National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) from the African continent now stand a great chance of making their online services secure and credible after the American based company, COMODO, offered the continent’s three regional Research and Education Networks (RENs) free digital certificates for a period of 3 years.
TechTarget defines a digital certificate as an electronic “passport” that allows a person, computer or organisation to exchange information securely over the Internet using the public key infrastructure (PKI). A digital certificate may also be referred to as a public key certificate.
COMODO will issue 5,000 units of digital certificates for a period of 3 years to NRENs and research and education institutions that are under the three regional RENs (UbuntuNet Alliance, WACREN and ASREN). A unit of a certificate stands for a certificate per year. In essence the 5000 certificates could be used in 1 year, or 2500 certificates for 2 years or 1666 certificates in 1 year.
Confirming the agreement to NUANCE, UbuntuNet Alliance CEO Dr. Pascal Hoba says the three RENs: UbuntuNet Alliance, WACREN and ASREN will be finalizing an agreement that will specify on how NREN Members from the three regions will benefit from the yet to be signed agreement.
“COMODO issued the African region with the certificates as part of a Sci-GaIA project to be used for Identity Providers/Federations and Science Gateways and right now the regional RENs are in the process of finalising a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will spell how the certificates will be extended to the NRENs. We are hoping to finalise this process by end August or early September 2015.”
The CEO adds that NRENs that do not have the certificates are likely to benefit a lot from getting the certificates from their REN than getting them from the company on their own.
Dr. Hoba observed that the issuing of the digital certificates has come at a right time when the UbuntuNet Alliance is encouraging NRENs to move towards providing diverse services that are required by their communities most of which need to be offered online via the UbuntuNet network.
“The theme for the UbuntuNet-Connect 2015 to be held in Maputo, Mozambique is “Beyond Connectivity: the Road to NREN Maturity.” This means that we are encouraging NRENs to offer more services to their communities and one way of offering these services is through online platforms. For the people to be able to use those online services they need to have credibility and confidence in the NRENs sources of information and the COMODO certificates will help a lot in instilling that confidence in clients.”
Currently 3 of the 15 Member NRENs of the UbuntuNet Alliance have digital certificates on their websites. The three are the NRENs of Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania.
Websites that have digital certificates have the initials “https” at the beginning of theirs URLs and users are often warned of the risks of using services on domains that are not secured.