Volume 6: Issue 12: April 2014

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In this Issue

Upcoming Events

SudREN hosts 8th Council of Members Meeting

The Sudanese Research and Education Network (SudREN) successfully hosted the 8th Council of Members cluster of Meetings in Khartoum Sudan at the end of March 2013. From logistics for entry visas to the actual schedule of activities, participants were amazed as if it wasn’t SudREN’s first time to host an event of the Alliance.

The Council of Members is the highest policy body of UbuntuNet Alliance which sustains the need and will for regional collaboration. Each member NREN sends a representative and they meet annually together with the Board to among other things fill vacancies on the Board and approve the Annual Report and Audited Financial Statement.

The 8th Council of Members adopted the Annual Report for 2013 and Audited Financial Statements. The meeting also adopted a resolution to transfer full control and ownership of UbuntuNet Alliance as registered in the Netherlands along with all its assets and liabilities, to UbuntuNet Alliance registered as a Trust in Malawi.

Some may not understand here. The Alliance was initially registered as an association in Amsterdam in 2006 – this is probably the legal entity we all know! Then the Board decided later that the Alliance should be registered in Malawi and this was completed in 2013.

Normally, the Council of Members meeting is a two hour formal meeting that follows an agenda. The rest of the time before departure is left to the hosting NREN to decide how to keep participants busy and entertained.

The schedule of events surrounding the Council of Members Meeting in Khartoum was rich and exciting. Wednesday afternoon, a visit to Sudatel’s data center left many thinking how unbelievably huge and sophisticated the facility is.

This was followed by a visit to the University of Khartoum (UofK) and then to the National Museum where the history of the country covering pre-historic era to its Christian role and on to its present Moslem period. The day ended at a delicious dinner at the University of Khartoum Guest House hosted by the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University. Each got back with a gift from the host –– a beautiful and nicely packaged plaque bearing the  logo of the UofK. 

Thursday afternoon, after the Council of Members Meeting in the morning, was the best of it – the Nile Cruise! We were joined by SudREN staff on a boat and headed south east on the Blue Nile. The river is beautiful and the cruise gave us an opportunity to reflect on how significant the Nile river is. The cruise was complimented by a bus ride to the confluence of the two Niles – water on the White Nile is fast as compared to that on the Blue. The day ended with a dinner hosted by SudREN, where we were entertained a local dance troupe.

Some of us had to leave early the following morning at 3:30am. We all left the city satisfied with the country’s natural beauty and warm welcome by SudREN and UofK.

RUFORUM celebrating 10 years as a network and 22 years supporting agricultural higher education

In 2014, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) celebrates 10 years as a network of universities and 22 years of addressing tertiary agricultural education issues in eastern, central and southern Africa. The Network was created to provide university support to the implementation of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), an initiative by African Heads of States and Governments to revamp the agricultural sector and ensure food and nutrition security on the continent. During this period, RUFORUM has worked with universities, small farmers, policy organs and other partners to ensure high quality graduates and re-search that is relevant to sustainable agriculture and rural development in eastern, central and southern Africa. 2014 marks the tenth anniversary for both RUFORUM and CAADP.

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. Its strategic goals are based on two assumptions. First, development is more likely to occur where there is an active, well-informed critical mass of locally based agricultural professionals to conduct relevant problem-solving research. Second, the results of such research are more likely to be applied when based on strengthening a demand-driven research agenda – via linkages to smallholder farmers, community organizations, service agencies and policy makers to ensure research rele-vance and impact on the one hand and matching training and education to the potential job market on the other.

Photo: Prof. Adipala Ekwamu, Executive Secretary - RUFORUM

Read more here

SEACOM cable landing in Mogadishu brings hope for SomaliREN

Earlier this month the SEACOM cable landed in the Somali capital, Mogadishu reviving talks about operationalizing the country’s National Research and Education Network (NREN).

“Greetings from Mogadishu, Somalia. I am writing to you this e-mail using fiber optic connectivity from Benadir university campus in Mogadishu,” wrote Dr. Abdi Dalmar, Rector of Benadir University in his email to Prof Bjorn Pehrson. Benadir University is a founding member of SomaliREN.

“I wanted to share with you this phenomenal news, and I hope that we can revive our planned project for SomaliREN universities from Mogadishu now,” he added.

News about the SEACOM cable landing and how it changed lives in Mogadishu was reported by BBC Africa on 10th April 2014. The article quoted Liban Egal of Somalia Wireless, a local internet service provider (ISP) saying that the difference in speed was like the difference between ‘day and night’.

SomaliREN, the NREN of Somalia became 11th NREN to join the Alliance in November 2009 and was announced at the UbuntuNet-Connect 2009. Its current membership includes 9 Universities.

The hope for the research and education community in Somalia and those in the diaspora, especially in Sweden is that universities could be used as agents for change in the troubled country and this role could be reinforced by connecting SomaliREN to the global research and education networking infrastructure and community via the UbuntuNet network.

Making research more relevant to the world

By Iryna Kuchma, eIFL

Open access is a powerful solution to the barriers that researchers in developing and transition countries face.

"A lot of research has been undertaken over the years in Uganda and many seeming breakthroughs arrived at, however these have not been disseminated and subsequently have not added value to the lives of Ugandans,” said Dr. J. C. Muyingo, Minister of State-Higher Education in Uganda.

This revealing statement was made at the first very national open access conference in Uganda, which EIFL co-hosted with the Consortium of Uganda University Libraries (CUUL).

At the time, Dr. Muyingo called upon the National Council for Higher Education and Makerere University to put in place a system that ensures that all publicly funded research becomes freely and openly available – asserting that Ugandan academia cannot afford to be left behind.

He encouraged researchers to publish in open access journals, and institutions to consider open access publications in promotion and tenure evaluation.

Power of open access

Advocating for the free online availability of research literature – open access – is a powerful solution to the barriers that researchers in developing and transition countries face trying to access and share critical research that can improve people’s lives. Open access also improves efficiency. Data and text mining technologies are being practiced worldwide to speed up scientific discovery, economic, social and technological innovations.

The “Open access: knowledge sharing and sustainable scholarly communication in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda” Project was created to educate researchers and students about changing scholarly communication landscapes and advocates for the adoption of open access policies and mandates by research funding agencies, universities and research organisations. It also builds capacities to set up open access repositories and to publish open access journals.

The project is implemented in partnership with EIFL partner consortia: Kenya Library & Information Services Consortium (KLISC), Consortium of Tanzania Universities and Research Libraries (COTUL) and Consortium of Uganda University Libraries (CUUL) and funded by Spider, the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions DSV, Department of Computer and System Sciences, Stockholm University.

When the project first began in 2013, open access was still a relatively new concept in these countries and a variety of difference strategies were taken to engage stakeholders in the process.

Some of the initiatives included 18 capacity building events, 31 awareness raising and advocacy workshops, setting up institutional and national advocacy groups (over 20), discussing and implementing open access policies and launching campaigns to encourage use and reuse of open access content in education, science and research.

Launching open access repositories, publishing open access journals

As a result of this work, over 100 institutions participated in the project and a number went on to launch open access repositories and publish open access journals.

Currently there are 25 fully operational open access repositories in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and 27 repositories are under construction (527% increase since the beginning of the project). And the number of documents deposited in repositories continues to grow. Eight institutional OA journals publishing platforms are in the process of being set up.

There are also some excellent institutional approaches to openness. For example, Prof. Nelson K. Sewankambo, Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MUCHS) Principal, reports that “making research more relevant” is now the guiding principle of his university. MUCHS is making research more relevant to the world by publishing an open access journal "African Health Sciences" and by depositing faculty publications and students dissertations in the open access institutional repository.

These collective achievements in open access mean that research that would have previously been hidden and buried is now available, researchers and academics can publish their work online and have it seen around the world more easily and the latest research results are now available who is interested – doctors and patients, farmers and entrepreneurs, educators and students.

Call for Abstracts: UbuntuNet-Connect 2014 – Infrastructure - Innovation - Inclusion

Submit an abstract for the 7th UbuntuNet Alliance Annual Conference, UbuntuNet-Connect 2014! The conference will be held at Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia from 11 to 12 November 2014 and will be hosted by Zambia Research and Education Network (ZAMREN), the NREN of Zambia. The theme for this year’s conference is Infrastructure – Innovation – Inclusion. Topics of interest include but are not limited to Access to education through innovative use of new networked resources; Issues for transformation in NRENs; Innovations at global level; and Experiences of researchers in using advanced network applications.

Authors are invited to submit a 500 word abstract (with up to 5 keywords) of their proposed papers, clearly indicating the key content to be presented, not later than 31st July 2014. Papers collaboratively authored are welcomed. The Abstracts will be double blind peer reviewed by an international panel. Successful authors will be asked to prepare full papers which will be published in the Proceedings and report of the UbuntuNet Alliance annual conference ISSN 2223-7062.

The Conference will be preceded by several other events with varying participation limitations. These include, Technical Workshop for Engineers, Executive Workshop for the CEOs of member NRENs, AfricaConnect Administrative Meeting, Executive Committee;and Board of the Alliance Meeting and Pre-Conference Workshop on Applications.

The UbuntuNet-Connect events provide major commercial and publicity opportunity for services and technology companies. A separate invitation has been issued calling for those who want to participate as conference sponsors.

For more details and expansion of the subthemes, visit ubuntunet website 

Internet Hall of Fame: Global Connectors from the research and education community

It is exciting that the Internet has its roots from the research and education community. Today this trend is continuing as most of the Internet gurus are from the same research and education community. Last year we were all happy to hear that Dr Nii Quaynor Chairperson of WACREN had been inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame. This year, more exciting news came on 8 April when 3 inductees came from this community, these are: Steve Huter, Dai Davies and Erik Huizer.

The three were inducted in the category of ‘Global Connectors’, a category which recognises and celebrates individuals from around the world who have made major contributions to the growth, connectivity, and use of the internet, either on a global scale or within a specific region or community.

The Internet Hall of Fame is an annual awards program that was established by the Internet Society to publicly honor a select group of leaders and luminaries who have made significant contributions to the development and advancement of the global open Internet.

The three inductees along with others have joined the company of Internet pioneers such as Vint Cerf and Jon Postel (the founders of the modern Internet) and innovators such as Linus Torvalds (the inventor of Linux) and Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the WWW).

Here is why they were inducted.

Dai Davies of DANTE

In 1991 Davies introduced Internet technology into the pan-European backbone, EuropaNet, which was originally planned as an X.25 network. He was director of the COSINE Project, a pan-European effort to encourage the adoption of Open Systems Interconnections (OSI) by developing a set of pilot OSI implementations as well as gateways to proprietary systems. COSINE was responsible for the creation of DANTE, the UK-based organization that remains responsible to this day for the pan-European research Internet. Davies is now a development engineer for the European Future Internet Initiative. More about him here 

Erik Huizer of SURFnet

Dr. Huizer was the first author of the first Request For Comments to document not only the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards process but also the procedures of its Working Groups. He led the Internet Architecture Board (IAB)’s landmark pronouncement on the use of cryptography in Internet protocols. He also led the IETF’s POISED95 Working Group in its efforts to complete the transition of the IETF’s standards and procedures process.  Over many years he has taken senior leadership roles in the IETF, IAB, Internet Research Task Force (IRTF), Internet Society, and Public Interest Registry (the .org registry).Erik is CTO of SURFnet.  More about him here

Steve Huter of NSRC

Steve Huter is the Director for the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) and a Research Associate at the University of Oregon.  Steve has worked with network engineers, scientists, and Internet technology developers in more than one hundred countries around the world to help build Internet infrastructure and establish partnerships in support of research and education networking. In the early 1990s, Steve was a key actor within a small group of organizations including the NSRC, the Internet Society, and the Association for Progressive Communications, which provided support to dozens of nascent networks around the world using store-and-forward (FidoNet and UUCP) technologies as a steppingstone to TCP/IP and full Internet connectivity. More about him here

8th Council of Members, Khartoum in pictures

Prof Sami Mohamed Sharif, Academic Secretary of the Universitry of Khartoum reads before presenting a gift to Prof Kamuzora, Representative of TERNET

Group photo showing NREN Representatives, Directors and Staff of UbuntuNet Alliance at the 8th Council of Members Meeting in Khartoum

Dance Troupe performs a traditional dance at a Dinner hosted by SudREN for participants

Some of the participants pose for a group photo showcasing gifts presented by SudREN

Yassir Hassan, CEO of SudREN leads particpants at the SudREN Network Operations Center

SudREN members of staffs pose for a group photo aboard a boat on the Blue Nile

 

Representative chat during coffee break

The Blue (right) and While (left) Niles meet here

Call for Articles

NUANCE is a monthly e-newsletter published by UbuntuNet Alliance. Key content  is news from, about, or of interest to National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa. We request and invite you to submit an item before the 20th of each month capturing:

  • News and developments from your NREN and news items of interest to NRENs
  • Content networks: how researchers and academics are using the REN infrastructure to enhance effectiveness and efficiency of their work and to promote national and international collaboration
  • Hot tips about something you have done successfully (organisational or technical)
  • A photo that tells a story
  • Looking into the future, especially with regards to fibre infrastructure

Submissions should be sent to info@ubuntunet.net