NUANCE – January 2014

Proceedings for UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 now available online

The Proceedings and report of the 6th UbuntuNet Alliance annual conference is now out and available online. These are papers which were presented at the UbuntuNet-Connect 2013, which took place at Lemigo Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda from 14 to 15 November 2013. The proceedings include 21 full text papers under the broader theme of Transforming Education and Research using ICT. The papers are accessible either as a full book of prodeedings or as individual papers as full text PDFs.

UbuntuNet-Connect is the annual conference of UbuntuNet Alliance that focuses on research and education networking activities in Africa. It is organized by the Alliance and hosted by member NRENs. UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 was hosted by Rwanda Education Network (RwEdNet) through the Ministry of Education. UbuntuNet-Connect 2014 will be held in Lusaka, Zambia, hosted by ZAMREN.

The proceedings for UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 can be accessed here. Previous proceedings can be downloaded from here.

New strategic plan for UbuntuNet Alliance kicks off

UbuntuNet Alliance entered a new era in its planning on 1st January 2014 as its new Nairobi Strategic Plan 2014 – 2018 kicked off. The Nairobi Strategic Plan was approved by the Alliance’s Board of Directors in November 2013 in Kigali, Rwanda. Content for the Strategic Plan was generated at a planning workshop, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya in June 2013 and attended by CEOs of member NRENs and Directors of the Alliance.

In her foreword to the Strategic Plan, Dr Iman AbuelMaly Abdelrahman, who was acting Chairperson during the planning process, says, “The plan is the principal management framework for the institution, consisting of broad programmes, projects and initiatives designed to secure affordable broadband connectivity and efficient ICT access and usage for African NRENs and their associated communities of practice.”

During the 5 years of implementation, the Alliance will require additional capital expenditure of US43 million to achive the following 8 strategic objectives, which also form the foundation for programmes:

  • Sustainable and operational NRENs in all countries in the membership region established;
  • A reliable Alliance operated broadband backbone network reaching every member NREN established.;
  • Robust broadband interconnections with other regional RENs operationalised;
  • Broadband Internet to member NRENs at a compelling charge provided;
  • Institutional relevance and business health enhanced;
  • Effective communication and advocacy to reach out to NRENs, communities of practice and policy makers implemented;
  • Increased and effective support for regional and global communities of practice (COP);
  • A fully interconnected Africa based on collaboration among Regional RENs in the continent.

The Nairobi Strategic Plan 2014 – 2018 builds on the successes of the second Strategic Plan, the Dar es Salaam Strategic Plan (2009-2013) that launched the undertaking code-named “Consolidating Research and Education Networking in Africa (CORENA).” CORENA had the critical objective of ensuring that researchers and educators within the membership region of UbuntuNet Alliance have equity of access, in terms of quantity and cost, to the global information infrastructure and the international research and education community.

The Strategic Plan is available here.

KENET wins the Best Digital Inclusion Award at ICTAK Value Awards 2013

Kenya Education Network (KENET) concluded the country’s golden jubille celebrations by making headlines in in the country and beyond.  The NREN finished 2013 on a high note by winning two awards at the Information Communication Technology Association of Kenya (ICTAK) Value Awards 2013. The awards were the ‘Best Digital Inclusion Award” and ”Excellence in Use of ICT (Digital Inclusion) Award”. This was in recognition of KENET for the development of ICT products, applications and services for the disadvantaged groups of the community and also in raising the public awareness on digital inclusion.

In his email message to fellow heads of NREN in the UbuntuNet Alliance community, Professor Meoli Kashorda, CEO of KENET, asked his colleaugues, “Have you ever thought that an NREN advances the digital inclusion policy of a country and serves the disadvantaged groups in our community by flattening the World of Higher Education and Research?”

The Awards were presented by Hon Adan Duale, Leader of Majority in Parliament at a Gala Dinner held in celebration of “The ICT Champions@50” which was held on 18th December 2013 at the Intercontinental Hotel in the capital Nairobi.
This is not the first time KENET’s accomplishments are recognized at national level. In 2011, the NREN won the prestigious CIO 100 Annual Awards, which are awarded to recognise institutions that deploy ICT in an innovative manner while bringing out business value at the same time.

UbuntuNet Alliance and member NREN would like to congratulate KENET for this achievement. Well done KENET!

Book review: Connecting ICTs to development – The IDRC experience

By Margaret Ngwira

Many NUANCE readers will be aware of the catalytic role of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in the early days of UbuntuNet Alliance. IDRC supported the groundbreaking Southern Africa Regional Universities Association (SARUA) Fibre study, Acacia study, the Assoxiation of African Universities’ (AAU) The Conference of Rectors, Vice Chancellors and Presidents (COREVIP) in Cape Town in 2005, and many other initiatives that supported policy research, including their role at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in 2005.  The Alliance received major contribution from IDRC, significantly support for the CORENA (Consolidating Research and Education Networking in Africa) initiative.

IDRC has just released a complex book investigating the impact and lessons learned from the broad range of ICT4D programming. The book is titled Connecting ICTs to Development: the IDRC experience. This new monographs says, “Over the past two decades, projects supported by the IDRC have critically examined how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be used to improve learning, empower the disenfranchised… it is an opportune time to reflect on the research findings that have emerged from IDRC’s work and research in this area.”

However, beyond IDRC’s contribution to UbuntuNet Alliance and the general research and education networking environment in Africa, there is a great deal of pivotal work in catalysing research in the role of ICT in the development process that IDRC has done. For example, the powerful maps developed by the Acacia project made use of ICT tools in helping visualise the African realities in terms of ICT development. How to pull meaning out of this major investment? “Much of this knowledge is tacit, buried in technical reports or in siloed project outputs. This book is an opportunity to consolidate lessons learned from across regions and projects” (p.21.).

The book gives an opportunity and challenge to us to reflect deeply on the research of the last decade and pull meaning from it.  Among the wide range of topics in the 11 searching chapters are ICT in relation to policy,  social inclusion, innovation, access to knowledge, ICT and the poor, e-Health, e-Government, openness in learning and access.

IDRC deals “with Partners and not Projects” and UbuntuNet Alliance as a partner can corroborate this. Page 38 has a sentence that reads, “[UbuntuNet] Alliance has shown the effectiveness of research and education consortiums in confronting the problems of low bandwidth and weak capacity of African research and educational institutions.

The book is edited by Laurent Elder, Heloise Emdon, Richard Fachs and BenPetrazzini. Heloise Emdon opened many doors at the beginning of the UbuntuNet Alliance.This book is strongly recommended to you.  The Alliance received three paper copies of the monograph by post, but it is also available as an e-book from here. Well done IDRC: continue ploughing new fields and examining the harvest.

Third version of the iMENTORS map of e-Infrastructure initiatives is now online!

The iMENTORS (e-Infrastructure monitoring evaluation and tracking support system) project recently released version 3 of its Africa’s e-Infrastructure map. This is one step closer to mapping the majority of e-infrastructure (resources, tools and data supporting community research and development) of the past five years in Sub-Saharan Africa in order to lay a foundation for better services, encourage research and connect cross-continental progress. The aim of iMENTORS is to help scientists, universities, research and education networks as well as policy-makers and international funders to gain valuable insights on the gaps and progress made in the region and to identify synergies when planning future ICT initiatives within the African continent.

Co-funded by the European Commission’s DG CONNECT under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and launched in April 2012 by SPIDER at Stockholm University and Gov2u, iMENTORS is an interactive resource, first of its kind, to contain information about all known e-infrastructures in Africa in the past five years.

“New data is entered into iMENTORS’ interactive map each week. By the end of the project our interactive system will contain at least 80% of all e-infrastructure available in Africa.  The second component of the Decision Support System (‘what if’ analyses) is ready for the third version of the platform and submarine cables and terrestrial networks have been added to the map. The past few months the collection of data for the iMENTORS database focused on optimizing a method for recording these last-mile terrestrial networks, many of which are on-going projects.” Louis Papaemmanuel, Director of the iMENTORS project.

Access the iMENTORS map here

This article was published by ei4Africa project website and the article can be accessed here

MED-Dialogue project launched

The official kick-off meeting of the newly launched MED-Dialogue Project (GA #611433 – 01/01/2014-30/06/2016) was held on January 13-14, 2014 in Amman, Jordan. This meeting was convened by the Project Coordinator (Thies Wittig, IT Consult) and kindly/efficiently hosted at the Princess Sumaya University for Technology (PSUT).

The MED-Dialogue initiative will run for 30 months and will mainly aim at enhancing EU-MPC (European Union – Mediterranean Partner Countries) policy dialogue and collaborative research in the field of ICT (Information Communication Technologies). The Partnership is composed of 4 European and 7 Mediterranean partners: IT Consult, Germany / Planet, Greece / Sigma Orionis, France / ATC, Greece / Ministry of Communications & Information Technologies, MCIT, Egypt / Université Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah, USMBA, Morocco / Institut Supérieur de Gestion et de Planification, ISGP, Algeria / Centre National de l’Informatique,CNI, Tunisia / Princess Sumaya University for Technology, PSUT, Jordan / Palestine Academy of Science & Technology, Palestine / National Council for Scientific Research, CNRS, Lebanon.

The consortium members widely discussed the detailed project activities/work-plan and the main objectives of the initiative which are fourfold:

  • Support, through a flexible modular approach, the Dialogue between the EU and the Region by providing on demand customized and timely input solidly documented on all Horizon 2020 aspects;
  • Raise awareness on the Horizon 2020 first Calls for Proposals and assist the organisations in the Region to build proposals and identify partners in order to increase their participation in the Programme;
  • Support the EC in the preparation of the Horizon 2020 work-programme 2016-17, by identifying strengths and opportunities in the MPC (through identified and validated ICT priorities) for mutually beneficial cooperation;
  • Support the coordination of International Cooperation instruments in the Mediterranean region by exploiting synergies of running projects and make recommendations for future INCO activities under H2020.

During the meeting, each activity leaders presented the activities to be carried on and agreed on a common strategic workplan for the coming months. Thorough and fruitful discussions led partners to express their full confidence in the capacity of the consortium to achieve its goals and thus to significantly enhance EU-MPC collaboration in the field of ICT.

For additional information please visit the project website here

Fellowship applications round opens for ICANN 50 in London

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ( ICANN) is inviting individuals  to apply for fellowships to enable them attend the 50th meeting which will take place  in London, England from 22 to 26 June 2014. We encourage people from the NREN community to apply for the fellowships.

The Fellowship Program provides a grant of support to individuals who are members of the Internet community and have not previously been able to participate in ICANN processes and constituent organizations or those who require further exposure to the Internet community and its work but cannot travel and attend a meeting without financial support.

The programme is targeted at individuals new to the ICANN environment from government, academic, civil and business constituents as well as non-profits, who are not involved in or associated with other ICANN supported travel programmes.
This outreach program seeks participants from developing regions and countries in order to help create a broader base of knowledgeable constituents who will become the new voice of experience in their regions and beyond.

The Fellowship Program has demonstrated success in its mission to build capacity in the ICANN multistakeholder environment through focused interactive engagement between newcomers to ICANN and community members at each of the ICANN meetings.

ICANN is a California non-profit public benefit corporation formed in 1998. As a none profit partnership of people from all over the world the institution has a mandate to make the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.

To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer – a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination we wouldn’t have one global Internet.

Further details about the Fellowship programme are here

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