The ever-growing demand for advanced ICT services by the research and education community should push National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa from being mere Internet Service Providers to institutions that offer diverse and modern ICT services that support research and education.
This is the vision that UbuntuNet Alliance CEO Dr. Pascal Hoba wants the Alliance’s NREN Members to be striving to achieve following his observation that most members are limiting themselves to the traditional role of research and education thereby limiting their own success and growth.
And speaking to NUANCE ahead of the UbuntuNet-Connect 2015 to be held in November in Maputo, Mozambique under the theme, “Beyond Connectivity-the Road to NREN Maturity,” Dr. Hoba has encouraged NREN Members to move towards their maturity by introducing more services and roles that NRENs are supposed to provide but are currently not being provided.
Dr. Hoba, who was appointed as the Alliance’s CEO in January 2015 says while NRENs in Africa can not yet match the standards set by their counterparts in other continents such as Europe and North America, there are still some lessons which Africa NRENs can draw and implement.
“When we look at the operational model of our NREN Members, we realize that they are only providing the traditional services like Internet connectivity to their communities, acting as Network Operating Centers, providing VPN and IP assignments and offering Network Time services. Beyond this, only a few NRENs are moving towards providing other services like consultancy, digital library services, providing university website portals and student management system.
There are also other federated services like eduroam and Edugain that, when provided to their members, will make our NRENs reliable and financially secured ICT service centers.”
The CEO also noted that NRENs are not utilizing their relationship with their governments saying the relationship that is existing between the two entities is mostly that of a funder and a recipient adding there is a need to change this mentality and establish a client- customer relationship where NRENs are supposed to be generating their own funds through the provision of diverse ICT services to government departments.
He however said it is encouraging that some NRENs are already moving towards this direction citing the Kenyan Research and Education Network, (KENET) as one of the NRENs that are moving towards being service centers by among other things providing crucial ICT consultancy services to the Kenyan government among other clients.