Lack of funding amidst a deep economic meltdown in Burundi has left the country’s research and education institutions struggling to afford high speed and affordable internet connectivity.
Burundi Education Research Network (BERNET) CEO, Professor Gregoire Njejimana told NUANCE on the sidelines of the 11th UbuntuNet Alliance Annual General Meeting of Members in Livingstone, Zambia that despite the progress the NREN is making since its formation in 2014, lack of funds to enable the NREN connect to the UbuntuNet regional backbone is preventing member institutions from reaping the fruits of being on a research and education network.
“Thanks to the coming in of optic fiber in Burundi, BERNET managed to connect 15 member institutions but the capacity that the institutions are getting is not enough to enable them to carry out research and other collaboration activities. Most of the institutions are getting a maximum of 3Mbps which is not enough for them considering the number of users at the institutions’” said Professor Njejimana.
According to Professor Njejimana, BERNET is connecting the institutions through a local agreement with the Burundi Backbone System (BBS) Company which offered the institutions a discounted fee but the professor said institutions are hardly able to afford this price considering they are also struggling to collect fees from students whose parents and guardians are also heavily affected by the economic and political situation in the country.
He added that the NREN saw the opportunity to connect to the UbuntuNet regional network under the AfricaConnect2 project as a lasting solution to the problem but said the NREN is finding it hard to raise the €280, 000.00 participation fee.
“The offer of AfricaConnect2 is an excellent one for us but with the crisis that our country is in, we are facing problems to raise the participation fee. We are however trying to lobby for some assistance from development partners and some of them have promised to assist us with part of the money for this initiative.”
Despite these challenges, Professor Njejimana is optimistic that with time the NREN will be able to reach its goals.
“Last year the government of Burundi officially accredited BERNET as an Internet provider and we have been connecting some government institutions, we are talking to development partners for funding and we continue to be part of UbuntuNet Alliance. These initiatives are motivating us and we have clear ideas of where we want to be. Our interaction with UbuntuNet Alliance has opened our eyes and we are able to see what our colleagues in countries such as Kenya and Uganda are doing and we are sure that in the next few years, we will be where they currently are,” he said.