A coming together of many minds: East African Higher Education and ICT Symposium in Kampala

pats of the audienceThe two-day East African ICT & Higher Education Symposium 2010 was held in Kampala, Uganda from 27 – 28 June 2010.   The Internet Society, Verizon and the Uganda Communications Commission were catalysts of the gathering. This multi-stakeholder Symposium brought together approximately 120 participants including 3 ministers and other government officials, regulators, senior academicians, infrastructure providers, the wider partnership of the 5 countries that make up the East African Community (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda), and the UbuntuNet Alliance. All came together to share thoughts on the way forward for Higher Education and ICT in the East African region  that is heading for closer economic union as the Uganda Minister of Tourism, Trade and Industry , Hon. Eng. Nelson G. Gagawala Wambuzi pointed out.

The nature and role of the NRENs and the Alliance shaped quite a bit of the discussions; and with the landing of three submarine cables, most recently EASSy, the timing was just right. The CEOs of the four existing East African NRENs, Prof Meoli Kashorda of KENET,  Prof Patrick Mangheni of RENU, Dr Etienne Ntagwirimugara of RwEdNet and Dr Jabiri Bakari of TERNET played an important role at the meeting as did  Margaret Ngwira, a Board member representing UbuntuNet Alliance.  They each moderated or participated in discussion panels on topics that focused on establishing connectivity and services for the higher education sector.  Andrea Johnston of the Carnegie Corporation of New York pointed out how critical these services are in enabling the transformation of higher education and research over the next few years, in order to address the rising numbers of students and the shortfall in advanced degree programmes, and to field and retain the new generation of professors to replace the older internationally-trained generation that is now retiring.  Dr Nora Mulira, who heads the Directorate for ICT Support, Makerere University, emphasized that the start must be at the campus level with investment in modern networks with the versatility to serve changing user expectations while exploiting the dynamic technology environment.

Other close friends of UbuntuNet Alliance who attended were Prof Don Riley of University of Maryland, and the ISOC team, including Mwangi Michuki.

Keynote presentations were made by the American Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Judith McHale, and the President of MIT, Professor Phillip Clay.

Grid Computing activities in SAGrid

SAgrid StaffIt is becoming widely recognised that e-Infrastructures are changing the way research is conducted these days. Grid computing, which is one major area of e-Infrastructures, is fast becoming a necessity in science, and a number of recent strides in science owe their breakthrough to the grid. For Eastern and Southern Africa, the technology is still new, due to the low level of interconnectedness and bandwidth constraints. However, that is fast changing! The South African National Grid (SAGrid), an initiative coordinated by a consortium of South African Universities, national laboratories and Meraka Institute is implementing a grid infrastructure in South Africa.

Dr. Bruce Becker, Coordinator, SAGrid  reports as follows:

One of the projects being implemented by SAGrid is the EPIKH: Exchange Programme to advance e-Infrastructure Know-How, which is aimed at building capacity in grid computing. The EPIKH project is well under way and has run 3 grid schools addressing several aspects of human capacity in grid computing and scientific community development around research applications. The schools were orgnanised according to the EPIKH model into three sections: site administrator training; basic user induction; and advanced application porting. The three schools were held in South Africa (Cape Town November/December 2009 and Johannesburg March 2010) and most recently in Algeria (June/July 2010).

In a similar vein, the HP-UNESCO Brain Gain Initiative organised its second user and technical expert training in Johannesburg in December 2009. This school was run at the HP Learning Centre in Johannesburg, and trainers were provided by GILDA and SAGrid. A very good participation was ensured by the UNESCO organisers, with researchers from 10 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Work is under way in Catania at the GILDA Lab to finish porting of new applications which will be deployed on the SAGrid infrastructure. These applications were selected after an open call issued from the EPIKH project to the scientific communities. They fall into several domains such as human languages, high-energy physics detector design, molecular dynamics, earth observation and GIS for disaster mitigation, biophysics and genetic population studies.

The photo shows the three members of the SAGrid operations team in the GILDA laboratory in Catania, together with the EPIKH project coordinator (Roberto Barbera) and Valeria Ardizzone of the INFN section of Catania.

You can read more about the development of the project soon on the SAGrid website www.sagrid.ac.za.

An opportunity to Libraries!

The Elsevier Foundation has announced its program for Innovative Libraries in Developing Countries (ILDC) for 2010 and is calling upon all interested individuals and organizations to submit proposals for grant applications. The ILDC helps libraries enhance the quality of life in developing countries by improving their ability put scientific, technical and medical information to work for those who need it. The grants are up to three years and are in the ranges of USD 5000 to USD 500000. The proposals, among other things must demonstrate the following: innovation in improving the use of scientific/social sciences, technical and medical information; and high degree of potential impact on society in the developing world. Proposal submission will be done via the Elsevier Foundation’s online grant application proposal system between August 1st and September 15th, 2010.

The Elsevier Foundation is a knowledge-centered, corporate foundation making grants and contributions throughout the world with the main aim of supporting the scientific, technical and medical (STM) communities in the developing world.  The foundation has three primary goals which are to enrich and improve the quality of life for people worldwide by supporting the advancement of and access to scientific, technical and medical knowledge; recognize and promote excellence and equality in STM research and healthcare services; and to encourage employees to play a positive role in our local and global communities.

More information about the grant and guidelines for application are available on this page:http://www.elsevierfoundation.org/ILDC20guidelines.html.

WACREN to be incorporated by October 2010

Participants pose for a group photoWACREN, the West and Central African Research and Education Network continues to make progress. The public process for establishing WACREN, started in 2006 following the AfREN meeting in Nairobi. In November 2009 a consultative meeting of stakeholders in the establishment processes of WACREN, was held in Accra co-located with the Open Access Conference 2009. It was noted that there were clusters of REN formation in the WACREN region and it was unanimously agreed that the formal establishment of WACREN should be accelerated. The AAU was mandated to set up Task Team to drive the WACREN formation process.

The AAU set up task teams covering five thematic areas of governance, infrastructure, implementation, capacity building and content. Each task team area was led by a chairperson and they identified the following respectively:

  • Administrative Structure and Governance, Financing.
  • Connectivity and Infrastructure, Regulatory aspects.
  • Strategies for implementation, Partnership.
  • Capacity building.
  • Content and Applications.

At the recent AfREN-2010 meeting in Kigali, held under the auspices of AfNOG and AfriNIC, the Task Teams presented reports and roadmaps which formed a centre of discussion. The meeting agreed that WACREN should be incorporated by October 2010.

See http://www.wacren.net for additional information

ZAMREN Initiative Pays Off at the 5th eLearning Africa Conference

eAfrica LogoMr Bonny Khunga, Acting. CEO of ZAMREN, who was at the launch of the 5th eLearning Africa Conference in Lusaka reports:

Zambia hosted the 5th eLearning Africa Conference from 27th to 28th May 2010 in Lusaka. The conference registered over 1700 participants of whom about 700 were from Zambia and the rest were from within and outside the continent of Africa. There were 63 different exhibitors both local and foreign who exhibited e-learning related software and hardware solutions.

It was a tremendous success!

The official opening of the conference was preceded by the launch of the XVD Technology at the University of Zambia in Lusaka on the 26th May 2010 by the President of the Republic Zambia, Mr Rupiah Banda.

XVD technology is a compressed simultaneous transmission of high definition (HD) video, voice and data using very low bandwidth. The live demonstration of the technology showcased an interactive lecture on Mineralogy done at the Copperbelt University (CBU) to participants at University of Zambia (UNZA), a distance of over 400km. This was done on ZAMREN infrastructure that interconnects the two universities. ZAMREN constructed the last-mile optic fibre connectivity from the ZESCO (electrical utility company) national optical fibre grid to the universities. The interactive lecture demonstrated how the NREN can provide a backbone to foster effective and efficient Education Resource sharing among education and research institutions

UbuntuNet-Connect 2010: Call for Papers

UbuntuNet-Connect2010 LogoStart your preparations for UbuntuNet-Connect 2010! The theme for this year is “Rolling out the Regional Infrastructure: From Dreams to Achievement.” The UbuntuNet Alliance is calling for papers on topics in research and education networking in Africa, addressing, but not limited to, the issues of infrastructure, applications, content, innovation and policy. The conference will be held at Kopanong Resort and Conference Centre, in Johannesburg, South Africa and will be hosted by the South African NREN, TENET.

Interested individuals are requested to submit summaries of their proposed papers or presentations in about 500 words, clearly indicating the key message to be shared, not later than 30th July 2010. Paper summaries should be sent electronically to info@ubuntunet.net.

Besides the conference, there will be a series of other meetings as follows: The AfricaConnect Annual meeting, Meeting of the Board of the Alliance, Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Board, Technical Capacity Building (led by TENET) for the CTOs of member NRENs.

More information is available at: http://www.ubuntunet.net/uc2010.

TNC 2010: Participation from home and abroad

The Participants at UbuntuNetAs the website tells us, the TERENA Networking Conference (TNC) is the largest and most prestigious European research networking conference – over 500 participants including decision makers, networking specialists and managers from all major European networking and research organisations, universities, worldwide sister institutions and industry representatives attend.  This year, it took place on 31st May – 3rd June 2010 in the lovely city of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

For the third year, interactive participation for remote audiences was possible under the auspices of the GLOBAL Project.  This year, the session that was made available over the Global Plaza attracted a more diverse audience as the presentations were “The laws of identity and their implications for connected systems,” presented by Kim Lynch and “Developments in scholarship and scholarly communication,” presented by Clifford Lynch. On this occasion, UbuntuNet Alliance hosted a remote audience at the Secretariat. The audience at the Secretariat included Library Directors from research, academic and public library services who are shown in the picture.

Commenting on his participation, Mr Hambani Gausi, the Chief Documentation Officer of the National Commission for Science and Technology said, “participation in this meeting gave me the opportunity to understand issues about the laws of identity in this internetworked world more deeply.” The video recordings of the presentations are available onhttp://www.globalplaza.org/spaces/terena/events/tnc-2010

Other presentations that were not part of the GLOBAL session for remote participation through the Global Plaza are available on the TNC website, http://tnc2010.terena.org and may be very exciting to our NREN academic community beyond the ICT Group: for example the presentation by Chad J. Kainz – Enabling Possibilities: Rethinking academic computing in a connected world. The video recording is available on this link: http://distance.ktu.lt/terena/7a-plenary/chad-j-kainz-enabling-possibilities-rethinking-academic-computing-connected-world.

 

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