SEACOM Cable Cut Highlights Need for Alternate Cable Routes

The honeymoon that has been enjoyed by NRENs (and other sectors) due to the reduced internet access prices ushered in by SEACOM came to a rude end when the SEACOM cable experienced a major outage along the Mediterranean section of their connectivity during the third and fourth weeks of April. It was a capacity sellers’ market as NRENs and the commercial sector scrambled for alternative international routes to ensure that they could meet the service levels of their users and clients.

The outage brings two issues to the fore: the need for carrier side contracts that ensure resilience of connectivity as a key element in the service level agreements and the need for more cables (following different physical routes) along the eastern coast of Africa.

African REN Development attracts major interest at the Internet2 Spring Member Meeting

For the second time in two years, African NREN development leaders and their development partners presented a snapshot of Africa REN developments at the Internet2 series of meetings. In 2008, it was a curiosity, attended by a smattering of people. In April 2010, it was a reality, with a large audience including researchers working with African colleagues, the technology community (both networking at the campus, NREN and RREN level and vendors), and development partners.

All speaking with an assurance of success regardless of challenges, the panel consisted of:

  • Heloise Emdon of IDRC, our historical friends and partners who have stuck with the Alliance even during the hardest of times. She wove the right fabric of history and anecdotes based on personal experience and involvement to make all the presentations an integrated whole
  • Boubakar Barry, Head of the AAU REN Unit, giving the continental picture with some specific focus on what is happening in West and Central Africa
  • Tusu, CEO of the Alliance, revealing the almost unbelievable progress in Eastern and Southern Africa over the last two years and highlighting the many gaps and challenges, especially in human capacity
  • Andrew Alston, CTO of TENET, presenting the evolutionary revolution in South Africa
  • Matthew Scott, one of the DANTE General Managers, giving specific focus to implementation plans for Africa Connect; and
  • Don Riley, University of Maryland and IEEAF Chair, talking about plans with USAID for Uganda and neighbouring countries.

Interactions after the panel opened many doors for collaboration, capacity building, and focused funding.

The support of IDRC, TENET, and IDRC that enabled the participation of the Africa-based delegates to the panel is acknowledged with thanks.

UbuntuNet Alliance and Internet2 sign MOU

Tusu and Doug signing the MOUThe Alliance and Internet2 CEOs, Tusu and Doug Van Houweling, have signed an MOU that commits the two organizations to the provision of appropriate interconnection between members and networks, development and pre-commercial testing and use of advanced research and education applications, monitoring and employing technology or other tools to ensure that advanced networking traffic between institutions is not disabled by congestion from commodity-type traffic, collaborating on the development of common standards and technical implementations, and promoting collaboration relating to the development of next-generation networking and applications in research and higher education.

Some of the people that witnessed the signing

The first period will focus on technology transfer to enhance leadership in research and higher education networking and will also accelerate the availability of new services and applications. It was agreed that the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) of the University of Oregon would be an Internet 2 focal point for capacity building collaboration with the Alliance.

The signing of the MoU was witnessed by Dr Boubakar Barry of the AAU, and Ana Preston as well as Jocely Gerich of the Internet2 International Relations Department.

Invitation to NRENs: Participate remotely in the AfricaConnect workshop at IST Africa Durban

The IST-Africa Conference Exhibition 2010 will take place in Durban, South Africa from 19 – 21 May 2010. For the last 4 years, UbuntuNet Alliance has participated in IST Africa Conference, presenting papers and participating in a Workshop on “Building a Research Network Infrastructure” related to the planned implementation of AfricaConnect. This year the Workshop, to be held on 20th May 2010, will bring together EU, UbuntuNet Alliance, AAU, Dante, CLARA, ERINA4Afica, GLOBAL Project and RUFORUM among others.

For those who cannot be there in person we are inviting remote audiences to participate through the GlobalPlaza (www.globalplaza.org ) – the virtual conference centre. Please contact Tiwonge (tiwonge.banda@ubuntunet.net ) for setup and login details. The programme is available at www.ist-africa.eu/conference2010.

Kigali events Cluster goes Green

part of the audience We are all aware of carbon footprint and the need to preserve a bright future for our children. Sometimes green implementation involves pain, and sometimes it is easy and just simple sense. The UbuntuNet Alliance events in Kigali took the Alliance as an organisation some steps nearer pain-free green compliance.

First, it was a paper-free event. Apart from the name labels with the programme on the back, all documents (and there were over 20 for the meeting series) were available only in electronic form. Second, the freeze of flights from Europe due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland made the ERINA4Africa Workshop greener than was planned: Participants from the northern hemisphere who had planned to attend in person participated remotely through the GLOBAL Plaza using the Isabel broadband video conferencing system. Later in the day there was an Internet outage due to the cut in the SEACOM cable, but that is another story!

And finally, Steve Song from Cape Town, who is one of the Directors of UbuntuNet Alliance successfully participated in the 16th UbuntuNet Management Board Meeting over full video Skype.

NRENs gear up for Africa Connect during UbuntuNet Council of Members Cluster of Meetings in Kigali

participarts in a group photoThe Council of Members Cluster of Meetings was opened by the Rwanda Minister of Education, Dr. Charles Murigande at Aberdeen House Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda on Wednesday, 21st April 2010. The meetings started with the first ERINA4Africa Workshop (see related article in this issue).

The following day, CEOs of NRENs met and discussed progress of NREN development in the region. A key item was ensuring that as many NRENs as possible would be ready for potential benefit from Africa Connect, the regional networking initiative agreed between the EU and the AU, and about which NUANCE has reported earlier. The same day had time slots for meetings of the Executive Committee of the UbuntuNet Board, and later the full Board.

The top decision making body of UbuntuNet Alliance, the Council of Members, met on the morning of 23rd April. The meeting chaired by the Chairperson of the Alliance, Professor Zimani Kadzamira, considered and approved the Annual Report and Annual Audit of the Alliance. There was a higher level of discourse and deep discussion took place particularly on NREN readiness for AfricaConnect. The Association of African Universities (AAU), through its Research and Education Networking Unit, has been a faithful participant in all Council of Members Meetings since the beginning of UbuntuNet Alliance, and this continental level presence is very important to the Alliance. Dr Pascal Hoba represented the AAU at the Kigali meetings.

The meetings closed with a RwEdNet Session where the hosts presented their progress and plans. A project that was highlighted is CARENET (also involving students from KTH in Sweden), through which the project hospitals in Rwanda will be linked to those in Sweden via the UbuntuNet London Hub.

Investigating Best Practices for e-Infrastructure Development in Africa

the participants The arrival of the SEACOM, TEAMS ad EASSy cables to the eastern coast of Africa brings great expectations about how lives and businesses will be changed. What are the plans in the region to fully exploit the potential of the upcoming vastly improved access to the Internet? ERINA4Africa, short for Exploiting Research INfrastructures potentiAl for boosting Research and Innovation in Africa, is an EU FP7 funded project (in which UbuntuNet is a key consortium member) that sets out to examine this question, identifying potential, opportunities, and best practices across the continent. There are several attributes that permit an ICT application to be referred to as “e-Infrastructure“ (sometimes called cyber-infrastructure) : a database, heavy demand on computing power and shareability or remote access.

The first ERINA4Africa Workshop under the theme “Investigating best practices for e-Infrastructure development in Africa” was held on Wednesday 21 April as the start of the cluster of events surrounding the UbuntuNet Alliance 4th Council of Members meeting. The workshop brought together approximately 35 people from 12 countries in person and 7 people from 4 countries on remote sites, their participation made possible through the Global Plaza (www.globalplaza.org ).

The workshop considered the following questions:

  • What are the key e-Infrastructure applications that exist or urgently need to be developed, with a focus on e-Health, e-Learning and e-Government
  • What challenges do the development of these applications face?
  • What opportunities/benefits will these applications bring?

There were several presentations on e-applications – all are available at www.erina4africa.eu.. The event closed with a vigorous brainstorming session and opportunity for participants to complete questionnaires on their own applications and perceptions.

The picture shows Minister Dr Charles Murigande presenting to the local and remote audience at the opening of the 1st ERINA4Africa Workshop, Kigali with the Alliance Chair, Professor Zimani Kadzamira and Vice Chair, Mr Albert Nsengiyumva on the stage.

Financial and regulatory issues for reaping the full benefits of ICT in our economies

the attendees There is a great deal of talk about the strategic role of ICT in development, yet in many countries, the ICT sector may be isolated from real access to policy development and resource allocation. An opportunity to discuss means to bridge this gap was seized during the recent 2010 ECA-AU Conference of African Ministers of Finance and Economic Planning held in Lilongwe, Malawi. A Consultative Meeting on “Financial regulatory models and reforms for sustainable socio-economic growth in the ICT sector” was held on the 28th March 2010. The meeting was jointly organised by ECA and Nokia, with support from the Government of Finland.

Participants were e drawn from prominent ICT experts, local and international private sector players, development partners and representatives from the various African Finance and Economic Planning Ministries. Margaret Ngwira of UbuntuNet Alliance was among the local invitees. It is clear that ICT policies have to take into account other policy measures in the areas of trade, finance and investment. Mr. Jussi Hinkkanen, well known in the UbuntuNet Alliance community for his work with MoRENet and currently Vice President, Government Relations and Business Environment, Nokia Middle East and Africa – was among the keynote presenters and made an inspiring presentation.

The Presidency of the African Union is currently with the SADC region, and the citizens of Malawi are delighted that their Head of State, President Dr Bingu wa Mutharika is Chair.

The picture shows Jussi (Hinkkanen ) with the Minister of Information and Civic Education in Malawi, Honourable Leckford Thoto, and Director, ICT and Science and Technology Division (ISTD), UNECA, Ms. Aida Opoku-Mensah.

NRENs in Capacity Building at AfNOG 2010 in Kigali

UbuntuNet Alliance has committed itself once more to capacity building for its members. Through a grant from IDRC within the framework of CORENA, the Alliance is supporting the participation of some members to this years AfNOG capacity building program at AfNOG-11 and AfriNIC-12 meetings to be held in Kigali, Rwanda from 23rd May to 4th June, 2010.

Participants will go into highly technical hand-on advanced networking tutorials to build capacity. More information about the meetings can be found on www.afnog.org.

On the same note, AfNOG is calling for proposals from NRENs which would like to host upcoming AfNOG events from 2011 to 2015. This is a chance for NRENs as more of their staff will be able to attend these important events. Information about the AfNOG event hosting is available at: http://www.afnog.org/hosting.html.

Meoli Kashorda co-authors M Banking Book

cover of the bookProfessor Meoli Kashorda, UbuntuNet Alliance Board Members who is also CEO of KENET, together with his two colleagues, Mme Fatimata Seye Sylla of Senegal and Dr Simon Batchelor of South Africa have written a book titled “M-Banking: An African Financial Revolution?”. The book is about the economic significance of ICT and its impact on African countries. It presents results of the researches that were done by these authors about the role of mobile phones for banking and transactions on a topic “E-trade and Economic Growth in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges”. It mainly focuses on studies from three countries, Senegal, Kenya and South Africa.

The book has been published on behalf of the ICT, Science and Technology Division (ISTD) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the Centre for African Studies. Its ISBN is 978 90 5727 0635 and it is available online and can be purchased onwww.borders.com, www.amazon.co.uk or http://cgi.ebay.com. Congratulations, Meoli!

Research Capacity Building and the key role of ICT Infrastructure and Content

the participants listening attentivelyWhat do Eduardo Mondlane, Makerere, University of Malawi and Dar es Salaam Universities have in common ? They are all members of the Irish African Partnership for Research Capacity Building, a collaborative project funded by Irish Aid involving all the Irish Universities and 4 great African Universities, From 22 – 25 March they held their Summer School at Chancellor College, University of Malawi in Zomba, nestling at the foot of the mountains that terminate the Great Rift Valley.

There were several learning tracks around the theme of research capacity building. But a new track was around NRENs, E_Learning and Digital Content. The overall facilitator of the REN track was Daniel Lete of HEANet whom many will recognize from the photo as a participant in UbuntunetConnect2 in Kampala. Presentations included one on UbuntuNet Alliance, one on MAREN, one on campus networks, two on E-Learning and two on Digital Repository building. Solomon Dindi , Margaret Ngwira, Kondwani Wella, Alinafe Mbendera were the local presenters, matched by a distinguished panel of international presenters. In the networking time, opportunities were there to explain more about NRENs and the importance of the National Universities working with the smaller universities within the framework of the NREN, The presentations can be found on the Irish African Partnership website.

SERENE: South-South Exchange of Research Education Network Experience

SERENE (South-South Exchange of Research Education Network Experience) is a programme that involves exchange of information between South Asian countries and other countries. Information exchange is through Video-conferences, on-line discussions and face-to-face interactions.

SERENE is aimed at helping Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Afghanistan establish their Research and Education Networks. The exchange develops experiences from fellow Asian countries of Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Pakistan with experts from worldwide.

The programme is an action-learning program of virtual dialogues, visits and a workshop for ministry and university management staff and network managers in the target countries. Key audiences for the programme are staff in Ministries of Education, Health, Science and Technology, and Communications and Higher Education Authorities, Universities and Telekom Operators.

The idea of the programme came because some individuals saw that some southern Asian countries have very expensive Internet connection and still more, poor which definitely lead to leading to academic isolation, exclusion from global research and low quality of teaching. Connectivity is improving with the growing availability of submarine fiber cables, and the in-country deployment of fiber networks. The European Commission and the US National Science Foundation are offering to link South Asian countries’ National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) to GÉANT and Internet2.

This programme is funded by the multi-donor South-South Experience Exchange Trust Fund (SEETF) which is administered by the World Bank. The donor countries include Mexico, China, Denmark, UK and India.

 

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