NUANCE – June 2013

Final call! Submit a paper for the UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 conference

UbuntuNet-Connect 2013, the unique annual conference that provides the appropriate forum to showcase progress in research and education networking in Africa, is this year again inviting authors to submit papers. The theme for this, the 6th UbuntuNet Alliance annual conference, is: Transforming Research and Education. This is  broken into a series of more detailed thematic areas. The conference will be held on 14-15 November 2013 in Kigali, Rwanda, hosted by Rwanda Education Network, the NREN of Rwanda (with the pre-conference joint CHAIN-REDS- eI4Africa workshop on 13th November a must.)

The Conference attracts around 200 participants, which include policy makers in Information Communication Technology (ICT) and research, researchers, academicians, telecommunications regulators and the private sector from across the continent and around. Sponsorship opportunities also exist, please get in touch!

UbuntuNet-Connect will be preceded by a series of other pre-conference events; the programme for these is shaping up! One major highlight is a joint workshop organised by the CHAIN-REDS and eI4Africa EU FP7 projects, which will be held on 13th November with a focus on e-infrastructures and applications in Africa.

Authors are invited to submit a 500 word abstract (with up to 5 keywords) to not later than 31st July 2013. The abstracts should describe the proposed papers, clearly indicating the key content to be presented. Abstracts will be peer reviewed, and accepted papers are published in the on-line Proceedings.

Last year’s event took place in Tanzania and was hosted by TERNET, the Tanzanian Research and Education Network in partnership with UbuntuNet Alliance under the theme Promoting Regional Research and Education Collaboration.

To read the full call for papers, click here

UbuntuNet Alliance looks ahead

Chief Executives of member National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) of UbuntuNet Alliance came together for a two day workshop in Nairobi, Kenya to plan the future of the Alliance. This comes as the current strategic planning period 2009 – 2013 of the Alliance is in its last year.

Speaking at the event, the Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance Dr Francis Tusubira noted that the Alliance needs to be aware of the political, economical, social and technological factors affecting it so as to be successful in the next 5 years.

The output of the meeting was the development of a set of six key areas that the Alliance would like to see tangible results in by the year 2018. The key result areas (KRAs) were further synthesized to provide details such as proposed programs, activities and targets. The key result areas are:

  1. Sustainable and operational NRENs established in the membership region
  2. Affordable broadband connectivity for member NRENs to each other and to the global Research Education N communit
  3. Continuing institutional relevance and business health
  4. Regional policy advocacy in Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Science, Technology and Innovation (STI)
  5. Increased and effective support for regional and global communities of practice
  6. The African continent served by interconnected regional RENs

The planning process was facilitated by Professor Beatus Kundi of the University of Dar es Salaam. This is the third time the Alliance is planning the future. The first Plan was developed on Zomba plateau in 2006. The Zomba Strategic Plan received a major review in Dares Salaam in 2008, where the Dar es Salaam Rolling Strategic Plan 2009-2013 was developed. Now the new Strategic Plan will outline the activities that the Alliance should undertake between 2014 and 2018. The new plan receives final scrutiny prior to approval by the Board in November.

NUANCE and iSGTW agree to share content

Sharing content with partners with overlapping interests is a win- win situation. At UbuntuNet Alliance., the International Science Grid This Week (iSGTW) weekly newsletter is always a welcome source of information.  It is therefore with great pleasure that we announce the signing of a content sharing agreement between NUANCE and iSGTW which became effective on 25th June 2013 initially for one year.

On a GridCast blog post, Andrew Purcell, Editor of iSGTW said that they hold NUANCE in high regard for its excellent coverage of national research and education networks (NRENs) in Africa.

“At iSGTW, we hope that this exciting new partnership will allow us to increase our coverage of this region, where many exciting developments in the world of e-infrastructures are currently taking place”, said Purcell.

On his part, Tiwonge Banda of UbuntuNet Alliance said, “This content will increase NUANCE’s coverage of news about practical e-Infrastructure applications which will add significant value for our readers.”

iSGTW is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables. It reports on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. Visit the iSGTW website.

IST-Africa comes to Nairobi

With the buzz of KENET, the Kenyan NREN, the iHub (the innovation hub for the technology community) and related initiatives, Nairobi is a great place to host an ICT event.  There is a vibrancy that has to be experienced.  IST-Africa, that great networking opportunity for the science, technology and innovation community, was held this year in Nairobi at the lovely Safari Park Hotel (home to UbuntuNet-Connect 2011) with KENET as one of the supporting organisations. KENET even had eduroam setup at the Conference venue, which greatly impressed the international delegates.

UbuntuNet Alliance has participated in almost all the IST-Africa Conferences, often also facilitating workshops on AfricaConnect and on the EU FP7 projects. This year the Alliance participated in two workshops organized by the AfricaConnect and ei4Africaprojects respectively.

Professor Meoli Kashorda, Executive Director of KENET and UbuntuNet Alliance Board Member represented the Alliance. A former UbuntuNet Alliance Director, Lishan Adam had a lead role in the AfricaConnect2session and Margaret Ngwira, Special Projects Coordinator made a presentation in the eI4Africa workshop.  In addition, she renewed valuable contacts with Mwangi Michuki, Regional Development Manager of ISOC regarding IXP implementation and Adiel Akplogan, CEO of AfriNIC and discussed synergies with IPV6 implementation, IXP implementation and the rolling out of UbuntuNet, the regional network (supported by the AfricaConnect project).

The very stimulating eI4africa Workshop : Exploiting the Potential of e-Infrastructures to Boost Research, Technological Development and Innovation (RTDI) in Africa was well attended . The Alliance presentation by Margaret Ngwira clarified the roles of CHAIN-REDS, the AfricaConnect project and EI4Africa in UbuntuNet Alliance

Congratulations to the IST-Africa organising committee and to the eI4Africa team for great events!

Regional RENs review progress at TNC2013

 It is now 10 years since DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe) started its international connectivity projects. In 2002 RedCLARA was formed as the Regional REN for Latin America, a year later in 2003 the ALICE project was launched, marking the beginning of a long and successful journey of international connectivity for research and education networking, of which the most recent output is AfricaConnect.

At the TERENA Networking Conference (TCN2013) in Maastricht, Cathrin Stöver, Chief International Relations and Communications Manager at DANTE facilitated a panel titled ‘A decade of collaborative R&E networking around the globe’. Panellists were: Francis Tusubira (UbuntuNet Alliance), Ken Sylvester (CKLN), Florencio Utreras Diaz (RedCLARA), AskarKutanov (CAREN), Bu Sung Lee (TEIN*CC).

The panellists looked at the challenges that they faced in developing the Regional RENs in their respective localities. Common to all was that the Regional RENs were being established in places that traditionally did not value working together. As a result the initiatives helped change people to start working together. Another outcome of the Regional RENs is that the initiatives helped bring down the price of bandwidth.

At present, the regional networks are being used to facilitate collaboration in research, service delivery, teaching and learning.

Looking into the future the panellists noted that the challenge for the Regional RENs is to maintain relevance to all stakeholders along the value chain; build communities of use; and create low maintenance networks that will be easy to manage.

Earlier, aBirds-of-the-Feather (BOF) session was held called “Towards a global exchange point for R&E PR activities: the global PR network initiative.” The BOF attended by Communications and PR people from Regional RENs brainstormed about the creation of a Global PR Network. This was a continuation of work started at TNC2012 in Reykjavik.

A visit to Innovation Hub in Kenya

Nairobi’s Innovation Hub (iHub) and m:Lab is an open space for technologists, investors, and tech companies. At the close of the IST-Africa 2013 Conference; Karine Valin, Sigma Orionis and eI4Africa Project Coordinator) organised a visit to this exciting venue.  The delegation was composed of Barend Taute and Louis Coetzee (CSIR/Meraka, South Africa), Roberto Barbera (INFN/COMETA, Italy), Dirk Elias (Fraunhofer, Portugal), Nils Jensen (SPIDER, Sweden), Bineke Posthumus (TNO, The Netherlands) and Margaret Ngwira (UbuntuNet Alliance, Malawi).

iHub is an innovation hub for the technology community that comprises an open space made available for technologists, investors and tech companies in Kenya and surrounding areas, While m:Lab is a consortium of four organizations that aims to be a leader in identifying, nurturing and helping to build sustainable enterprises in the knowledge economy. Together, they actively support the growth of entrepreneurs in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Somalia and Southern Sudan.

High speed internet, a comfortable and cool working environment, and a space for events and meetings to take place is what the iHub is about. It is run and managed by members of the local tech community and it is a self-sustaining knowledge ecosystem. The end goal of the Innovation Hub in Nairobi is not to make money and be more profitable. Instead, it is to grow a stronger technology community in Nairobi, one where developers, designers, VCs and businesses are all better connected and mutually benefiting from the growth.

Membership is in three categories: white, green and red.  Normally initially white membership is allocated to young people; this is a large group who do not have physical access to the facilities,  With green membership, a smaller group of young people who have developed a concept that is seen to have potential may use the physical space of the iHub for a specific period to attempt to bring the concept –  for instance an app development – to fruition,  Red members are professionals, mainly teams who pay a fee and work to take their projects to the next level.

The IHub celebrates Africa values and invests in the power of ideas, as the essential currency for future progress and change. A place which is continuously appealing to great minds and produce wonderful applications, systems and ideas!

A very big thank you to the iHub team for facilitating a visit to this enlightening, inspiring and innovative space: Jessica Colaço, Angela Crandall, Anne Salim, Rhoda Omenya, and Kagonya Awori – The power of women in Africa!

(Adapted from a report by Karine Valin, Sigma Orionis)

Open Data and the Future of News

Journalists, developers/coders and digital creatives from different institutions including UbuntuNet Alliance convened at Kamuzu College of Nursing in Lilongwe, Malawi in June 2013 to learn how to find, extract, and analyse public data, using powerful forensic tools and to create channels for citizen voice, inform the citizens, and help them to debate the issues and make their public institutions accountable.

Speaking at the opening of the training Jeff Thindwa, Manager at World Bank Institute said that if data is analysed well it can change or help develop a country and help in decision making.

“I see the open data movement as an extension of the transparency movement. And what we’re aiming for is to make transparency count, to make open data count; count for development results; by enabling diverse societal actors to know where to find data, to access that data, to interpret and analyze it, and to work with it in ways that can produce accountability,” added Thindwa

Participants at the training also learnt that data can bring information into sharp focus, which can empower the public to make stronger decisions on key issues, like where to take their children for good healthcare; whether they’re getting the municipal services to which they’re entitled they are entitled; which schools are performing well, and which aren’t; and more.

During the training participants also worked in teams to build news-driven mobile apps and civic engagement websites. The best project won $600, as a seed grant, to turn prototypes into real newsroom products seconded by other two groups that went away with $200 each.

The Bootcamp training was organised by the Open Aid Partnership with assistance from African Media Initiative, World Bank Institute, Google and Development Gateway.

SESAME synchrotron: a flash of unity in Middle East

By Chris Llewellyn Smith

SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East)is a major science facility under construction near Amman (Jordan) which will foster first-class science and international collaboration.

Synchrotron light-sources, which can be thought of as giant ($100+ million) microscopes, have become an essential tool in a very wide range of applied and basic sciences. There are over 60 light-sources in the world, including a few in developing countries, but none in the Middle East or in Africa. The members of SESAME are currently Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. China, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA are Observers.  SESAME, which was set up under the auspices of UNESCO, is a fully independent inter-governmental organisation.

SESAME will both:

  • Foster scientific and technological capacities and excellence in the Middle East and the neighbouring region (and prevent or reverse the brain drain) by enabling world-class research in subjects ranging from biology and medical sciences through materials science, physics and chemistry to archaeology – much focused on issues of regional importance, e.g. related to the environment, health, and agriculture, and
  •  Build scientific links and foster better understanding and a culture of peace through collaboration between peoples with different creeds and political systems.

The users of SESAME will be based in universities and research institutes in the region.  They will visit the laboratory periodically to carry out experiments, generally in collaboration, where they will be exposed to the highest scientific standards.  The potential user community, which is growing rapidly and already numbers over 300, is being fostered by a series of Users’ Meetings and by excellent training opportunities (supported by the IAEA, various governments and many of the world’s synchrotron laboratories) which are already bringing significant benefits to the region.
SESAME is more than half built, thanks to the donation of land and a building provided by Jordan, funding provided and pledged by the Members (with major contributions from Jordan, Iran, Israel and Turkey) and by the European Union, help and advice from experts around the world, and donations of equipment. The project is on track for commissioning to begin in late 2015, with scientific experiments due to start in 2016.
SESAME was created ‘bottom-up’ by scientists, who persuaded their governments to join. Additional members would be very welcome, and scientists and governments with an interest in SESAME are invited to make contact through the email address given below.

Further information about SESAME and the description of project and its history in detail can be found here
The future users of SESAME express their views in “Sesame synchrotron is a flash of unity in Middle East

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