, KENET, RENU, RwEdNet, TERNET, MAREN, and MoRENet along with the member NRENs not on this list are invited to a FEAST Project session which will be held on 11th November 2009 just before the UbuntuNet- Connect Conference 2009 in Kampala. The session will address readiness gaps before the final recommendations are made to the European Commission.

DANTE NOC and UbuntuNet NOCs

The two NREN members of UbuntuNet Alliance with well developed Network Operating Centres (NOCs) are TENET and KENET, sub-Saharan Africa’s most mature NRENs.  The CEO of KENET, Meoli Kashorda and the Services Manager of TENET, Duncan Greaves, attended the Cambridge meeting between DANTE and UbuntuNet Alliance in their capacity as operators of what is hoped will be the Alliance regional Network Operation Centers (NOCs).

A highlight of the meeting was a visit to the DANTE NOC, part of which is shown in the photograph above. The operations and challenges were explained to the group to provide a learning opportunity as they prepared to offer similar services to the Alliance.  The traffic moving through the UbuntuNet router in at the Dante London hub was clearly visible.

NREN Twinning between African and European NRENs

The FEAST Project website has added a page on Twinning with the aim of encouraging NRENs in Europe to corroborate with counterparts in Africa. The idea of twinning was raised at UbuntuNet Connect Conference 2009 in Lilongwe, Malawi in November 2008. Already there is growing interest from the European NRENs to twin with African NRENs to offer expertise and share experience.

According to John Dyer of TERENA – a partner in the FEAST Project – the objective of the twinning is to build relationships and speed up the development of NRENs in Africa. One of the objectives is to build long term contacts between staff in the African NRENs with staff in the European NRENs.

For further details about Twinning, please visit the http://www.feast-project.org/twinning/

Open Access first for South African Journal of Science

The South African Journal of Science (SAJS) is one of the first South African journals to be hosted on the fully Open Access platform, SciELO South Africa. This represents a major achievement in South Africa that will benefit researchers and scholars in providing a free-to-publish, free-to-access platform for the best scientific thinking the country has to offer.

SciELO focuses on developing countries where few end users have access to traditional peer-reviewed academic journals either online or in print form. Access to journals is subscription-based and can be very expensive. Only a few libraries carry them, meaning that there have been severe restrictions to accessibility and affordability up to this point in time. The Open Access platform for these journals aims to combat these restrictions, while simultaneously enhancing the international visibility of South African research.

Open Access publishing allows research literature comprising academic peer-reviewed journals, conference papers and theses to be placed in an online portal from which they can be downloaded for use. The authors do not have to pay any type of publishing fee. However, it is important to realize that open access by no means equates to ‘self-publishing’ – all articles conform to the traditional process of journal publishing.  Journals selected to be part of SciELO South Africa must first go through a rigorous process of quality appraisal, in which journal accreditation by the Department of Education is considered, along with IBSS and ISI rankings and peer-reviewing processes. This will ensure that the most reliable, credible and innovative research by South Africa’s top researchers will be available in full to any person with internet access and the desire to learn, at no cost. Open Access publishing merely makes these research results available and affordable to a wider audience. Actual usage by scholars and scientists is monitored by the indexing system in various ways, including journal impact factors, and article citation and download statistics.

The South African Journal of Science, published by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), is the first of a number of leading existing peer-reviewed journals to be fully Open Access on the SciELO platform. Other scientific journals which are in the process of being uploaded are Koedoe, the South African Journal of Education, and *HTS: Theological Studies.

The initiative is led by Susan Veldsman, a specialist in the field of Open Access and Director of the Scholarly Publishing Unit at the ASSAf. She has been working in the information science sector for over twenty years, with a recent focus on Open Access journals.

The implementation of this open and freely accessible online journal platform has been pioneered by the Scientific Electronic Online Library (SciELO) project, based in Brazil. Fully indexed, it has been successfully implemented in eight countries, mostly in Latin America, with others being in the developmental phases. SciELO South Africa is the first site of this growing system on the African continent.

For more details, visit www.scielo.org.za

Professor Patrick Mangheni presents UbuntuNet Alliance to RUFORUM Universities!

“One head cannot hold up a roof” goes the African proverb! Working together brings much more lasting success. As with UbuntuNet Alliance, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity in Agriculture (RUFORUM) has built its success on collaboration.  RUFORUM was founded by Vice Chancellors in member universities in Eastern and Southern Africa in 2004.  The CEO is Professor Adipala Ekwamu.

RUFORUM’s purpose is to serve as a regional platform for:

  • catalyzing engagement of African universities in the region’s development process;
  • pooling efforts by the universities to respond to the human resource crisis by providing quality graduate training programs to deliver both research products and graduates needed to spur innovations in the continent; and
  • networking, advocacy and resource mobilisation for Agricultural Tertiary Education.

RUFORUM has recently been awarded a grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant. The Inception Planning Meeting for the grant was held at Ranch on the Lake, Entebbe (Uganda) from June 2 – 4, 2009. The Planning meeting was built around three strategies:  Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Competitive Grant Schemes (CGS) and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E).

UbuntuNet Alliance was invited to attend the meeting and Professor Patrick Mangheni, (CEO of RENU) kindly represented the Alliance. He made a keynote presentation and spoke on the theme : Open Access for Research and Education Networking in Africa. Of relevance to the Alliance was the identified Priority Area 1: Advocate for investment in ICT infrastructure for improved access to global knowledge and information within RUFORUM universities.

The desired outcome for this priority area was “Universities are in a better position to exploit the connectivity facilities to access the Internet (Appropriate equipment in place and ready to be used to connect to the Internet)”.

It is hoped that UbuntuNet Alliance can partner with RUFORUM in various ways to assist the RUFORUM universities along with the other universities in their countries to reach this outcome through belonging to their national NRENs. Thereafter, UbuntuNet, the vibrant Regional Research and Education Network, can provide opportunities to peer with other world RENs such as GÉANT in Europe and REDCLARA in South America where knowledge -sharing flows through the global academic network without borders.

NREN News: ZAMREN moves ahead with support from ZESCO and the Regulator

While ZAMREN still has to identify its CEO, nervertheless, progress is being made on several other fronts.  Mr Bonny Khunga, the Acting Coordinator of ZAMREN, reports that that the Communications Authority of Zambia has agreed to fund the last-mile connectivity for the three public universities in Zambia to connect to the ZESCO (national energy utility company) optic fibre grid.

The total cost of equipment plus training is estimated to exceed US$150,000. Bids for the tender have already been received and work is expected to commence within one month. The last-mile connectivity has been one of the major bottlenecks for Zambian universities. On another front, Mr Godfrey Chikumbi is actively working on the acquisition of Autonomous System Number (ASN) from AfriNIC.
Congratulations, ZAMREN and your members!

West and Central African Research Education Network (WACREN) to be Launched at Open Access 2009

The 7th International Conference on Open Access has brought great excitement to the African Research and Education Networking community. The Call for Papers (available on www.wideopenaccess.net) also announces the launch of WACREN, the West and Central African Research and Education Network. The Conference will be held in Accra, Ghana on 1-3 November 2009.

According to the Call, the first day, Sunday, 1st November is reserved for the launch of the WACREN, which is expected to connect the emerging national broadband networks dedicated to research and higher education in W&C Africa to each other and to global research and education resources via direct academic peering with networks like UbuntuNet Alliance in South and Eastern Africa, EUMedConnect in North Africa, GÉANT in Europe, Internet2 and CANARIE in North America, RedClara, in Latin America, TEIN in South, East and South East Asia, etc.

About Open Access 2009

The conference is expected to raise awareness about:
•    The role that African universities will have in the development of their countries into knowledge societies, if and only if they can join the global research and higher education community on equal terms as their peers on other continents.
•    The prerequisites that will have to be fulfilled in terms of policy, regulation and transformation of the communication market.
•    The potential socio-economic outcome if the prerequisites are fulfilled
•    Possible ways forward to make it all happen in West and Central Africa

 

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