NUANCE – November 2013

Rwanda hosts a successful UbuntuNet-Connect 2013

Transforming education and research was the highly relevant theme of UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 held at Lemigo Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda on 14-15 November 2013.  The 6th in the series, the conference was hosted by one of the founding NRENs of the UbuntuNet Alliance, RwEdNet, the Rwandan NREN, with great support from the Ministry of Education. Opened by the Minister of Education in Rwanda, Dr Vincent Biruta, the event was one of the most memorable annual conferences in the history of UbutuNet Alliance and was attended by approximately 150 participants from 33 countries. In addition, three other Ministers and a Director General were present.

The 2 days of the conference, rich in papers and exciting discussions, were preceded by a series of pre-conference events from 9-13 November 2013 featuring capacity building activities, project meetings and the pre-conference workshop on e-infrastructure applications. The conference also presented an opportunity for the participants to meet and greet the newly appointed chairperson of the UbuntuNet Alliance, Professor John Ssebuwufu, who assumed office on 1st November of this year.

The conference programme featured 24 peer reviewed papers. The first day covered subjects ranging from NRENs as organizations to services, progress of the AfricaConnect project and prospects for the second phase. The second day had two parallel tracks dedicated to e-content and applications, e-Infrastructure applications and NREN security.

“I enjoyed the days of UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 that included the Joint eI4Africa/CHAIN-REDS pre-conference workshop on Wednesday, 13th November. I have come back encouraged that we are now ready to transition to a real Research & Education community that is focused on ’transforming education and research through ICT,’” wrote Professor Meoli Kashorda, CEO of KENET and Board Member of the Alliance upon his return home after the conference.

In the same vein, Cathrin Stover, Chief International Relations and Communications Manager at DANTE, a long time UbuntuNet Alliance friend and partner wrote: “I believe that we had a very full and very positive week. There is enthusiasm and momentum in the community that nobody should underestimate.”

At the end of the first day, participants were treated to a cocktail hosted by the Minister of Education at Serena Hotel. They were entertained by the energetic dancing cultural troupe after which the participants joined the dancing, making the event more memorable.  An inspiring  speech was made by Hon Albert Nsengiyumva, Minister of State for Technical and Vocational Education and Training and a founding Director of the Alliance from 2006 – 2010, congratulating the current members and urging them to hold on to the early vision.

The concept of hosting an Annual Conference was part of the original Zomba Strategic Plan of the Alliance, formulated in 2006. The objective was to develop and brand UbuntuNet Alliance annual conferences for all stakeholders with sessions focusing on NRENs activities, technologies, research and applications among other topics. A further objective was to build partnerships with international, regional and national bodies to ensure effective delivery of advanced networking technologies, and resource mobilization. These objectives were certainly fulfilled in Kigali.

Dr Francis Tusubira (Tusu), Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance, announced at the conference that the next annual conference UbuntuNet-Connect 2014 will be held in Lusaka, Zambia in November 2014, hosted by ZAMREN, the NREN of Zambia.

Many thanks go to the Ministry of Education in Rwanda, for consistent hard work throughout the planning stages and during the event and to the sponsors (Diamond – XON; Gold – NSRC, Liquid Telecom, AfricaConnect and Rwanda Ministry of Education; Silver – WIOCC; Bronze – Optelian, BSC and KBS) and individuals for making this event successful and colourful. Thanks are also due to the paper presenters and our loyal team of reviewers whose role is critical.  The presentations are already online and the Proceedings should be online within the next six weeks.

First IBM Research Lab in Africa launched in Kenya

On 8th November 2013, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of Kenya officially opened the IBM Research Lab, the first commercial technology research facility in Africa. The lab is located at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, a member of KENET and also the institution that hosts the 10G KENET point of presence (PoP).

According to a press release issued by IBM on the launch day, the lab will conduct applied and far-reaching exploratory research into the grand challenges of the African continent by delivering commercially viable innovations that impact people’s lives.

The 2000m2 facility features one of Africa’s most powerful, cloud-enabled computing hubs giving IBM researchers the ability to analyse and draw insights from vast amounts of data in the search for solutions to Africa’s most pressing challenges such as energy, water, transportation, agriculture, healthcare, financial inclusion and public safety.

“IBM wanted to be part of the KENET university and research community in their search for a location for the lab. The first African 20 PhDs they have hired were recruited from the Diaspora community in US universities. This is going to be attracting African scientists and engineers back to Africa to focus on African problems,” stated Professor Meoli Kashorda CEO of KENET.

IBM Research – Africa will be deeply embedded into Africa’s innovation ecosystem and will forge partnerships with businesses, research organizations and universities across Africa and around the world. Already operational, IBM Research – Africa has a number of important projects underway based on collaborations. These include Let’s go and Digital advertising

The IBM press release is available here

UbuntuNet Capacity Building bears more fruit: Well done Tiwonge!

Since its inception in 2006, capacity building has been core to the Alliance, both of NREN technical staff and of the Alliance core staff.  Engineers and NREN CEOs have benefitted from the aggressive capacity building programmes, with assistance from our good partners, for many years. But for the Alliance core staff, the first fruit has just been delivered.

In September 2011, Tiwonge Msulira Banda, Finance and Administration Manager of the Alliance commenced MBA studies, a programme jointly offered by ESAMI and Maastricht School of Management. On Saturday, 23rd November at ESAMI in Arusha, Tanzania, the degree of MBA was awarded to Tiwonge (in absentia), including a Top Performer Award.

Tiwonge Banda joined UbuntuNet Alliance in April 2006 as a recent graduate in Environmental Science from University of Malawi’s Bunda College, an institution renowned for producing “all-rounders” and hard workers.  This is Tiwonge’s first full time job, although his first connection with UbuntuNet Alliance was in developing its website in February that year.  Tiwonge has always enjoyed intellectual challenges; he analyses issues surrounding UbuntuNet services, NREN costing models and positioning with great incisiveness.

The courses and research for his MBA have equipped him with enhanced skills in this analysis from which UbuntuNet Alliance will continue to reap fruit.  We are proud of you, Tiwonge. Keep it up!

Reflections by Federico Ruggieri, CHAIN-REDS Project Coordinator

For the third time, the EU FP7 projects in which UbuntuNet Alliance has been partner have enriched UbuntuNet-Connect conferences both through pre- conference events and through provision of quality papers in the main conference.  This year, a joint CHAIN-REDS & eI4Africa workshop preceded the main conference and this is what Federico had to say at the close of the joint workshop.

The NRENs in Europe and Africa have realised that they have to start offering high level services on top of the simple connectivity. The research communities have data to share and huge amount of data are foreseen in the near future produced not only by large scientific collaborations such as Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and Square Kilometre Array (SKA), but also by communities in the fields of genomics, weather and climate. Tusu (CEO of UbuntuNet Alliance) has pointed out that having pipes without water is not useful and thus Africa should fill the networks with contents and useful data.

Today’s workshop has shown the activities going on in Africa in the domains of health, weather and climate research; these appear to be among the scientific priorities in Africa and should be supported by e-Infrastructures.

The presentations from African partners have shown also that in many cases the initiatives and activities have a ‘seed’ in Europe, being proposed by persons that got their PhD in a European Country or they participated in previous EU initiatives. There are, however, indications of original developments and attention to specific local priorities. This suggests that there is a transversal theme that underpins all the activities and initiative and this is Education. Research and Innovation indeed need this third important pillar in order to build a fully balanced environment. As pointed out by Bruce Becker in his keynote speech, competition is a constituent of research but cooperation should also be used to build large collaboration of scientists that could address new great challenges that require large investments and the convergence of diverse competences. Africa should thus not only participate in intercontinental activities, but should also invest to produce original developments of genuine African contents and data.

E-Infrastructures can and should evolve from providing simple Internet access to include sensor networks and advanced services in computing and storage. Data infrastructures are of growing importance and most of the future scientific activities will be dependent on the access to large data repositories to produce new results and knowledge.

Looking at the advancement made in the last 2 years by the network connectivity and the level of the initiatives in Rwanda, we can propose that the cases of African countries that have put into reality such advanced initiatives should be used as showcases and best examples to create awareness and solicit similar initiatives in other African countries.

The role of regional networks and specifically of UbuntuNet is thus of paramount importance to provide the necessary umbrella for such cooperation among African countries.

Stop press: Campus Best Practice

A rich resource exists on the GÉANT website showcasing campus best practice documents. The documents are developed within the framework of Campus Best Practices (CBP), an important part of the GÉANT project which aims at addressing key challenges for European campus networks. The CBP Team prepares the documents by organising working groups and providing an evolving and to the-point set of best-practice documents (BPDs) for the community. The best practice documents cover areas such as physical infrastructure; campus networking; wireless; network monitoring; real-time communications; and security.

Find out more about the best practice documents here.

Submit a paper, be part of IST-Africa 2014 conference

Hosted by the Government of Mauritius through the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and the National Computer Board, supported by the European Commission and African Union Commission and Co-Sponsored by IEEE, IST-Africa 2014 the ninth IST-Africa will take place in Mauritius in early May 2014.

The goals of the conference are to support development of the information society and knowledge economy in Africa, promote International Research and Development Cooperation and coordination, and showcase African Research and Innovation Capacity and to stimulate exploitation of research results by the public and private sectors

IST-Africa 2014 is focused on applied ICT and the core thematic areas include the following;

  • Technology-enhanced Learning, mLearning
  • ICT Skills eInfrastructures, NRENs and IPv6
  •  Digital Libraries and Digital Preservation
  • Future Internet, Internet of Things,
  • Mobile Applications (including mServices, Social Networking)
  • Next Generation Computing: Big Data, Cloud Computing, Data Localisation
  • Open Source Software Applications
  • Cyber Security
  • Transformation of Research Results into Local Innovation
  • ICT for Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability, eInclusion ,eAccessibility

The  Annual Conference  brings together senior representatives from leading commercial, government & research organisations across Africa and from Europe, to bridge the Digital Divide by sharing knowledge, experience, lessons learnt and good practice and discussing policy related issues.

Those Interested are encouraged to prepare an 8 page paper (4,000 – 5,000 words) following the IST-Africa paper guidelines and paper template for submission online by 16 December. For more information, please click here

UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 in picture after pano

The new Chair, Prof Ssebuwufu, getting to know UbuntuNet Alliance Dr Marie-Christine Gasingirwa with Tusu,  UbuntuNET Alliance CEO Donart, COSTECH and ei4Africa partner and local EU representation

Setting up Lighthouse Demonstrators in the area of Health with KTH and KI

Rwandese workshop assistants surround Serena of CHAIN-REDS

Some of the participants inside the conference room

Participants from many countries absorbed in the event

Tiwonge and Margaret ponder logistics watched by Professor Kadzamira

Amazing traditional dancing at the Cocktail hosted by the Ministry of Education

Chrispen of Zimbabwe Open University and Joan of RUFORUM concentrate on the presentations.

Joe Kimaili and Duncan Martin after serious input can grab a coffee

The new Chair, Prof Ssebuwufu, and founding Chair, Prof Kadzamira welcome the Ministers at the opening Ceremony of the Conference

Founding member of UbuntuNet Alliance, Hon Albert, surrounded by friends including Cathrin of DANTE, share a moment of satisfaction at progress made

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