NUANCE – May 2014

NUANCE enters its seventh year

As most readers may be aware, NUANCE means Newsletter of UbuntuNet Alliance: Networks – Collaboration – Education. Back in 2008, the idea of a monthly newsletter started with Dr Francis Tusubira, the CEO and Margaret Ngwira, one of the founding Directors but now retired, quickly coined the name NUANCE.

Over the years, NUANCE has kept the UbuntuNet Alliance community and friends all over the world informed with news about how researchers and academics are using the research and education networking infrastructure to enhance effectiveness and efficiency of their work and to promote national and international collaboration.

This month, NUANCE enters its 7th year and we are heating things up a bit. Look out for latest news on technological innovations and research findings that are making eyes pop all over the world, personality profiles, and much more.

“We hope to unmask more scientific news. Top on our agenda will be to create awareness of UbuntuNet Alliance, the UbuntuNet Network and other value added services we offer to member NRENs but also stepping it up to end users. In the end we want people, not just organisations to use our services,” said Patricia Mtungila, the new Communications Officer at UbuntuNet Alliance, who coincidentally joins the Alliance as NUANCE add another year.

NUANCE was first released in May 2008 to an audience of about 200 but has since expanded to a readership of about 3000. It is produced at the Secretariat of the Alliance in Lilongwe, Malawi in both French and English.

 Meet Patricia Mtungila, new Communications Officer at UbuntuNet Alliance

She joined the team at the beginning of May 2014 and already Patricia has mingled with many of UbuntuNet Alliance’s partners from across the world and NREN Member CEOs. As she puts her feet down in the new role, the 26 year-old tells us more about herself and what we should expect.

“I graduated from the University of Malawi, The Polytechnic in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism with credit. From working on the customer care desk at Airtel Malawi in the same year, I went on to serve in government as a Secondary School Teacher for three years while gaining experience in radio production and presentation at Trans World Radio Malawi” said Patricia.

Just before joining the Alliance Patricia briefly worked in Malawi’s Ministry of Information as Information Officer, Civic Education.

“I am married and we have a little girl named Leeanna Amberly,” she says with a smile.

She says her vision is simple. “UbuntuNet Alliance is about people, it is more than just an organisation setting up and managing high speed connectivity.”

“I would like to know what you, our community, need so that we can serve you better.  So, if I come knocking on your door, please welcome me,” says Patricia.

 Equipping engineers in African NRENs key to management and operation of UbuntuNet

Having a well-trained technical team is paramount to operating and maintaining the high speed UbuntuNet Network. So far, the Alliance has trained about 40 network engineers from almost all NREN Members in Eastern and Southern Africa. The trainings are a result of a multi-partner capacity building programme and the focus has primarily been on advanced routing and campus network design and management.

The goal of UbuntuNet Alliance capacity building program is to ensure that there is enough human resource capacity in Member NRENs to be able to plan, implement and operate advanced data networks. Also the Alliance would like to ensure that NREN networks are properly designed and configured in time for connection to the regional UbuntuNet backbone being built under the AfricaConnect project; and to provide technical support to the Alliance in the running of UbuntuNet.

NUANCE caught up with Joe Kimaili, Technical Manager for UbuntuNet Alliance who had this to say:

“Well, we are running a network and if you want this network to be good you need to sort out the campus networks, then the NRENs. If we have a perfect campus network, we will have a perfect NREN and a perfect regional network,” said Kimaili.

The capacity building program is implemented through a number of formats including: training workshops; secondment of expert personnel from NRENs with advanced networks to those whose network are under development; and internships. The Alliance is responsible for training workshops, whereas secondments and attachments are coordinated by the NRENs.

A highly successful five day Train the Trainers workshop was held in Kigali ahead of the UbuntuNet-Connect 2013. As part of the plan, the trained engineers were asked to organise workshops at home to trickle down the skills to their peers. As a result, five workshops have been successfully held in Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in the first four months of the year. More workshops have been planned in other countries as the year progresses.

The capacity building program is a partnership between the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC), the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), the Internet Society (ISOC), the Association of African Universities (AAU) and the AfricaConnect project.

The 2014 Compendium survey is open

The 2014 edition of the Compendium is due to be completed by the end of this year. 2014 data will be made available via the TERENA website after TERENA has released a call for NRENs to submit data for the TERENA Compendium of NRENs for 2014. We would like to call upon CEOs of NRENs in Africa to give time to this call and submit data. As was the case for the 2013 Compendium, the questionnaire for the 2014 Compendium survey is based on the Common NREN Information Model, which UbuntuNet Alliance participated in developing.

Here is the call:

TERENA invites NRENs (national research and education networking organisations) to participate in this year’s Compendium survey, which was developed as part of the global collaborative Common NREN Information Model (CNIM). Latin American NRENs are asked to complete a similar survey by RedCLARA. Other NRENs are requested to complete the TERENA survey by 15 June 2014. The Compendium survey, and information on how to complete it, is available at 

Last year, the CNIM was newly developed; this year an overhaul of the reporting interface was scheduled to further enhance the usability of the Compendium. The main benefits of the new interface are that it offers improved reporting possibilities and gives participating NRENs better access to the data.

The new interface shows Compendium data going back to 2008. The intention is to gradually transfer even earlier data as

well. In the meantime, the old interface will still be available for checkingolder data.

Since the interface is new and has new possibilities, TERENA has anticipated some questions that many NRENs may share. These are answered on an FAQ page.

The CNIM was developed in 2013 by a joint panel consisting of representatives from APAN, ASREN, CANARIE, Internet2, RedCLARA, TERENA, UbuntuNet Alliance and WACREN, and aims to document the work of NRENs worldwide. The model builds on the TERENA Compendium series of publications and website, which are part of the GÉANT project.

Individual NREN information going back up to 10 years can be seen online in detail via the Compendium archive.

Source: TERENA

 Global collaboration makes us stronger

Regional research and education leaders agreed to strengthen programmes that support global collaborative research activities. This came out at a panel discussion dubbed “Global collaboration makes us stronger,” which was held on Wednesday 21 May 2014 at TERENA Networking Conference 2014 (TNC2014).

The panel was coordinated by Ana Hunsinger of Internet2 and comprised of Tusu Tusubira of UbuntuNet Alliance; Bu Sung Lee of Asia-Pacific Advanced Network (APAN); Ronan Byrne of HEAnet (the Irish NREN); Michael Stanton of RNP (the Brazilian NREN); and Thomas Fryer of DANTE. It was attended by an active audience that engaged the panelists.

From supporting local communities (e.g. schools) to supporting global collaboration and enabling collaborations across the board, the panel discussion brought insightful perspectives on the strategic roles of NRENs.

“National research and education networks are not just for engineers to play with and are not about speed, but they are about people and bringing real benefits to communities,” said Tusu when making his contribution. “Networking conferences such as TNC should focus on the people and the services being delivered,” he continued.

On his part, Bu Sung Lee quoted the success of the Dengue fever workshop held in Bandung, Indonesia in January 2014 as a great example of how networking infrastructure managed to facilitate the coming together of medical practitioners and researchers to discuss ways of fighting the deadly disease.

At TNC2014, the UbuntuNet Alliance community was represented by Tusu, Joe Kimaili, Tiwonge Banda and Patricia Mtungila (from the Secretariat); Lino Khalau from MoRENet; Isaac Kasana from RENU; Luke Matere and Michael Mwagi from KENET; Duncan Greaves and Len Lotz from TENET; and Bonny Khunga and Emmanuel Mukwesa from ZAMREN.

In addition to the panel discussion, delegates from the UbuntuNet Alliance community held formal and informal side meetings with colleagues from sister regional RENs; NRENs and other partners – all inline with the spirit of how global collaborations make us stronger.

TERENA Networking Conference is Europe’s largest and most prestigious networking conference. This year, the event brought together over 600 participants from all over the globe from decision makers, managers, networking and collaboration specialists to communicators from the research and education networking organisations and universities.

 In pictures: Networking at TNC2014

After travelling thousands of kilometers over land, deserts and oceans, the UbuntuNet Alliance team was fresh and ready to network and to share at the TERENA Networking Conference (TNC2014) held at the University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland from 19-22 May 2014. It was a busy week! Enjoy a pictorial of the event but be warned, you may start drooling with the delicious picture of Irish cuisine.

No dull moment for the UbuntuNet Alliance team at TERENA. Picture shows Tiwonge Banda and Lino Khalau of MoRENet at the reception.

United for improved global communication and collaboration. Group photo of participants at the TF-CPR and Global PR Network meeting

Patricia Mtungila sharing the UbuntuNet Alliance communications vision at the TF-CPR and Global PR Network meeting
Well represented at TNC2014. The UbuntuNet Alliance team pose with counterparts from WACREN, DANTE and HEAnet

Absolutely mouth-watering: Irish cuisine served at TNC2014

Networking on a lovely sunny day in Dublin.

UCD campus where TNC2014 was held is a refreshing paradise

Tusu challenging NRENs to be more people-oriented

Leave a Comment