NUANCE – June 2014

The untold success story of SudREN and a new CEO

The Sudanese Research and Education Network (SudREN) has a lot to celebrate this year. This is SudREN’s 10th year in operation and the NREN is welcoming the coming of Dr. Sami Salih as new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

From the humble beginnings of a library project of the Ministry of Higher Education in 2004, named Sudanese Universities Information Network (SUIN), today, SudREN is one of the fastest growing NRENs in UbuntuNet Alliance membership region.

“Over the past ten years SudREN has increased its membership from 30 public universities to now over 56 members including private institutions and research centers via optical fiber technology, increased Internet bandwidth from 6Mbps to 2 STM-1s, and number of full time staff from 3 to 13,” says Dr. Iman Abuel Maaly Abdelrahman, who is Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Khartoum; and Board Member of UbuntuNet Alliance. Until May this year, Dr Abdelrahman was CEO of SudREN.

With an impressively  huge number of women in the research and education networking arena, this is the side of SudREN and indeed Sudan that the global media may never show you. Dr. Abdelrahman says, “it reflects the good situation of women in Sudan.”

And indeed this fairly young NREN not only began with a woman engineer CEO but also a woman CTO.  With a 40% representation of girls studying engineering courses, Sudan has managed to enroll more girls into engineering courses than most African countries. Algazira University a few kilometers from Khartoum boasts  a whopping 70% girls enrollment into engineering courses.

This is the success story of SudREN and what better person to take on the task of building on this than Dr. Sami Salih? The Assistant Professor of Telecom Network Engineering at Sudan University of Science & Technology, Dr. Salih  has  vast experience and expertise, operational leadership, team building, and technical skills.

In addition to his academic experience, Dr Salih has 10 years of professional experience with the telecom regulatory authority in Sudan (NTC) and has participated in many regional and international activities including ITU, ICANN, AFRINIC to carry out national, regional, and international initiatives to bridge the ICT gap in Africa and the Middle East.  He is the Founder and President of the Sudanese IPv6 Taskforce (SDv6TF). The Authorized IPv6 Training Center is one of the successful collaboration with NAV6 Malaysia to build the capacity in deploying IPv6 in Sudan.

Dengue Fever Symposium demonstrates medical collaboration possibilities on research and education networks

Yes, we can use research and education networks such as the UbuntuNet network to revolutionise the health sector and delivery of health services to the people of Africa. A symposium on Dengue Fever organised by the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN) in Trinidad & Tobago on June 12 in which UbuntuNet Alliance participated via video conference, attests to what is possible with the AfricaConnect funded UbuntuNet network in facilitating collaboration.

As a truly distributed event with multiple sites, five countries participated via videoconference; Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Malawi. Many others joined via the live stream. Doctors, clinicians, researchers and policy makers involved in Dengue Fever management from the 5 sites followed a series of presentations on all aspects of the subject in real time using multi-point videoconference system supported by their respective National Research and Education Networks (NRENs). This was followed by a highly participative plenary discussion.The symposium pinpointed to the fact that curtains treated with insecticides could help prevent Dengue Fever and other vector-borne diseases such as Malaria.

From the site in Lilongwe, Malawi, facilitated by UbuntuNet Alliance, Dr Mathew Kagoli, Deputy Director, Department of Epidemiology in the Malawi Ministry of Health and Dr Setti Kanyanda from the same Ministry stressed the need to strengthen laboratory capacity to detect Dengue, which is transmitted by a bite from a Aedes mosquitoe,  in hospitals as this is a challenge faced by some countries in Sub Saharan Africa and Malawi in particular.

A study by Professor Dave, Chadee of the Faculty of Science and Technology, University of the West Indies (UWI) in Trinidad &Tobago, Prof Chadee argued that since Dengue mosquitoes rest on walls, mostly in bedrooms and on clothes, the treated curtains would kill mosquitoes on entry or exit from rooms, thereby helping to prevent Dengue by reducing the number of  mosquitoes in homes.

Although Dengue is not half a disease burden as malaria which kills over 300, 000 children annually in sub Sahara Africa, Dengue symptoms can be confused with those of Malaria, Meningitis and Chikungunya, and the disease can be fatal with wrong or late treatment.

The event was the second in a series being organized within the framework of the Global NREN Public Relations Network as a way of bringing awareness of the collaborative power of research and education networks. The first one was held in Bandung Indonesia on 20 January 2014. The next one will be organised by UbuntuNet Alliance at UbuntuNet-Connect 2014 in November 2014.

Kenya needs increased PhDs to harness e-Readiness, 2013 Survey reveals

Kenya has registered great success in getting senior leadership of universities to fully appreciate the value of ICT in achieving their institutional missions, however this has not translated into higher levels of e-readiness. This is the main conclusion of the recently published 2013 E-readiness Survey of Kenyan Universities, which covered 30 universities with a student enrolment of about 424,000.

The study looked at 17 indicators of e-readiness, which were further grouped into 5 broader categories: network access; ICT financing; networked learning indicators; internal factors; and external factors of e-readiness of universities;The E-readiness Survey has also shown that the average unit cost of Internet bandwidth plunged almost ten-fold from $2,300 per Mb/s to about $160 per Mb/s per month for the 30 universities between 2008 and 2013. This resulted in an increase in average Internet bandwidth per 1000 students to 4.1 Mb/s from 0.43 Mb/s in 2008.

Research and Innovation output has continued to lag largely due to fewer number of faculty members with PhDs. The E-readiness study indicates that out of 535 faculty members only 13.5% had PhDs and therefore called for an increase in the available Doctoral programs.

The report noted that the networked PCs available per 100 students also dropped by a factor of 2 on a scale that the researchers used.  Interestingly, this drop was compensated by the large number of students who owned laptop computers at 53%, as students owned over 200,000 laptop computers compared to 16,000 student lab computers available at the 30 universities.

According to the Survey, universities should invest more in improving campus backbone and wireless network infrastructures in order to support this large number of student-owned laptop computers if the academic institutions are to benefit more meaningfully from the available low cost Internet bandwidth.Kenyan universities have registered a tremendous increase in enrolment which calls for increase in bandwidth budgets from the trending 0.5% to at least 1% of their total expenditure in order to support the high student population, the study revealed.

The E-readiness Study was conducted by Kenya Education Network (KENET) with funding from a KENET Research grant. Download the e-Readiness report here.

Hello ICT, hello African folktales

Raising a couch potatoe is probably every parent’s nightmare. Unfortunately, the development and affordability of digital satellite television, video and computer games, means that potatoe couches who escape into virtual societies by watching TV or playing computer games for hours on end is a reality most working class parents in Africa have to live with.

The African child of the 21st Century may never know the joy of playing with mud dolls or making wire cars but they can learn African stories and songs of old. Stories such as Mebelo and Lebelo[An adaptation of the pied piper], Kalulu [Hare]and Hyena, Mikalange and the Ghost, stories, now nearly forgotten, passed on from generations and generations before, stored through word of mouth.

This is why the National Library Service (NLS) in Malawi has established a National Folktale Resource Centre within the Library which will preserve traditional forms of folktales including legends, myths, and fables in digital form with the aim of making them freely available to all.

According to the NLS website much of the work encompasses the identification, collection and storage of folktales from a rapidly diminishing pool of traditional intellectuals: elders, clan heads, priests, historians and story tellers.

The project is funded by Malawi National Commission for UNESCO and the Global Future Charitable Trust (GFCT), provides audio-visual recording equipment and technical training for Malawian engineers states the website.

Trully, modern technology needs not to drive us away from our roots. Instead Africa can use innovations in ICT to embrace culture and reinforce positive societal norms such as respecting elders and sharing.

Globally, there has been an awakening to the importance of preserving folklore. Now more than ever Hollywood is cashing in on creatively re-told folklore such as Little Red Riding Hood, Star Wars, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and many more.Maybe someday popular folktales like Kalulu and Mikalange might make it to the Box Office but even if these age-old tales do not become Hollywood hits, these folktales are ours and ours to keep and share with our children and our children’s children.

Photo credit: Sony

Malawi Librarians upgrade Web2.0 and Social Media for Development skills

Young Malawians have chosen to be part of the digital revolution sweeping across Africa. This time, 25 have just graduated from a weeklong training in using social media for development that was organised by, National Library Service (NLS), Malawi with funding from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and facilitation by Nicholas Kimolo.Grey Nyali, the National Librarian said the training was part of his bid to make NLS, which is a member of MAREN, a world class Library despite the prevailing resource constraints.

Key skills imparted were: conducting advanced searches on the Internet, using Google Drive to work collaboratively on documents, benefiting from cloud computing through Dropbox and tips on creating vibrant social media strategies.The participants hailed the training for its timeliness and usefulness in addressing everyday development challenges facing Malawi.

This is what some of the participants had to say:

“The workshop is an eye opener; I will use the knowledge in my day to day work here at the Library.” Joyce Ntchafu of the National Library Service, Malawi.

“One of the things I really like is Google forms where I can do my survey questionnaires and of course, I have a deeper understanding of social media like Facebook and Twitter.” Chifundo Tenthani, Lecturer, Physics Department, University of Malawi – The Polytechnic.

“This workshop will help me in cases where I will be helping my clients with Web 2.0 tools to reach out to many clients.” Chifundo Mpaya, Student – National College of Information and Technology, Freelance Programmer.

Boubakar Barry scoops 2014 Network Information and Infrastructure Service Award skills

Dr Boubakar Barry, Coordinator, AAU REN UnitDr Boubakar Barry is the winner of the 6th Network Information and Infrastructure Service Award (NI&I) Service Award. Dr Barry, the CEO of West and Central Africa Research and Education Network (WACREN) has been awarded in recognition for his commitment to capacity building and Internet development in Africa including his work in supporting the emergence and strengthening of several research and education networks in Africa.

Receiving the NI&I Service Award at a Gala Dinner hosted by Gaelle Fall, AFRINIC’s Head of Communications and PR, on June 5, 2014 during the Africa Internet Summit (AIS) Meeting held in Djibouti, Dr Barry described the award as a great honour.

“I see it as recognition of my active involvement in the Internet community for almost 20 years now. Being more active in the research and education networking community as Convener of African Research and Education Networking (AfREN) forum for the past eight years,” said Dr Barry.

Originally from Senegal, Dr Barry worked as the Coordinator of the Research and Education Networking Unit at the Association of African Universities (AAU) before joining WACREN. He holds a Master’s Degree in Nuclear Physics and a PhD in Nuclear Electronics, both from Technical University of Dresden, Germany.

According to, Dr Barry joins the likes of Adiel A. Akplogan CEO of AFRINIC, Alan Barrett, Alain Aina, Alice Munyua, Anne-Rachel Inne to have been awarded the prestigious award. He also walks away with fabulous benefits including a plate with the name and the year of the Award, a cash prize of US$ 3,000, Life e-mail address among other privileges in the award package.

RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship Programme to increase PhDs in Africa

July is Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) month and Maputo’s prestigious VIP Grand Hotel is the place to be on July 21st  where over 500 delegates from African universities and other actors in the tertiary agriculture education sector in Africa and beyond, but also development partners and key policy makers will convene for the 4th RUFORUM Biennial Conference.

At the conference, RUFORUM will launch the RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship Programme set up by Vice Chancellors with the aim of increasing the number of PhD trained scientists in Africa.The conference will be trailed by several events such as a meeting on July 19 and 20 to increase networking and learning among Deans, Faculty and students in RUFORUM programmes.

This year’s conference is special in that it coincides with the 10 Year anniversary of RUFORUM, and will provide a platform to assess the progress of the regional body as well as map the way forward.Over the years, RUFORUM has grown under the guidance of senior African professionals, from a crop-based Rockefeller Foundation programme (FORUM) into a regional broad-based consortium of 32 universities in 18 countries in eastern, central and southern Africa.

For more information click here.

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