NUANCE – January 2013

iRENALA joins UbuntuNet Alliance

The year 2012 ended with exciting news in the UbuntuNet Alliance community when iRENALA, the National Research and Education Network (NREN) of Madagascar was accepted as a Member NREN of UbuntuNet Alliance on 31st December 2012. The coming in of iRENALA, which stands for ‘Research and Education Network for Academic and Learning Activities’ brings the number of Member NRENs of the Alliance to fourteen.

In his acceptance letter to the president of the new NREN, the CEO of the Alliance Dr Francis Tusubira said that the Alliance looked forward to working with iRENALA to promote research and education networking within Madagascar and the whole region.

“The acceptance of our membership into UbuntuNet Alliance came at a time of elections for Malagasy public university officials – presidents, deans and department heads.” Said Lala Andriamampianina, the President of iRENALA. “The first to react to the good news were the founding members who had resolved at the first iRENALA General Meeting back in June 2012 that the NREN should join the Alliance. The members, network administrator and computer specialists are looking forward to sharing their expertise with counterparts in Eastern and Southern Africa,” continued Andriamampianina when narrating how the iRENALA community received to the acceptance news.

iRENALA is composed of 21 founding members and already connects 18 sites by optical fiber. It has an international link with 155 Mb/s to its data center. Last mile connections to sites range from 2 Mb/s to 35 Mb/s. The national network allows research and education institutions in the country to fully enter into a new dimension of communication and data sharing, providing students; teachers; researchers; and administration a multitude of opportunities. It enables them access virtual libraries; share voluminous files; conduct videoconferencing for teaching and communication with external partners; implementation and development of open and distance learning (ODL); and many more.

Now that iRENALA is a member of the Alliance, their next step is to connect to the UbuntuNet network which has onward connections with other regional academic networks through GÉANT. The NREN also wants to participate in the EU co-funded AfricaConnect project.

In reacting to the communication to the Member NRENs’ forum, Wilfred Kuria, the Executive Secretary of Xnet, the NREN of Namibia said, “this is a sign that the UbuntuNet Alliance family is continuing to grow, and so too is its strength.”

The Malagasy NREN was set up by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in cooperation with the Ministry of Telecommunications and ICT and the French Cooperation. Operation for the first six months – from June to December 2012 – was supported by the contribution of the founding members which are connected. The budget for 2013 is supported by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The NREN is currently waiting for the status of public utility association to be eligible for Malagasy government subsidies.

Photo (Claude Rakotobe – L’Express de Madagascar): iRENALA President showing the NOC

South-South: WACREN and UbuntuNet Alliance formalise collaboration

The West and Central Africa Research and Education Network (WACREN) and UbuntuNet Alliance recently signed an Operational Collaboration Agreement. The two recognize that they have common needs in their endeavors to interconnect their regional networks to each other; to major research and education networks; and commodity Internet Exchange Points in and outside Africa. They also indicate their willingness to make their infrastructures and services at locations abroad available to each other’s members on a cost recovery basis.

The agreement describes the geographical area which locates UbuntuNet Alliance in Eastern and Southern Africa, which is defined as comprising the DRC and Sudan and all Africa countries that lie either to the east or to the south of DRC and/or Sudan, together with the island countries in the western reaches of the Indian Ocean. Western and Central Africa is defined as the region comprising all African countries that lie south of Morocco, Algeria or Libya and also lie to the north or to the west of Sudan and/or the DRC.

Commenting on the Agreement, Eng. Dr Francis Tusubira, CEO of the Alliance said that the interconnection between the UbuntuNet and WACREN networks is a logical development which should facilitate a burgeoning of collaborative research and education initiatives and develop a cadre of world class network engineers in the process.”

On his part Professor Tiemoman Kone, President of WACREN Board of Directors said, “The Alliance is an excellent partner because of its experience in developing UbuntuNet and for the access it provides to Southern and Eastern African colleagues in research and education.  We look forward to a productive and successful partnership.”

Dr. Boubakar Barry, REN Unit Coordinator at the Association of African Universities, welcomed the MoU between the UbuntuNet Alliance and WACREN and said that it an important move towards the establishment of a continent-wide African Research and Education Network, an objective the Association is pursuing for many years.”

On peering interconnections within Africa, both parties record their mutual intention to establish and operate settlement-free peering interconnections between their networks and locations within Africa as soon as possible.

WACREN and UbuntuNet Alliance are partners in the ongoing AfricaConnect project and have been collaborating closely since their establishment.

UbuntuNet Alliance and Kamuzu College of Nursing move forward

Back in December 2005, when UbuntuNet Alliance was in its infancy with no resources and no formal structure – but very big plans – the University of Malawi, Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) Principal, Ms Diana Jere agreed that the Secretariat of the Alliance could be incubated by the College. This included facilities, physical address, financial management services, and communications – all the services the young organization needed to get started.

Ms Jere then became signatory on several of the Alliance Grant Agreements and took this role very seriously. She was a great supporter of the Alliance.

At that time KCN had no higher degree programmes and was working in the early stages to harness Information Communication Technology (ICT) to its advantage. The Principal of KCN said to Margaret Ngwira, then College Librarian, “Put us on the Map.” The team at the Alliance did their best to do this and the first grid computing training was hosted at the College in 2008 as was the ERINA4Africa workshop in 2011.

In August 2008 the Alliance moved to separate premises in Lilongwe town but the College continued to render financial services under a Memorandum of Agreement.

Now, 7 years after the Secretariat of the Alliance was opened at Kamuzu College of Nursing, the Management Board of the Alliance agreed at its recent Meeting in Dar es Salaam that as UbuntuNet Alliance had achieved widespread recognition and respect and had five successful external audits, the formal relationship with KCN had served its purpose and should cease from 31 December 2012.

When the current Principal, Dr Address Malata was informed about the decision of Board, she was happy to see the maturity, commenting that during the period of the relationship, the College had also grown from strength to strength with amazing facilities, great expansion in student numbers and ICT harnessed to its full with every innovation, now hosting multiple internationally recognized MSc programmes and a new PhD Programme.  She requested that UbuntuNet Alliance and KCN should continue to cooperate.  Tiwonge Banda, the Finance and Administration Manager, and Margaret Ngwira, Special Project Coordinator of the Alliance warmly welcomed this: KCN looked after the Alliance in its infancy, and, in true African style, this kind of relationship can never be broken.

Photo: Tiwonge Banda and Margaret Ngwia with Dr Address Malata, KCN Principal

NUANCE speaks French once more!

The French version of NUANCE, the monthly e-newsletter of UbuntuNet Alliance, is back online after going missing for some months.  The challenge was that the previous translator relocated.  However, a new translator has been identified and the team behind the newsletter is pleased to announce to all its Francophone readers that the French version is now back, Translations of the missing issues – September to November 2012 – can be accessed on the UbuntuNet Alliance website . We apologise for the break!

NUANCE is the online monthly newsletter which is published in both English and French by the UbuntuNet Alliance. It covers news from, about, or of interest to National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa.  Plans are underway for Portuguese version.

If you have a story which our member NRENs could learn from do not hesitate to share it with us by submitting

Networking in Dubai at eAGE2012

ASREN, the Regional Research and Education Network for the Arab States, followed up its 2011 Jordan Conference with a highly successful event in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).The second annual conference of ASREN, e-AGE2012 took place in the dramatic city of Dubai, with the highest building in the world towering over participants and the largest shopping mall beckoning them if there was spare time.  ASREN and UbuntuNet Alliance share two members, SomaliREN and SudREN and the relationship between these two regional RENs is important to each.

UbuntuNet Alliance was well represented by the Vice Chair, Professor Iman Maaly Abdelrahman, who made two presentations: one paper entitled “From dreams to Achievement”  outlining progress especially in the context of the rolling out of the UbuntuNet network; and another paper on the achievements of SudREN, the Sudanese NREN.

In addition, Dr Boubakar Barry, an Alliance Board member was present during the event and gave a powerful presentation on African Research and Education Networking – Status and Prospects. Boubakar focused on the WACREN area.

The CHAIN-REDS project team held its kickoff meeting immediately after e-AGE 2012.  They came with several papers which enriched the main conference. Margaret Ngwira presented as part of the CHAIN-REDS team, on e-Infrastructures and Applications in Sub Saharan Africa: Challenges and Opportunities.

Other UbuntuNet friends present included Marc Bellon of UNESCO BrainGain, and John Dyer of TERENA.  Karine Vallin of Sigma Orionis was also wearing two hats, presenting ei4Africa, one of the recent Alliance FP7 projects and also as a CHAIN-REDS partner.

Sessions included NRENs, Regional RENs, Content and applications and Infrastructures and can be found on the Conference website

Opportunities to meet the “gurus” of the discipline such as Peter Kirstein of University College London and Robert Klapisch, President of the Sharing Knowledge Foundation in Switzerland were a great privilege.  We extend congratulations to the host Ankabut: UAE Advanced Network for Research and Education, and to the hardworking ASREN team for a job well done.

Photo: ASREN members with conference organisers and contributors


Most members of the UbuntuNet Alliance NREN community have been following the work done by the CHAIN (Coordination and Harmonisation of Advanced eInfrastructures) FP7 project in catalyzing and facilitating activities related to grid computing and advanced e-infrastructures in our membership region. Aspects such as the development of National Grid Initiatives, use of the Science Gateway and Knowledge Base have been appreciated.  What particularly comes to mind are the two well attended CHAIN workshops held as part of UbuntuNet-Connect 2011 and 2012.After two years of successful work in all regions of the world, the CHAIN project ended on 30 November 2012, having achieved the project objectives. In that the CHAIN “brand” has become widely recognized, a new but related project, to last for thirty months, started on 1 December 2012: this is CHAIN-REDS: Co-ordination & Harmonisation of Advanced e-Infrastructures for Research and Education Data Sharing.  Members of the CHAIN consortium, with a global reach, from South America to China, have been augmented under. The CHAIN-REDS Consortium has almost the same composition but in addition brings in the expertise of Sigma Orionis in the area of dissemination.

CHAIN-REDS kick-off meeting was held at the e-AGE 2012 Conference in Dubai on 14 December 2012 which was organised by ASREN.
The areas that CHAIN-REDS will focus include:

  • Providing ongoing support of the Distributed Computing Infrastructure (DCI ) road-map for intercontinental DCI collaboration, specified within the CHAIN project ROC Regional Operation Centres.
  • Supporting the stability of existing and emerging Regional Operation Centres.
  • Cooperating with other projects & initiatives (e.g. AfricaConnect, TEIN3) to support the development of e-Infrastructures and key virtual research communities (VRCs) in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle-east
  • Supporting for coordination of Cloud developments for Research & Education with other regions(e.g. China, India, Latin America)
  •  Extending the CHAIN Knowledge Base with information on Data Infrastructures: collecting issues, best practices and identifying data repositories of direct interest for VRCs
  • Supporting the study of data infrastructures for a target subset of VRCs (e.g. Climate Change, HEP-SuperB, Genomics, etc.)
  • Promoting the usage of Science Gateways as a means for attracting new communities and promote the use of eInfrastructures for every researcher IDF Federations of Identity Providers
  • Fostering the creation of Identity Federations in cooperation with Certification Authorities; promote and coordinate their usage. Support integration of different AA approaches

It is planned to have a combined CHAIN-REDS/ei4Africa workshop exploring applications in these thematic areas during that UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 programme of events.

The CHAIN-REDS project is coordinated by INFN (Italy). Other partners include: CIEMAT (Spain), GRNET (Greece), CESNET (Czech Republic), UbuntuNet Alliance (Malawi) CLARA (Uruguay), IHEP (China), Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, ASREN (Jordan) and Sigma Orionis (France).

Photo: Coordinator Prof. Federico Ruggieri presenting CHAIN-REDS at the Dubai kickoff meeting

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