NUANCE – July 2011

RENU Internal backbone Phase 1 Installed and Undergoing Tests

Joseph Kimaili, Chief Network Development Officer, RENU

This June, with the assistance of the Internet Educational Equal Access Foundation (IEEAF) , the Research and Education Network for Uganda (RENU) commissioned phase one of its network backbone – covering Kampala metropolitan area and Entebbe. When last mile connections are fully activated by early September 2011, this network will cover institutions within Kampala metropolitan area and the surrounding towns of Entebbe and Mukono. This phase provides the core block on which phases 2 and 3 will be built to connect institutions in other parts of the country.  For RENU, this core building block is a major milestone in its(RENU) efforts to provide an affordable and quality network connecting its members irrespective of their location in Uganda.

The 46 km DWDM network core is capable of speeds up to 10 Gbps, with last mile connections planned at 1Gbps. A network of this type requires significant investment in equipment especially the core routers and optical transmission and multiplexing devices. In RENU’s is grateful to the funding by development partners to enable this:

  •  Equipment grant worth USD 650,000 comprising of one core router, 2 distribution switches and 2 optical transmission, multiplexing and interfacing units. This was fully funded by USAID through the Internet Educational Equal Access Foundation (IEEAF).
  • Tax waivers by the Ministry of Finance worth over USD 300,000 related to the equipment grant
  • Terrestrial fiber donations as well as hosting of the equipment by Uganda Telecom through a related private sector agreement among Uganda Telecom, GMRE and IEEAF.

It is worth noting that although completion of the first phase is a major achievement, a lot remains to be done.   The two key challenges are to build on the core backbone to cover the entirety of Uganda and connectivity of RENU to the UbuntuNet router in London and/or Amsterdam.  The installed backbone is roughly 25% of the planned core network. The main challenge ahead for RENU is to grow this network to cover institutions in towns far from the capital city such as Gulu, Mbale and Mbarara.  RENU is fortunate to have additional fiber available from both Uganda Telecom and the new national fiber backbone, but may have to engage other providers to complete the connectivity to all locations.

In addition, the second challenge is to complete international connectivity of the RENU backbone to UbuntuNet’s routing hub in London or the planned Amsterdam hub.

Broadband Commission Seeks inputs from NREN

The UNESCO Broadband Commission, at its meeting in Paris on 27th July, invited stakeholders from organisations that need or are driving broadband to provide input and views; and to participate in discussions that will drive the agenda of the Commission. The thinking of the research and education community was specifically addressed through presentations by Dai Davies of DANTE, Bjorn Perhson of KTH, and Tusu, the CEO of the Alliance.

In his submission, Tusu made it clear that research and education networks and broadband in Africa were mutually dependent.

NRENs in Africa need broadband in order to eliminate the intellectual isolation that sees researchers cut off from their peers and diverted to purely money making ventures; to enable access to online resources that would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of research and learning and therefore address the huge Intellectual Property deficit in African countries; to create research synergy through regional and international content/research networks; and to create intellectual havens that would reverse the flow of the brain drain.

On the other hand, broadband in Africa needs NRENs to stimulate demand by ensuring that people entering the job-market at all levels are internet ready and thirsty for broadband connectivity.  NRENs enable the kind of connectivity required for cutting edge research and applications that in turn lead to advanced bandwidth hungry industrial parks associated with academic and research institutions; and also create an environment that will develop the human resource with the capacity to assure the availability and security of broadband ICT resources as Africa transforms.

Tusu argued that broadband access for NRENs within Africa would be unlocked if governments could ensure regulatory environments that permit NRENs to own or get access to broadband infrastructure at globally competitive prices.  Governments and regulators also need to remove the cross-border barriers that currently make it easier for African NRENs to exchange traffic in Europe rather than on the continent. Since national backbones are rolling out, capacity (preferably dark fibre) should be provided for the NRENs  while leaving them to operate independently to serve all levels of education.

The Broadband Commission is positioned for  the kind of policy influence that could lead to the key required enabling action by Africa governments

AfricaConnect Implementation Moves into High Gear

The implementation of AfricaConnect has well and truly started.  During the last eight weeks, the technical design team has gathered the coordinates of POPs among the member NRENs.  These are required as a component of the Request for Information and later the formal Request for Proposals.  Related to this, Andrew Alston, the CTO of TENET, has been formally seconded for 40% of his time to the Alliance in the role of Network Development and Operations Manager.  The Alliance is in the process of identifying a person to understudy him.

At the same time, those NRENs (including WACREN and its members) that have capacity building gaps have submitted details of training needs that will guide the capacity building programme due to roll out starting September.  Three approaches will be used for capacity building:

  •  Attachments, where someone from one of the African NRENs is attached to a European NREN for one to two weeks to gain depth in a specific skill that needs to be used by their network.  Such training will use a just in time basis to avoid decay of skills due to lack of immediate application.  Secondments, where someone from an advanced NREN comes to work with an African NREN for one to two weeks, helping them to address problems they have with their operation networks
  •  Joint learning events where experts and learners are brought together in a workshop style setting to address a topic or topics where there is cross-cutting need for capacity.

Attachments and secondments will exploit twinning arrangements that are already in place because these provide a framework where these are very easily arranged.
CEOs and CTOs are requested to mark the 20th – 23rd November for AfricaConnnect related meetings at the Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi.

UbuntuNet Annual Conference proceedings come of age ISSN 2223-7062

Scientific authors submit their findings to spread the word of the good work they have been doing. However, in order to qualify for research grants and promotion, they need the record of their publications to be visible and have passed through a quality management process.  The UbuntuNet-Connect Annual Conference has been growing from strength to strength.  Now there is yet more progress.  Authors and potential authors of papers submitted and accepted may relax, knowing that their submissions will be widely accessible through a dedicated web link and that the publication has an International Standard Serial Number.  The dedicated link was a requirement of the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) International Centre in Paris who allocated ISSN 2223-7062 to the e-publication.  ISSN instructions are taken from the ISO standard 3297 which defines the ISSN and its uses.  In terms of quality management, papers have been peer reviewed since 2010.The ISSN International Centre instructs that the citation is as follows in full and abbreviated form:

Proceedings and report of the __ UbuntuNet Alliance annual conference
Abbreviated key title: Proc. rep. UbuntuNet Alliance annu. conf.

The 4th UbuntuNet Alliance Annual Conference with the theme “Access for Success” will be hosted by KENET at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi from 23 – 25 November 2011.

KENET to set up the first eduroam Service in Africa

By Kulmicha Bulyar

The fruits of NREN twinning continue to show as KENET makes tremendous achievements. In collaboration with DFN, KENET is setting up the EDUROAM service in Kenya, which is going to be the first in Africa. The service will benefit thousands of university staff and students as they roam with their laptops.

EDUROAM is a federated roaming service that allows users within the KENET network to roam with their laptops without the trouble of guest account at different campuses. Users will be authenticated by a central server at KENET. This means a faculty member, for example, visiting or teaching at another university on EDUROAM can use the network of the other university as if he or she is on the home campus without the need for guest account. All e-journals and e-book access rights will be available to the faculty member. KENET will provide the additional Internet bandwidth required to support the roaming service. The same applies to the students.

However it should be noted that this is an authentication service and requires each university to have an operational directory service that controls the use of campus resources an example being LDAP(Lightweight Directory Access Protocol).  It works with whatever wireless infrastructure an institution has set up as long as it uses modern standards.
EDURAOM is also a global service: If a member visits any university in Europe,Canada and Australia that have implemented EDUROAM they will have access to the network and other research and learning resources without having to get a guest account. Some universities in US are also on EDUROAM.  KENET is in the process of rolling out VC services to its members as part of the NOC services.

NUANCE note: The Alliance has for a long time encouraged twinning of Africa NRENs with advanced NRENs so that they can get the direct benefit of capacity building in advanced production environments along with all the advantages of peer learning.  NUANCE invites all NRENs to share similar experiences.

Problem solving health information outreach to rural areas in Uganda

Professor Maria Musoke, University Librarian for Makerere University and presenter at UbuntuNet-Connect 2009 spoke to a meeting of Phi Officers and representatives from Elsevier about the current Elsevier project for information outreach to community members and health workers in different districts of Uganda. A team including doctors and librarians have visited three outlying districts in Uganda in the past year. The topics raised and reports on the sessions with health workers and community members are published in the Uganda Health Information Digest for September to December 2010.

This publication is much appreciated as the articles are topical and relevant; and the abstracts are useful to the many health workers who do not have access to the internet
The UK partners in the project are working with their Ugandan colleagues towards making the Uganda Health Information Digest available online, where we believe it will be as welcome in other African countries as it is in Uganda.
Discussions ranged around a central theme of communication between organizations based or working in Uganda, the possibilities of improved networking and collaboration, and how such a process might be achieved.
From left to right: Professor Maria Musoke (Makerere University Librarian); Mr.Nick Naftalin (Chair: Phi Board of Trustees); Mrs Shane Godbolt (Phi Director)


Upside and Downside : Climate Change  and the role of ICT

Issues of Climate Change are topping the agenda in almost every discipline.  In the field of ICT, there are multiple aspects to consider.  On the downside, NRENs are aware of the contribution of the energy used by ICT equipment impacting negatively on  climate and also of the challenge of safely disposing of this equipment at the end of its life cycle.  NUANCE  has previously featured an article on this entitled E-Clean Africa research network  by  Dr Nora Mulira of Makerere University.  On the upside of ICT’s potential contribution in addressing climate  change issues, there are many opportunities. For example, in Malawi in July, there were consultations involving a group including Professor Kadzamira, Chair of the Alliance and Tiwonge Banda on looking at the role of ICT in mitigating Climate Change.  All NRENs should be aware of the power of their (sometimes potential) networks and the opportunity presented in the current top prioritization of Climate change adaptation and mitigation in the research and development agenda.   Smart partnerships should be emerging and NUANCE would love to report on such partnerships!

A UN Climate Change Conference (COP-17) is to be held in Durban, South Africa.  Ahead of this, participants at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Symposium on ICTs and Climate Change in Ghana (the 6th in the series) have renewed calls for global leaders to recognise the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

The communiqué issued at the end of the meeting called for the adoption of a ‘closed loop’ approach to manufacturing and recycling which would reduce the need to extract and process raw materials. It also asks for recognition of the value of ICTs in monitoring deforestation, crop patterns and other environmental phenomena.

Speaking at the opening of the Ghana symposium, Malcolm Johnson, director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau (TSB), said: “Today, a world without ICTs is unthinkable. ICTs are integrated into almost all parts of our society and economy. Yet, while the increasingly widespread use of ICTs has changed people’s lives dramatically and boosted economic growth, the success of technology means it is itself a growing contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, ICTs probably provide the most significant opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the major high emissions industries of energy generation, waste disposal, building and transport. This is a message we must carry to COP-17.”

During the event, ITU launched a project on ICTs and climate change in Ghana which would be based on two pillars. The first would look at how ICTs could be used to help Ghana adapt to the effects of climate change, and would be led by the ministry of communications and sponsored by Research in Motion (RIM). The second, which would be led by Ghana’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA) with sponsorship from Vodafone Ghana, would look at how telecommunications in Ghana could reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). This project would pilot, for the first time, the ITU methodology on environmental assessment for the ICT sector.

NRENs are encouraged to ensure their visibility and contribution  in fora where these issues are being discussed
Some information drawn from…

Horizon 2020: the future EU funding programme for research and innovation

UbuntuNet Alliance has benefitted enormously – especially in the area of networking and visibility – in being a participant in three EU FP7 Consortia: GLOBAL, ERINA4Africa and CHAIN.   Now FP7 is drawing to a close. But good news : Horizon 2020 is the EU Programme replacing the FP Programmes. It is the new, integrated funding system that will cover all research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programme for Research and Technical Development, the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). These different types of funding will be brought together in a coherent and flexible manner.  Research and innovation funding will focus more clearly on addressing global challenges. Needless red tape will be cut out and participation made simpler.

Information from:…

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