Vice Chancellors that attended the Vice Chancellors ICT Colloquium, the main pre-conference event to UbuntuNet-Connect 2018 in Zanzibar, Tanzania, have been asked to turn their institutions into formidable members of their National Research and Education Network (NREN)s  in order to add value to their network’s negotiating power when procuring research and education networking resources from commercial vendors.

University of Nairobi Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor responsible for Research, Production and Extension, Professor Madara Ogot made the appeal when he was giving an introductory overview of the two-day meeting held on Tuesday 20th November and Wednesday 21st November 2018 at Hotel Verde.

The meeting was organised by UbuntuNet Alliance in collaboration with the Southern African Universities Association (SARUA) and with further support from the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA).

Professor Ogot, who also facilitated the closing discussion on the last day of the forum which produced eleven recommendations and actions plans, said institutions of higher learning in Africa are struggling to negotiate for better deals from providers because most institutions choose to go it alone instead of using their NRENs through which they can broker excellent deals at extremely affordable prices.

“If your institution wants to get the latest technology or latest piece of software from a vendor and it goes to that provider alone, it is very likely you will be charged exorbitant prices which in some cases your university will not afford. Why can’t you and the other institutions in your country come together and ask your NRENs to procure the product in bulk and obviously at very affordable prices?” asked the Deputy Vice Chancellor.

Going into the meeting, there were presentations from high profile presenters who all gave different insights on digital transformation for African universities. The presenters included Prof. Martin Ooosthuizen from SARUA, Prof. Louis Foruie from Cape Peninsula University of Technology, George Kinyera Apuke of Kyambogo University in Ghana, Prof. Idris Rai of Zanzibar State University and Prof. Michele Lejuene, Vice Chancellor Emeritus of Virtual University of Uganda.

The forum closed on Wednesday evening with an interactive session in which the Vice Chancellors came up with recommendations which the group agreed to track and monitor progress.

Among other recommendations the VCs agreed to put in place strategies for establishment of research and learning repositories; to lay down guidelines and compile case studies for best practices on digital migration; to make available high quality course material; support staff exchange and training programmes; bring internet connectivity to remote institutions; and make the forum a regional and an annual event.

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