Africa NRENs gearing up to provide connectivity support to all on-commercial education institutions

Tusu, CEO, UbuntuNet Alliance

The African Education Summit in Casablanca, Morocco, was an opportunity for showcasing the Alliance and discussing the growth of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) as well as Regional Research and Education Networks in Africa.  The major difference between this and other fora where the Alliance has made presentations was the focus on pedagogy and the environment required to support it.  The Alliance was represented by the CEO, Tusu, who made a presentation about the Alliance, its members (the NRENs), and the EU-funded AfricaConnect project. The presentation also addressed the potential for enabling connectivity to all educational institutions through NRENs.

NRENs serve the data communication needs of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) . The Alliance however knows that in Africa, connectivity is still very limited at the lower education levels (pre-primary, primary, and secondary), which means that the majority of those who join the HEIs are internet-illiterate.  The implication is that heavy investment in access and connectivity at the HEI level will only be partially exploited.  The Alliance therefore advocates that NRENs should reach out to schools at all levels so that the entire education sector is uplifted.   TENET in South Africa is already exploring this, as are KENET (Kenya) and RENU (Uganda).  In Namibia, the NREN, Xnet, started as a Schoolnet and is therefore conversant with the challenges and solutions for supporting access for primary and secondary schools.  In Europe, Denmark provides a good example of and NREN reaching to institutions below the level of HEIs.

(See also EARNEST Summary Report at http://www.terena.org/publications/files/EARNEST-Summary-Report.pdf as well as related reports).

World Bank, African Development Bank, and African Union focus on African NRENs as a connectivity vehicle for Educational Institutions

The World Bank is playing an increasingly significant role in the growth of NRENs in Africa, with current involvement including Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi.  Those who follow the posts on the edutechdebate website (https.eductechdebate.org) would have seen or indeed participated in the debate around the opportunities and challenges of integrating ICT in education, and the benefits this can offer – the initial blogs being part of a wider study involving the World Bank, the Africa Development Bank, and the African Union around the theme of creating an e-transform ready Africa .  Within the education sector, teacher professional development; digital learning resources; affordable technologies; education management information systems; and national research and education networks are recognised as key pillars that need consideration and support.

The blogs were quite educative and insightful. Louis Fox, for example, says that:  “NRENs serve many functions. They create leading-edge network capability for the international research community; they enable revolutionary Internet applications; they ensure the rapid transfer of new network services and applications to the broader Internet community; they provide a platform for sharing scientific (and other) applications and resources; they aggregate demand for bandwidth and thereby create “buying clubs,” drive down the cost of bandwidth; and they create social value by including communities outside their primary research university constituencies, like primary and secondary schools, libraries, museums, scientific and cultural institutions. In order to flourish, NRENs must focus on the technical dimensions of data networks and they must also attend to the human dimension, the creation of shareable expertise for support and collaboration across many fields of research and education”. (https://edutechdebate.org/research-and-education-networks/african-nrens-…).

He goes on to add that  “African NRENs can leapfrog their counterpart NRENs elsewhere in the world and build networks without some of the inherent historical limitations of comparable networks, emphasizing collaboration and mass access to education and research applications across educational sectors. In addition, African NRENs can design their networks to combine the best of wireless and mobile technologies with optical networks. Inspiring leaders, ambitious goals, and imaginative and carefully crafted plans – these things (and more) will guarantee that African NRENs will flourish”.

The CEO of the Alliance has led the input about NRENs to this study.  The overall study will be completed by the end of 2011, and the Alliance (and its member NRENs) are looking forward to increased support from the African Union, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank..

RENU conducts training on ADVA FSP 3000 equipment

(In the last issue, NUANCE reported on the lighting up of the first Phase – Kampala Metropolitan and Entebbe – of its backbone.  This is a follow-up article)

The Research and Education Network for Uganda (RENU) successfully carried out training on the ADVA FSP3000 optical transmission, multiplexing and interfacing platform. The training, carried out between Tuesday 23rd August and Wednesday 31st August 2011 drew together participants from member institutions and Uganda Telecom, a local Telecommunication company which provides hosting space and provided dark fiber to RENU under a PPP Arrangement involving USAID, IEEAF, UTL and GMRE.

In his welcome remarks the CEO of RENU Dr Patrick Mangheni informed the participant that the training was the first in RENU’s long-term capacity building plans aimed at building the required technical competencies. He further said that RENU views this training as very important especially for participants who have been seconded to the Core Engineering Team (CET), the group tasked with the development and implementation of the RENU network

In his closing remarks, Mr Piotr Kwiecień, the trainer from ADVA, emphasized the importance of the human network established during the training, and promised to be always available to offer technical support whenever required

Raising awareness … REN and NREN challenges

It is always a pleasure to get visitors at the Secretariat in Lilongwe from the NRENs.   On 28th August, Noel Jambo, Systems Administrator at Bunda College, within the framework of MAREN escorted Dr Jason Githeko of Egerton University, within the framework of KENET to the Secretariat.

Dr Githeko is a Senior Lecturer at Egerton University who works on the vital area of e-content and is a former  Board member of KENET, the Kenyan NREN.  He was using the opportunity of participating in a regional universities meeting to consult with Malawi institutions on their successes, resources and challenges in the important area of e-content.  He had heard of UbuntuNet Alliance and was happy to spend time discussing the various roles of the Alliance.  He has seen how universities in Kenya have benefitted from working together within the framework of KENET.  Therefore both he and Mr Jambo wondered how to ensure that at such international meetings,  of universities, the NREN concept could be high on the agenda when ICT was being discussed.

This is a challenge to us all to promote our REN and NREN at all possible fora.  Awareness raising is a slow process and all opportunities must be harnessed to build a profile.  A positive example of harnessing opportunities is the very successful KENET breakfast Sponsorship Call for UbuntuNet-Connect 2011 where the media had a high profile and which is reported elsewhere in NUANCE

KENET/KICTB breakfast launch of the call for sponsorship for the UbuntuNet-Connect 2011

KENET in collaboration with the Kenya ICT Board will be hosting the UbuntuNet-Connect 2011 conference at the Safari Park Hotel on November 23 to 25, 2011 (see www.kenet.or.ke or www.ubuntunet.net/uc2011_cfp).  As in previous years, UbuntuNet-Connect presents an opportunity for prominent companies and organisations to associate with the event through providing various levels of sponsorship. In order to promote the event, KENET organized a breakfast launch of the Call for Sponsorship for the conference at the Intercontinental Hotel on Tuesday August 30, 2011.

The event which raised almost US$60,000 was attended by 33 senior executives, CEOs, KENET Board members  as well as ICT Directors .

For the first time, KENET acknowledged  having strong media presence due to the breakfast launch. In his remarks Professor Meoli Kashorda, CEO of KENET said, “This is new for us at KENET but it also happens to be part of our strategic plan to raise media awareness of NRENs.” He continued to say that he was learning a lot from hosting the UbuntuNet-Connect 2011.

UbuntuNet-Connect 2011 is the annual conference of African Research and Education Networks (RENs) and will be attended by over 100 participants including CEOs and CTOs of African NRENs, ICT Directors of Kenyan and African universities, and representatives of regional RENs in Europe, North America, South America and China. The participants will also include researchers and ICT faculty drawn from different African universities and research institutes as well as senior ICT, higher education and research policy makers from the Government of Kenya, representative African governments, the EU and USA.

Source http://www.kenet.or.ke/index.php/en/component/content/article/1-latest-n…

TF-NOC launches survey to investigate NOC operations

TERENA’s TF-NOC has launched a survey about the operational experiences and software tools used for the main functions of Network Operation Centres (NOC), including those related to monitoring, problem-solving, performance, change management, ticketing, reporting and communication. The survey will also collect basic information about NOC internal structures, organisational processes and potential collaborative efforts.

The survey targets NOCs responsible for network operations and for network and service operations from National Research and Education Network organisations (NREN), regional and metropolitan network operators, research institutes and campuses. Results will be available before the end of the year.

The survey was completed at the recent TF-NOC meeting on 28-29 June 2011 hosted by SWITCH in Zurich, Switzerland. Meeting participants heard encouraging presentations about the importance and usefulness of standard procedures and practices such as the TM Forum Business Process Framework (eTOM) and the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). Meeting attendees agreed to create a ‘Standardization/Methodology promotion’ sub‐group, to share motivations and use cases for applying standard-based procedures and to determine recommendations and strategies for convincing managers, customers and internal staff to follow standard procedures. Participants also heard brief NOC overviews from SWITCH, NORDUnet and CARNet and a presentation about how to build an inexpensive 24×7 NOC by the Israel Inter-University Computation Center (IUCC).

Various software tools and practices related to Layer 1 (L1) documentation, topology monitoring, the multi-domain operations of GÉANT infrastructure, incident management and trouble ticketing were also presented… Attendees expressed their desire for a one-day workshop on Open source NOC tools focused on L1/2 documentation tools, in which participants’ home-grown open source code and corresponding licenses are presented and potentially shared. This workshop may be organised in conjunction with the next TF-NOC meeting, planned for October 2011.Experienced NOC staff is invited to complete the survey athttp://mam.uninett.no/limesurvey/index.php?sid=98535 by the end of September 2011.

Source : http://www.terena.org/news/fullstory.php?news_id=2950

 Africa can ensure sustainable development through knowledge sharing

The Association of African Universities (AAU) in collaboration with the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH) and the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) Netherlands organized a two day workshop on Open Access Institutional Repository (OA/IR) Advocacy under the theme “Harnessing and Disseminating Research Information as a key to the Development of Knowledge-based Economies in Africa” at Best Western Hotel, Accra, Ghana from 18th – 19th July 2011.

The workshop aimed at creating awareness in Open Access Institutional Repositories as a key to scholarship and research and its benefits to researches, institutions, the country and the society as a whole.  They also aimed at boosting significantly the economic, social and educational benefits of making research output available without financial, legal and technical barriers to access

About  100 educational representatives from the African continent participated in the workshop.  This included participants from the WACREN region as well as the UbuntuNet Alliance membership area, Kenya represented by Mr John K Thuku, Mozambique, Matavele Anselmo,  and Ethiopia whose representative was Mr Animut Netsanet.

Prof Jegede, Secretary General of AAU  emphasized that  knowledge sharing was important to higher Education, adding that research organization could facilitate national development.

Dr. Pascal Hoba, Head of Communication at the AAU, commenting on DATAD (Directory of African Theses and Dissertations) as one of the finest projects of AAU, said that the e-initiative is a programme to improve management and access to African scholarly work.

It provides visibility and improves accessibility to the work of African scholars both within and outside of the continent. It will also  facilitate the development of relevant copyright procedures and regulations which will promote and protect the intellectual property rights of African University researchers and scholars.

Sources: http://www.aau.org, http://www.businessghana.com/portal/news/index.php?op=getNews&news_cat_i…

 Financing for SEAS submarine cable project finalised

As we look towards our joined up academic and research world, every new fibre cable presents an opportunity. So the news of the SEAS project is encouraging. The loan agreement for the financing of the Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS) – the high-power submarine cable system that will significantly improve broadband internet connection has been finalised. The agreement which was signed on 30 June, 2011 between AfDB (African Development Bank) and SCS (Seychelles Cable Systems Ltd.) will support the 1,930km submarine fibre optic cable from the main island of Mahé, from Beau Vallon beach, to the existing Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The cable will be installed by Alcatel Submarine Networks and is expected to be operational by the end of the second half of 2012.The submarine cable project is aligned with the National ICT Policy established in 2007 and it is also consistent with AfDB’s 2008-2010 ICT and regional integration strategies, which recognise the crucial role played by infrastructure in supporting intra-regional and global trade as well as market integration. The overall cost of the cable project will be €27 million and it is being financed through 40% equity and 60% debt. The long-term debt is being co-financed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and AfDB, and equity contributions split between three shareholders namely the Government of Seychelles, Cable and Wireless Seychelles and Airtel Seychelles. Source:http://www.seychellesweekly.com/July%2024,%202011/econ1_finiancing_for.html

 Celebrating 20 years of accomplishments

One of the founding principles of the Internet’s design is openness and, in 1992, a small group of Internet pioneers came together to make sure it stayed that way.

This simple act laid the foundation for the Internet Society – dedicated to helping keep the Internet open, accessible, and defined by you, regardless of where you live, what you do, or who you are. Indeed internet.

With the 20-year anniversary in 2012, it’s more important than ever to make sure that the worlds most successful platform for economic growth, innovation, and discovery continues to grow and evolve in a way that you want it to.

While the Internet helps to shatter barriers between people and nations, there are many challenges and opportunities ahead that could impact your participation in this growing global democracy. The 20-year anniversary is much more than just a milestone to celebrate.  Everyone has a chance to mark the rediscovery of your online voice.

Whether one is updating a blog, purchasing a movie, writing code for the latest software, or raising money to help community get basic infrastructure in place for a faster connection – the Internet is a key tool that supports your right to communicate and get information the way one wants it. UbuntuNet Alliance has had a cordial relationship with ISOC and the very helpful staff since the founding of the Alliance.  ISOC has assisted the Alliance in capacity building activities on various occasions. The Alliance therefore joins the internet community in celebrating the  20 years of accomplishments of the Internet Society.

The Iinternet Society asks everyone to join them as they celebrate their past and look ahead to the issues that will impact the Internet’s next 20 years. The team asked the community to add to their unique voice and help shape the future of the Internet.

Source. http://www.isoc.org/isoc/20th/

 Happy event!


It is with great joy that we celebrate with Tiwonge Msulra Banda, the Finance and Administration Manager of the Alliance who has been with UbuntuNet Alliance since 2006, the occasion of his marriage to Milca.  A wonderful ceremony took place in Lilongwe on 6th August 2011 where the Secretariat staff were there in full support .  We wish them a long, joyful  and productive life together!

 

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