Zambia and ZAMREN on the move

The whole continent was glued to their screens to watch the nail biting finish of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations and the victory of Chipolopolo Stars.  On the NREN front also, Zambia is scoring – and not on penalties!

In efforts to strengthen its organizational base and to improve operations, ZAMREN, the Zambian NREN is employing fulltime staff. This comes when African NRENs are realising that it is increasingly becoming difficult to run NRENs with part time staff. Professor Meoli Kashorda, CEO of KENET has been advising NRENs in the UbuntuNet Alliance region to move from part-timers or student interns to fulltime employees.

Mr Bonny Khunga, who has for the past 3 years been part time CEO of ZAMREN, is now a full time CEO. He has been seconded by Copperbelt University and will be based at the University of Zambia in Lusaka where they will set up the ZAMREN network operations centre (NOC). Apart from the full time CEO, the ZAMREN Board has also approved the hiring of a full time CTO and two Network Engineers/Administrators to boost the NREN operations. Commenting on this development, Tusu, the CEO of UbuntuNet Alliance said, “It is wonderful to see that ZAMREN has found their feet and rapidly coming to speed! It is good to see the staffing getting in place, the businesslike approach, and all the rest.”

ZAMREN is receiving support from the Netherlands organization for international cooperation in higher education (NUFFIC) with the aim of improving the quality and efficiency of higher education and enhancing research and resource sharing among research and education institutions in Zambia through ICT capacity building and strengthening of the NREN

These initiatives are underpinned  by the newly signed  Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between University of Zambia, Copperbelt University and Mulungushi University, signed on Friday 24h February 2012 (see photo)  where the top officials from  the three Public Universities committed their institutions to making available initial working capital to kick-start ZAMREN operations and host ZAMREN Points of Presence (POPs) at the institutions to which other research and tertiary education institutions will connect.

ZAMREN will provide the three institutions a minimum of 70Mb/s dedicated bandwidth at a fraction of the current price.

The photo shows (from left to right) Prof. Mike Mutale Musonda (Vice Chancellor Copperbelt University); Prof. Stephen Simukanga (Vice Chancellor University of Zambia); Prof. Vernon Chinene (Vice Chancellor Mulungushi University); and Mr Bonny Khunga (Chief Executive Officer of ZAMREN) at the signing ceremony. Definitely the winning team!

The Council of Members Meeting is here again

The Chairperson of UbuntuNet Alliance, Professor Zimani Kadzamira is pleased to announce this year’s gathering of members, the 6th Council of Members Meeting. This year, the Alliance’s AGM will be hosted by MAREN, the Malawian NREN and will be hosted at Lilongwe Hotel in Lilongwe, Malawi on 12th April 2012.

The Council of Members is the highest policy body of the Alliance. It is the one that appoints the Board. Each member NREN of the Alliance sends a Representative to the meeting. Normally, the Representatives are Vice Chancellors or other senior dignitaries who are Chairpersons of the NREN Boards. Customarily, the agenda for the Council of Members includes discussion of the annual report; adoption of the annual accounts, the appointment of the auditor for the next financial year and filling of any vacancies. An exciting additional item will be an update on the progress of the AfricaConnect project.

MAREN, the host is organizing a 1 day workshop on e-Infrastructures and Research Applications to capitalize on the visibility offered by the occasion. It will be held at the same venue on 11th April 2012.

Changes in the air at the UbuntuNet Alliance Secretariat

Margaret, who along with Tiwonge and Beatrice, has been part of the UbuntuNet Alliance Secretariat staff since its beginning in early 2006, is stepping back from some of her previous responsibilities, and assuming some less arduous new ones!  With the effective capacity building programme of the Alliance in place, Tiwonge is now pursuing part time MBA studies and Beatrice continues with her Accountancy studies.  Tiwonge ably now assumes leadership of the Lilongwe Secretariat and Margaret is reducing her time commitment to 50% and is changing her focus to become Special Projects Coordinator.

Her roles will include: Initiation and implementation of projects related to support for applications and content groups; management and reporting on projects and grants, contact point for EU-related e-infrastructure projects; coordinating the organisation of the annual UbuntuNet-Connect conference and production of Proceedings; and providing input into the UbuntuNet Alliance’s financial processes. She looks forward to lots of collaboration as UbuntuNet works with member NRENs to build communities with particular areas of interest (SIGs).

She comments “What a journey these few years have been when from nothing finally we are seeing the fruits.  This is thanks to the contribution of development partners, great continuity of UbuntuNet Alliance staff working seamlessly between Uganda and Lilongwe and the continued support of member NRENs.  We have been a learning community!  I know that given the staff commitment and dedication, and the many developing opportunities waiting to be grasped, the Alliance will go from strength to strength!”

With the extra personal time, she will be participating in the grandchildren’s school run and loving it, and helping develop the family small fruit winery.

TERNET building its technical capacity

TERNET the NREN of Tanzania is consolidating its technical capacity to better serve the research and education community in the country.  Having participated in capacity building programmes organized or coordinated by UbuntuNet Alliance, co-hosting the AfNOG 2011 in May 2011 and Cicso training in May2011, they have more plans to build capacity. Their aim is to ensure availability of sufficient technical expertise for proper management, control and maintenance of TERNET functions.

This time, TERNET in conjunction with Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) is holding a Workshop on Campus Networking and System Administration on the 16th -20th April 2012 at  Dar es Salaam Institute of technology (DIT). The NREN believes that the more trained and network ready the IT staff of institutions are, the better entire network will operate.  The workshop will be attended by Network Managers and Systems Administrators of member institutions.

On another note, TERNET plans to roll out an e-learning programme that will make education resources available to teachers and students in higher education institutions (HEIs). HEIs will be encouraged to acquire the necessary tools to make e-learning possible. These include: networked computers; multimedia devices and tools to enhance the efficiency and quality of classroom teaching and learning. The programme will also include Open and Distance Learning (ODL) to give students and teachers access to network-based electronic resources from remote locations. It will also include capacity building activities within TERNET so that it has the expertise to provide guidance to the HEIs, on an ongoing basis, concerning best practices in the use of ICT and content creation to enhance the teaching and learning environment.

The photo shows partcipants at the TERNET Council Meeting

Software apps for African farmers win prizes

By Gilbert Nakweya

The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving African’ problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest. The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

The first prize, worth US$15,000, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania. It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data. Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayer Inc, a US-based company that develops apps.

“Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online,” he said.

Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: “This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes”.

Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.  He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices. However team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. “We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers,” he added.

Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, software and Agribusiness Company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.
http://www.scidev.net/en/sub-suharan-africa/news/software-apps-for-afric…

ISOC community grants

The Internet Society will be accepting applications for the June 2012 round of the Community Grants Programme from 1 March to 30 March 2012. (Note that applications will close at midnight Pacific time). The Community Grants Programme has been established to assist Internet Society Chapters and members specifically in projects that will:

  • Advance Internet Society’s mission and goals, specifically those aligned with the Internet Society Major Strategic Objectives.
  • Serve the Chapters’ communities.
  • Nurture collaborative work among Chapters and individual members.
  • Enhance and utilize knowledge sharing in the global Internet community.
  • Encourage Chapters’ sustainability and relevance.

This Community Grants Programme is open to the creativity and imagination of the Internet Society community. The only parameters of the programme are the Criteria.

The selection Committee favours projects that strengthen and support the health of the Internet as well as projects that further support Internet Society’s mission, goals, and Strategic Initiatives.
Programme information is available on the Internet Society website, for your review at: http://www.internetsociety.org/what-we-do/grants-and-awards/grants/commu…

TERENA Networking Conference 2012

TERENA invites everyone to register for this year’s TERENA Networking Conference (TNC2012), taking place on 21-24 May 2012 in Reykjavik, Iceland hosted by the Icelandic National Research and Education Network (RHnet) and the University of Iceland. Through keynote speeches by renowned specialists and many parallel sessions, the conference will present an overview of the latest developments in research networking, both in the technical field and in the areas of application and management. This year’s theme is “Networking to Services” and will focus on network technologies, infrastructures and services that support research and education, examining the following areas: ‘bits & wires’, ‘supporting collaboration’, ‘infrastructure & services’, ‘social & secure’, and ‘using the stuff’.

TERENA is asking all those who are willing to participate in the conference to take advantage of lower-cost early registration fees, available until midnight on 13 April. The registration fee includes access to all conference sessions, materials and social events.

Students are also encouraged to apply to attend the conference at no cost however limited number of free registration places will be available for bona fide postgraduate students, sponsored by Cisco Systems and Internet Society.

There are Different ways to participate on how one could participate, just to mention a few of them, Lightning talks. This is where by a presenter will be given an opportunity to give a five-minute presentation focusing on an idea, a successful project or an invitation to collaborate.

Another way to make your ideas more visible at the conference is to present a poster. A poster presentation is an excellent advertisement tool for projects, concepts and ideas, and can act as a great conversation starter with other TNC2012 participants.

Registration is open at http://tnc2012.terena.org/

 

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