NUANCE – August 2012

Register to attend UbuntuNet-Connect 2012

Registration is open for the forthcoming UbuntuNet-Connect 2012, the 5th Annual Conference of UbuntuNet Alliance. Secure your registration and book your accommodation now!  We have received twice the number of abstracts received last year and they have been reviewed. UbuntuNet-Connect 2012 will be hosted by TERNET, the Tanzanian NREN and will be held at Kunduchi Beach Hotel on 15-16 November 2012.  The location, on the African shores of the Indian Ocean, is picturesque.

The programmme for the Conference is taking shape and will soon be published on the conference website. Before that, we would like to bring to your attention some other exciting events that will surround the conference.

An important and historic event is the Africa launch of the regional component of UbuntuNet, the UbuntuNet Alliance data network.  This regional component is financed through the AfricaConnect project, inclusive of beneficiary contributions. The Africa launch will be held on 15th November 2012 just after the opening ceremony of the Conference. (The launch of UbuntuNet in Europe will be held in Lisbon, Portugal on 27 November at the 2012 EU-Africa Cooperation Forum on ICT, 27-28 November 2012).

Other events are: a 5 day Advanced Routing Workshop for NREN staff (contact for details); AfricaConnect Administrative and Technical Meetings (by invitation); and the CHAIN Virtual Research Communities (VRCs) and National Grid Initiatives (NGIs) Session.

From Philadelphia to Philadelphia

How does DANTA sound? Not so original, is it? This was the name given to the embryonic Research and Education Network for Eastern and Southern Africa as a “placeholder” at the very beginning. Then, at an informal discussion of African pioneers during the Fall2006 Internet2 Member Meeting held in Philadelphia, the name Ubuntu was first mooted by Duncan Martin for the embryonic REN.  It turned out that this name was already in use by the open source software community in Africa: the name was changed to UbuntuNet Alliance for Research and Education Networking, with UbuntuNet as the data network.

Six years later, UbuntuNet Alliance with father AAU and sisters WACREN and ASREN are going back to Philadelphia for the Fall2012 Internet2 Member Meeting slated for the 30 September to 4 October 2012. The group will run a session titled, “From Philadelphia to Philadelphia: The Journey of African Research and Education Networking (2005-2012).”

The team, Tusu (of UbuntuNet Alliance); Dr Boubakar Barry (of the Association of African Universities); Professor Tiemoman Kone (of WACREN); and Dr Salem Alagtash (of ASREN) will showcase progress and achievements, and plan the way forward for future regional interconnections.

Reflecting on the Fall 2006 Internet2 Members Meeting, Tusu, the CEOof UbuntuNet Alliance says, “It was at the same time when we had that historical meeting chaired by Steve Song of IDRC, where he quoted Margaret Meade about a small group of committed individuals changing the world. This is therefore of historic importance to us.”  Also present at the meeting were Don Riley and Anthony Muyepa.

The Internet2 Member Meetings bring the member community together for interactive discussions about new and ongoing work and provide a venue for making connections and forming new collaborations. The theme for this year is Community, Innovation, and Transformation.

MAREN encourages research institutions to get connected

The Malawi Research Education Network (MAREN), gathered stakeholders to a meeting in Lilongwe on 22 August 2012 to re-energise the NREN. The guest of honour was the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Mrs. Eunice Kazembe. In her opening statement, Mrs.Kazembe stressed the Malawi Government’s commitment to narrowing the see the ICT gap in the country in order to catch up with developed countries.”

MAREN has been restructuring over the past two years.  This meeting was an opportunity for bringing on board the Deans of all the higher education institutions and leaders of research bodies and working to unite them in the common goal of using the promised terrific services over a robust cost effective network.

The one day workshop was preceded by a press briefing which was organized to raise awareness of research and education networking among the general public. Speaking at the press briefing, Anthony Muyepa, the MAREN CTO told journalists that the NREN helps researchers and high learning institutions to have efficient and cost effective ways of sharing scarce and expensive resources.

Professor Zimani Kadzamira, the chairperson of the Alliance gave a presentation about the AfricaConnect, encouraging the Malawi NREN to make its contribution to the project.

Predicting how climate and politics affect stability in Africa

With climate change devastating African communities through droughts, floods, and other disasters, researchers have developed an online mapping tool that analyzes how climate and other forces interact to threaten populations.

The Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) program was piloted by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin in 2009 after receiving a $7.6 million (€6.14 million) five-year grant from the Minerva Initiative with the US Department of Defense.

CCAPS comprises nine research teams focused on various aspects of climate change, their relationship to different types of conflict, the government structures that exist to mitigate them, and the effectiveness of international aid in intervening.

The online mapping tool was developed by the CCAPS program to integrate its various lines of climate, conflict, and aid research. Their current mapping tool is based on a prototype they developed to assess conflict patterns in Africa with the help of researchers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), according to Ashley Moran, program manager of CCAPS.

“The mapping tool is a key part of our effort to produce new research that could support policy making, and the work of practitioners and governments in Africa,” Moran said. “We want to communicate this research in ways that are of maximum use to policymakers and researchers.”

The initial prototype of the mapping tool used the ArcGIS platform’s geographic information systems to project data onto maps. Working with its partner, Development Gateway, CCAPS expanded the system to incorporate conflict, vulnerability, governance, and aid research data.

Later this year, the maps will also incorporate data on future climate vulnerability, derived from regional climate model simulations designed by Edward Vizy and Kerry Cook, both members of the CCAPS team from the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas.

Vizy and Cook ran three, 20-year nested simulations of the African continent’s climate at the regional scales of 90 and 30 kilometers (56 miles and 19 miles), using a derivation of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. One was a control simulation representative of the years 1989 to 2008, and the others represented the climate as it may exist in 2041 to 2060, and 2081 to 2100.

Each simulation took two months to complete on TACC’s Ranger high-performance computer.
“We couldn’t run these simulations without the high-performance computing resources at TACC. If it takes two months running with 200 processors, I can’t fathom doing it with one processor,” Vizy said.

Initiatives like this cannot help but ring the bells of opportunity(or is it wake up bells?) for researchers in Africa, especially riding on the grid networking efforts as well as the advanced networksbeing rolled out by the NRENs and the Alliance.

Source, ISGTW:…

A second life in Africa

We have all had our eyes focused on the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experimentation.  To carry out such cutting edge research requires cutting edge equipment.  Every so often, a new generation of equipment is procured and a good home is required for the outgoing equipment.  While many in the region have experienced the downside of “Computer dumping,” this is a different scenario. Within our region, sometimes the impediment to carrying out advanced collaborative e-infrastructure research is lack of appropriate computers and severs.

Towards the end of August 2012, 220 computer servers from CERN started a journey to be delivered to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), in Ghana, Africa. This will provide a new computing center for KNUST and boost African physics onto the international stage, helping African students.

When we emailed a congratulatory message expressing our excitement to Professor Isaac Kwami Dontwi of Kwame Nkruma University of Science and Technology, the recipient University said,“It a pleasure to hear and learn of your excitement. We are equally excited about what we are getting and more so of its potential to redefine and affect research within and out.”

There are still over 1,000 servers left in storage waiting for a second lease on life. Institutions that may want them are welcome to contact CERN.

UbuntuNet Alliance, as a member of the CHAIN project welcomes this initiative and would like to work to identify other distributed research communities who would be potential beneficiaries.

The article was published by ISGTW and is available at:

Life in Peru!

By Pancho
There are spots around the world that are blessed with names that fire the imagination with images of new exciting climes; exotic cultural experiences and meals; holiday destinations; and the excitement of discovery.  Lima, Peru, certainly fired my imagination, and the invitation from my colleague and friend Florencio (CEO of the South American Regional Research and Education Network, CLARA) was warmly welcomed.  It is quite a long distance from Kampala, Uganda especially since I had to stage through London, then Madrid, to get the flight to Lima.

Multiple long flights, especially with many time zone transitions do get tiring: my arrival in Lima was therefore dampened by my dozing all the way from the airport to the hotel, missing out on said exciting new environment.  Next morning I woke up all excited to enjoy a view of the Atlantic Ocean from my hotel window.  For a while, I thought I had three sets of curtains – only to realize that the solid gray outside my window was a fog – the kind that, I later learnt, characterises Lima at that time of the year (July). I would barely get a glimpse of the neighbouring buildings.  OK, so no Atlantic.

A rather heavy breakfast, and I went down to the meeting room to meet my new friends (some not so new – like Florencio, Maria Jose, and Tom Fryer of DANTE).  The warmth more than compensated for the fog outside, never mind that my Spanish is limited to a few phrases: the greetings; mi llamo Tusu; and muchas gracias. I really felt at home, even during the presentations where, in a balanced fashion, the slides were in English and the presentations in Spanish (the better to improve my Spanish).  I also learnt that my atrophied first name, Francis, is Pancho in Spanish (Paco in some of the areas) made famous by the Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa.  Well, I sometimes do feel a bit of a revolutionary myself! Millamo Pacho.

We had many very interesting presentations, ranging from data networks to human benefit to advanced applications.  It was inspiring to see the progress CLARA and the South American NRENs have made in terms of delivering value well above basic connectivity to NRENs – even if they still have countries like Bolivia that are not yet connected.  I found the CLARA portal really exciting – something for the Alliance (and NRENs) to emulate so that we can all have a life after bandwidth.

There was also a presentation from CaribNet.  We think Africa is a big challenge with more than 50 countries, some of them huge.  Change that to islands in the Ocean to put the CaribNet challenges in perspective.  Supported by EUC, their RREN is now up and running. And yes, a presentation about the UbuntuNet Alliance by Pancho that drew considerable interest – I thought.

Saturday, and I was set to leave in the evening on my trek back home.  Inevitably the sun came out of hiding at last – for a while.  I was able to admire the Atlantic Ocean for the first time from my window, and to leave the hotel for the first time for a brief walk.  I left Lima with fond memories of the CLARA family, and inspiration about things we must do in the Alliance.  Never mind the weather, Lima was everything I had anticipated in my mind, even if I have not shared my experienced with some of the exotic dishes and, ah, drinks.  Muchas gracias señoras y señores of CLARA!

Register now for a workshop on Wireless networking for science in Africa

The Telecommunications/ICT for Development Laboratory (T/ICT4D) of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP, Trieste, Italy), in collaboration with the International Telecommunications Union – Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU/BDT), the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) and the National Institute of Telecommunications (NIT, Poland), is organizing a Workshop on Wireless Networking for Science in Africa to be held in Trieste, Italy from 11 to 22 March 2013.

Topics of the Workshop will include: Radio Physics, Fundamentals of wireless networking, Design and Deployment of point-to-point links, Wireless Sensor Networks for data collection in the field.

The workshop is open to young scientists, engineers and scholars from African countries which are members of the United Nations, UNESCO or IAEA may attend.

The workshop will be conducted in English. Participants are expected to have an adequate knowledge of that language of basic physics, and a working knowledge of computer programming and networking.

Deadline for requesting participation is on the 11 November 2012, the online application form can be accessed at


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