NUANCE – August 2013

UbuntuNet Alliance now truly African

UbuntuNet Alliance, the regional Research and Education Network in Eastern and Southern Africa is now a fully African organisation after being registered as a Trust in Malawi in August 2013. This stands as a milestone in the history of the Alliance. It follows the recommendation of the 8th Board Meeting in 2008 to register the Alliance in Malawi; and the approval of the new Constitution by the Special Meeting of Members held in Lilongwe, Malawi on 11th April 2012 ahead of the 6th Council of Members Meeting.

The Alliance was established in the latter half of 2005. For a variety of reasons, the new regional organisation rapidly needed a legal identity and its long term Africa location was not yet finalised. It was therefore registered (by Africans!) in the Trade Registrar of the Chambers of Commerce in Amsterdam, The Netherlands as a non-profit association. However, this sometimes led to the Alliance being perceived more “for” Africa than “of “Africa!

This good news will open doors and enable more partners to collaborate with the Alliance.

Commenting on this, Margaret Ngwira, the Special Projects Coordinator, who is also a Founding Director of the Alliance said, “I am satisfied with this development. I can now see more partners from Africa coming to support and work with the Alliance than before.  It has been a long journey to get this far and thanks are due  to the Board , the Member NRENs and the Secretariat who worked so tirelessly to get this far.”

  • A major shift is that in Amsterdam, the Alliance was registered as an Association, but now it is registered as a Trust. The basic tenets have slightly been modified and these are: to develop and improve the interconnectivity among Members in the Membership Region and their interconnectivity with research and education networks worldwide and with the Internet generally
  •  to develop the knowledge and skills of ICT practitioners within Members’ organisations and institutions;
  • to stimulate and promote collaboration in research, education  and innovation collaboration through the member NRENs, and to directly participate in regional research relevant to research and education networking; and
  • to provide related auxiliary services to Members.

Another change is that the Alliance will now recognise NRENs as Members as opposed to Representatives. With the Amsterdam registration, NRENs (recognised as REN Participants) appointed Representatives (called Representative Members). It was the Representative Members who were the Members of the Alliance, and not the NRENs they represented.

The next step now is for the Members of the Alliance to convene a special meeting to transfer ownership of the Association to the Trust.

Currently the UbuntuNet Alliance has 14 member NRENs and is supporting countries in the region to set up their NRENs that can then become members.  Photo during the 2012 Council of members meeting in Lilongwe, Malawi : Professor Z Kadzamira (then Chair,) Tusu (CEO) Directors Dr Babakar Barry and  Dr Duncan Martin and MAREN Representative Member Dr Harry Gombachika.

Register to attend UbuntuNet-Connect 2013 conference

Register now for the forthcoming UbuntuNet-Connect 2013, the 6th Annual Conference of UbuntuNet Alliance that will take place at Lemigo Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda on 14-15 November 2013 and will be preceded by a series of other pre-conference events from 9 – 13 November 2013. The conference will be hosted by the Rwanda Ministry of Education which hosts the Rwanda Education Network (RwEdNet). The theme for the 2013 conference is “Transforming Education and Research”.

Registration fees for the conference is U$200. Participants are invited to register for the conference using the link from the registration page . When you register, do not forget to book your accommodation at Lemigo Hotel while rooms are still available.

Please note that a 1 day Joint CHAIN-REDS and eI4Africa Workshop will precede the conference on 13th November; and a 5 day capacity building workshop for NREN Engineers (funded by AfricaConnect, NSRC and INASP) will be held from the 9th to the13th of November. The full schedule of events is available  here .

UbuntuNet-Connect is the Annual Conference of UbuntuNet Alliance.  The goal is to bring together practitioners in the research and education networking community, researchers, policy makers, academicians, connectivity providers and a pool of expertise from across Africa and beyond to share their experiences, ideas, research outputs and plans. A large number of abstracts have been received from the region and globally and are currently undergoing peer review an international review panel. The full programme will published during September.

The organisers invite international research group, national research and education networking (NREN) communities, the private sector, policy makers, regulators, and other individuals or groups to be part of the conference.

For more information, please visit  the conference page here , or email

Ugandan students win US$12,000 from Microsoft for Malaria Apps

A team of Ugandan students took the $12,000 first prize in the Women’s Empowerment Award in the 11th annual Microsoft Imagine Cup for young technologists, developers and aspiring entrepreneurs.  The Microsoft Imagine Cup is about creating innovative projects and ultimately bringing these ideas to the international market.

Brian Gitta, Joshua Businge, and Simon Lubambo make up Uganda’s Team Code 8. Their winning entry dubbed ‘Matibabu’ is a Windows Phone Application that supports diagnosis of malaria without requiring a blood sample.

By connecting a custom piece of hardware (matiscope) to the windows phone, the user is able to diagnose and know their malaria status in the shortest time possible. The results are sent to the user’s sky drive for medical record keeping and sharing with their personal doctors.

Gitta says, “I suffered from malaria and brusella before the competition and was subjected to a number of pricks over and over again to diagonise the problems”. This led him and the team to work towards a solution that can help diagnose malaria early and efficiently to save lives time and money without requiring blood samples.

The Women’s Empowerment Award recognizes two student teams that create projects that best address issues impacting women globally.

Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and chief evangelist at Microsoft while announcing the winners in St. Petersburg, Russia recently said 87 student teams from 71 countries including 12 from Africa, competed in the worldwide finals after winning local and online competitions around the world.

“For the past 11 years, Imagine Cup has been a place of inspiration and innovation for students around the world. The students participating in this competition demonstrate the very best in innovation from their home countries and together create new apps, innovations and services that will change the way the world works, interacts and learns,” Guggenheimer said.

Source: balancing act

Wireless networking resource updated

Wireless Networking for the Developing World has made an important contribution to technical skills in this area.  For a book to reach a 3rd edition is always quite an achievement. After over 2 million downloads of the second edition, Version 3 of Wireless Networking in the Developing World, the free book about designing, implementing, and maintaining low-cost wireless networks has just been launched, see here .

WNDW is a practical guide to building wireless networks and is meant to stand in its own right. Subjects covered in the book include the physics of wireless – aerials, transmission, spectrum, basic telecoms; plus IP networking, security and of course deployment planning – indoor and outdoor, offgrid power and project planning.

Commenting on the new version Jane Butler, President of Network the World organisation said that the book has been updated and it now includes IPv6, mesh, new aspects of security and many new tools to assist with successful deployment. It also has a brand new set of Case Studies recently undertaken by the authors in places as diverse as Brooklyn, New York; Dharamsala, India; the Pacific Islands; Ghana; and also left in the seminal project of the longest ever wireless link in South America undertaken by one of the leading contributors Ermanno Pietrosemoli.

In addition, Jane added that they regularly keep in touch with students who often deploy multiple networks and go on to become champions and local teachers of wireless networking. They also use Wireless Facebook group to keep in touch as well as post technical questions and answers.

The book was written by subject matter experts who are involved globally in deploying wireless networks as well as teaching others how to deploy. The authors have a personal profile and email address published at the start of the book so you can keep in touch with any of them.

Many copies of WNDW version 3 have been distributed at venues such as the recent Terena Conference and the African Internet Summit.

Students who attend WNDW classes are given a copy of the book for free and the book can be downloaded without charge.

Wireless Networking in the Developing World works closely with NSRC, ICTP, AIT, AirJaldi, OTI and ISOC.

Group photo during one of the meetings to finalize the 3rd edition of the book (from left to right: M.Zennaro, C.Fonda, J.Butler, E.Pietrosemoli, P.Atzori, S.Buettrich)

LibHub, a Library search and discovery tool launched in Uganda

Although the coming of e-journals and digital repositories has made life easier for students and academics, it is still frustrating to have to repeat a search in multiple library resources or risk missing vital information. For many years, Lund University in Sweden has collaborated with Librarians in the UbuntuNet membership region in working to develop tools to make information more accessible. Some years back they launched ELIN (Electronic Library Information Navigator). This has now been replaced by LibHub, a new search tool that sends search requests to all the library databases simultaneously and gives a single list of results.

LibHub was launched in Uganda this year by the Global Ring for Advanced Applications Development (GLORIAD) for the consortium of Uganda University Libraries. With the support of USAID funding program, the system was made available to all consortium member institutions for the year 2013.

Capacity building has not been neglected. The setting up was carried out online at a sensitisation workshop in December 2012. In May this year 2013, after the set up of Libhub at the various institutions, a workshop was held to train the librarians in the LibHub features. focusing initially on the applications and features of the system.

The LibHub tool will benefit additional libraries around Uganda. Currently, there are 38 libraries that have access to LibHub.  A positive development is that other countries in the region are also being reached: On 18 August the GLORIAD team ran a LibHub demonstration in University of Nairobi.

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