NUANCE – September 2013

Save the date: Join us for UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 Conference

UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 is back – international research groups, national research and education networking communities, private sector, policy makers, and regulators: mark your calendar and register now to join us on November 14-15, 2013 for the conference.

This year, the event will be held in Kigali, Rwanda hosted by Rwanda Education Network (RwEdNet), the NREN of Rwanda through the Ministry of Education. The theme is ‘Transforming Research and Education.’

UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 is the 6th Annual Conference of UbuntuNet Alliance. UbuntuNet-Connect conferences focus on showcasing research and education networking activities in Africa and beyond. It is organised by UbuntuNet Alliance and hosted by member NRENs.

Registration is now open: visit the conference page to learn more and register! Registration fee is U$200 and Participants resident in Rwanda have had their registration subsidized to $100 through hosting by the Ministry of Education.  Participants are encouraged to make their own booking  with the Lemigo Hotel by completing the hotel booking form on the registation page while rooms are still available.

The conference will be preceded by a series of pre-conference events that include Advanced Routing Training, a Board Meeting, AfricaConnect Admin Meeting, all these by invitation.  A pre-conference workshop jointly organized by eI4Africa and CHAIN-REDS projects will be held on Wednesday, 13th November with the theme ‘An African e-Infrastructure for Virtual Research Communities’. The pre-conference workshop is free of charge but advance online registration is required.

The large number of abstracts received has been undergoing review by our international panel, and the programme for the conference will be on-line within two weeks.

For more information, please visit the conference website, or email

Linking African and Arab Region universities to global knowledge

By Marc Bellon
More than 30 academics, scientists and members of supportive organizations participated in the UNESCO-HP Brain Gain Initiative (BGI) meeting held on 10 and 11 September 2013 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

Founded on concurrent trends – the mobility of the highly skilled, increased internationalization, and the ever increasing role of ICT in higher education and research – the BGI fosters cooperation across borders among students, academics and scientists.  Entirely funded by HP, the BGI comprises nineteen higher education and research institutions in Africa and the Arab region.

The workshop served to highlight achievements, to reinforce links among participants and with regional stakeholders, and to reflect on the way forward.

In his keynote address, Martin Antony Walker, Chief Project Scientist of UNESCO-HP Brain Gain Initiative put the BGI in perspective and highlighted the part it is playing in introducing e-infrastructure technology to users, in helping to build a community of practitioners, and in facilitating achievements addressing local needs. Well documented and communicated, these will foster long-term support.

Speaking for the UbuntuNet Alliance, Tusu Tusubira recalled the progress made by NRENs, enabling institutions to get better and more affordable bandwidth, though policy and regulation issues remain. Echoed by several participants, Tusu also stressed the primacy of content and the importance of establishing and working with communities of practice.

Speakers from participating institutions emphasized the relevance of their projects in context. Among BGI project achievements: forty advanced degrees awarded; fifty nine publications made in journals, conference proceedings and books; over seventy presentations at conferences, seminars and colloquia; and nearly ninety workshops, courses, and seminars held.

Participants also looked critically at the need for further efforts, such as awareness raising and lobbying for additional support. They proposed to seize the momentum created by the current phase to drive further development.

The UNESCO-HP Brain Gain Initiative brochure (September 2013) is available here

Facebook’s internet drive welcome, but lacking detail

Last month’s launch of – a partnership of multinational media and technology companies that aims to provide universal Internet access – has been greeted with cautious optimism by experts.

The initiative is spearheaded by Facebook, and aims to connect the rest of the world to the Internet by developing new technology, improving data transmission efficiency and boosting incentives for businesses to expand affordable access.

But the current plans are vague and the initiative must work to justify its claims by providing clarity about how it will proceed, says Tusu Tusubira, the CEO UbuntuNet Alliance in an interview with SciDev.
“Over the last 25 to 30 years, there have been a lot of initiatives claiming that they will make a big impact [on Internet access],” he tells SciDev.Net.

This recent collaboration could make a real difference, but only if it goes beyond a public relations exercise to flesh out the vision and back it up with sufficient resources, he adds. — also comprising Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung — has a three-pronged approach to bringing Internet access to the five billion people currently without it.

It aims to develop and adopt technologies that bring connectivity prices down, such as low-cost smartphones and networks for cheap data transfer.

Data delivery is expensive, so finding ways of reducing the data needs of devices, applications and networks is another priority.

Finally, efforts will be made to help the private sector create sustainable business models that make it easier for people to access the Internet. This could involve aligning incentives for service operators, device manufacturers and developers to provide more affordable access.

Full article can be found here

TWAS-UNESCO Associateship Scheme

In collaboration with UNESCO and a number of centres of excellence in the South, The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) has instituted a Joint Associateship Scheme to enable competent researchers from the South to visit these centres regularly.

The Associateship Scheme was established to help counteract the brain drain affecting many developing countries. The programme supports regular visits by researchers from developing countries to centres of excellence in the South. Over 100 centres of excellence in the South have agreed to participate in the programme.

Applicants must hold a PhD or equivalent degree. The selection of associates is highly competitive; appointments are made on the basis of merit. Special consideration is given to scientists from isolated institutions in developing countries. Women scientists are especially encouraged to apply.

TWAS provides travel support for the associates and a monthly contribution of USD300 towards incidental local expenses. The host centre covers accommodation and food, and provides the research facilities.

Applications for TWAS Associateships should include

  • the completed application form (see below);
  • the applicant’s curriculum vitae, and
  • the applicant’s full list of publications
  •  In addition, letters of recommendation must be submitted separately to TWAS by two referees, one of whom should be from an expert from another country.

Deadline for the TWAS-UNESCO Associateship Scheme is 1 December. Submit your application now.

More information can be accessed here

First Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania Identity Providers come online and go in production mode

Over the last few months, a dedicated effort to build Identity Federations in Africa has been underway. The federated services that have recently been deployed in Africa, thanks to an eI4Africa specific programme led by Consorzio COMETA, have officially come online. Public-facing websites for the KENET, NgREN, SAGrid/SANREN and TERNET Identity Providers allow users to sign up and enter the federation.

Thanks to a special agreement with Comodo, established in the context of the CHAIN-REDS project, the websites of the above Identity Providers are secured with official digital certificates (automatically recognised by all web browsers) so those federated services can now go in production mode.

All four Identity Providers have already been connected to the Africa Grid Science Gate way allowing researchers in those countries to access the tool and execute the eI4Africa lighthouse applications on a distributed e-Infrastructure including several African sites.


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