Press Release: AfricaConnect - New high-speed internet for African research cooperation unveiled

Boost for scientists and academics as EC-funded AfricaConnect project launches UbuntuNet, the high-speed data network for research and education in Southern and Eastern Africa

Lisbon, Portugal, 28 November 2012: DANTE, the operator of GÉANT, the pan-European research and education network; and UbuntuNet Alliance,the regional research and education network for Southern and Eastern Africa, today announce the launch of the UbuntuNet network, a high-speed Internet network connecting scientists and academics throughout Southern and Eastern Africa to peers in the region and to Europe, the first network of its kind in Africa.

UbuntuNet is being launched in Europe at the 2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Forum on ICT (an event for those with an interest in Euro-African collaborative projects on ICT) onNovember 28-29, 2012, and is organised by EuroAfrica-P8 at the Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB) in Lisbon, Portugal. This follows a similar launch event in Africa held in Dar es Salaam at the UbuntuNet-Connect 2012, which featured dancing, drumming, speeches and a launch video featuring the types of advanced research that the network will facilitate. The video, which has also been shown in Lisbon, is available at http://www.africaconnect.eu/MediaCentre/Pages/Launch-Event-Video.aspx

The initiative is being financed under the AfricaConnect project, which is co-funded by the European Commission and beneficiary countries. The network will dramatically accelerate the development of the Information Society in Africa, providing advanced data communications infrastructure and enabling African researchers to collaborate more easily in advanced international research projects.

The Honourable Eunice Kazembe, Malawi’s Minister of Education, Science and Technology said of the new network, “With the opportunities offered by the AfricaConnect project, this unique regional network will transform our higher education and research, with collaboration being at its core. Access to higher education will be expanded.  Participation in high level scientific projects and teams will be so much easier. Medical research and healthcare delivery will be enhanced.”

AfricaConnect expands the existing network managed by the UbuntuNet Alliance, which initially connected Kenya, South Africa,Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia to Europe. The network has now been extended to offer connectivity to many more countries in the Southern and Eastern African region. This expanded, more resilient and secure high-speed network offers greater connectivity between African countries, as well as high-speed links to the pan-European GÉANT network, providing access to 40 million users in 8,000 institutions. GÉANT is co-funded by the Directorate General CONNECT (Communications, Networks, Contents and Technology) of the European Commission under the EU’s 7th Research and Development Framework Programme.

“We are delighted to see the UbuntuNet network in place,” said Cathrin Stöver, DANTE’s Chief International Relations and Communication Officer. “DANTE continues to develop connectivity in regions around the world, and we have built on our experience to support research and education networks as together they transform the research environment in Africa. We are fortunate to be working with the UbuntuNet Alliance, the African and European NRENs on this important initiative.”

Eng. Dr Francis Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance agrees: “The engagement of the EC has been critical to the success of the UbuntuNet’s implementation - we’ve been able to establish much needed regional connectivity in a huge geographical area, and on a more individual level, ensured that each NREN has the human capacity to set up and operate their national network.”
The UbuntuNet network is partly funded by the European Commission’s DG Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid, in the framework of the ‘ACP Connect’ programme of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), which has injected €11.8M of the total €14.75M cost of the project through the AfricaConnect project.  The remainder has been contributed by the African partners in the project.

“Since the EC gave its official approval for this project in 2011, we’ve made great strides in procuring the right network,” said Victor Reijs, network development manager at HEAnet, the Irish National Research and Education Network that provided valuable technical support to the implementation of UbuntuNet. “We needed to ensure the network topology provides cost benefits to participants and a highly resilient, secure network that can continue to operate if a connection goes down.”

Denis Salord, Head of Unit, Regional Programmes Sub-Saharan Africa and ACP wide (Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid) European Commission said, "The European Commission is pleased to contribute to the development of this important regional higher education and research network. I am confident that African researchers now have an additional instrument to improve communication and exchange information among them and with their colleagues in Europe. Increased connectivity is our common goal. Together with the ACP Secretariat, we are doing our best to succeed."The AfricaConnect project is expected to last until 2015, after which time the African Project Partners will ensure the sustainability of the intra-regional African research network and its direct connection to GÉANT.

About AfricaConnect

The AfricaConnect project is strongly collaborative, with DANTE coordinating the project and the UbuntuNet Alliance, DANTE’s regional counterpart organisation in Africa covering Eastern and Southern Africa implementing the infrastructure.  Other parties participating include the West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) – as well as the Association of African Universities; existing National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa (DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia); and several European NRENs (Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK). All of the organisations work to ensure that the project benefits all of sub-Saharan Africa.
For more information visit www.africaconnect.eu

About DANTE:

DANTE is a non-profit organisation, coordinator of large-scale projects co-funded by the European Commission, and working in partnership with European National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) to plan, build and operate advanced networks for research and education. Established in 1993, DANTE has been fundamental to the success of pan-European research and education networking. DANTE has built and operates GÉANT, which provides the data communications infrastructure essential to the success of many research projects in Europe. DANTE is involved in worldwide initiatives to interconnect countries in the other regions to one another and to GÉANT. DANTE currently manages projects focussed on the Mediterranean, Asia-Pacific, sub Saharan Africa and central Asia regions through the EUMEDCONNECT, TEIN, AfricaConnect and CAREN projects respectively.

For more information, visit www.dante.net.

About UbuntuNet Alliance:
UbuntuNet Alliance is the regional Research and Education Network for Eastern and Southern Africa and manages UbuntuNet, the data network for the region. It is an Alliance of 13 NRENs in the region aiming at interconnecting with each other and connecting to other regional networks globally. The Alliance is also working towards enabling collaboration in research and education over world class networks. The Alliance was established in 2005 and registered in 2006 as a not-for-profit regional association of NRENs in Eastern and Southern Africa.

For more information on the UbuntuNet Alliance, please visit: www.ubuntunet.net

About GÉANT

GÉANT is the high speed European communication network dedicated to research and education. In combination with its NREN partners, GÉANT creates a secure, high-speed research infrastructure that serves 40 million researchers in over 8,000 institutions across 40 European countries. Building on the success of its predecessors, GÉANT has been created around the needs of users, providing flexible, end-to-end services that transform the way that researchers collaborate.  GÉANT is at the heart of global research networking through wide ranging connections with other world regions, underpinning vital projects that bridge the digital divide and benefit society as a whole.

Co-funded by the European Commission under the EU’s 7th Research and Development Framework Programme, GÉANT is the e-Infrastructure at the heart of the EU’s European Research Area and contributes to the development of emerging Internet technologies. The project partners are 32 European National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), TERENA and DANTE. GÉANT is operated by DANTE on behalf of Europe’s NRENs.

For more information on GÉANT, please visit: http://www.geant.net

For more information, contact:
Paul Maurice, DANTE: +44 (0)1223 371 300,
paul.maurice@dante.net