VOLUME. 9, ISSUE 2: June 2016

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In this Issue
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Digging up research and collaboration stories from NRENs    

It is a known fact that universities and research institutions the world over are launching and being involved in inspiring and cutting-edge research and collaboration projects by each passing day.

However, sharing the progress and impact of these projects with the rest of the global community seems not to be a top priority for concerned institutions, making it hard for other NRENs and end users to equally benefit from the projects.

It is for this reason that the Global PR Networking Community held a workshop at  TNC 2016 in Prague, Czech Republic aimed at seeking  ways of encouraging education and research institutions to share their research and collaboration projects with the rest of the global networking community.

Representatives from Regional Research and Education Networks (RRENs) of GÉANT, UbuntuNet Alliance, WACREN, ASREN and RedCLARA gathered for this workshop which also featured a panel discussion aimed at enhancing strong communication and dissemination practices for African NRENs.

During the workshop, the representatives agreed that most NRENs are shying from enlightening their stakeholders and end users on their on-going research and collaboration projects and on how the projects are impacting on their communities.
Participants to the workshop gave varying reasons for the lack of a holistic dissemination approach, with the absence of dedicated communication and dissemination teams in NRENs cited as the chief challenge.

“Most NRENs are yet to get to recruit dedicated communication and dissemination staff as a result important research and collaboration projects happening within the NRENs are going unnoticed,” observed Hastings Ndebvu of UbuntuNet Alliance.

Contributing to the discussion, Helga Spitaler of GÉANT emphasised on the need to encourage NREN managers to take an initiative of reaching out to their end-users to increase the visibility of research projects happening in their communities.

“NREN managers need to be encouraged to establish contacts with communication experts from their Regional Research and Education Networks who are always eager to follow up on the projects happening within the NREN community and share the progress and success of the projects with the rest of the networking community,” she said.

Taking her turn, Jane Gilford of the Austrian NREN AARNET said the motivation to share and disseminate on-going projects and collaborations needs to be instilled in all members of the NRENs regardless of their designated positions.

 “CEOs, Technical Managers and engineers can all play a role in dissemination of NREN activities. These people do not need to be experts in communication and dissemination but can send short paragraphs, videos and photos of research stories to platforms like the In the Field blog where we can develop full stories. Our focus is to simply show the world the impact of research and education networks.”

MAREN goes eduroam 

Better late than never!

This seems to be a fitting phrase for the Malawi Research and Education Network (MAREN) after the network successfully tested its eduroam service in June 2016 to become the fifth NREN within the UbuntuNet Alliance membership region to launch the service after KENET, TENET, ZAMREN and RENU.

eduroam is a service that allows users from participating institutions to gain secure access to wireless network using their standard username (email format)/ and password credentials as they do at their home institution for wireless access.

It is based on a federated authentication model where user usernames and passwords are validated at their home institution and enables access to authorized network services that are controlled by the visited institution.

MAREN successfully tested its eduroam service outside Malawi last month when UbuntuNet Alliance officials who were attending TNC 2016 in Prague, Czech Republic were able to connect to the Internet using the MAREN eduroam credentials.

The launch of the service comes as MAREN is gearing up to connect to the UbuntuNet network later this year.    

66 percent of African countries have no operational NRENs- World Bank   

36 of the 54 countries on the African continent do not have operational National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) representing 66 percent of countries lacking operational NRENs on the continent.

This has been revealed in a recent report released by the World Bank titled the “Role and Status of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa.”

According to the report, of the 36 non-operational NREN countries, 5 countries have no recorded information on  the establishment of an NREN while the rest of the 31 countries have NRENs in various stages of development.

The report, released in June this year and compiled by Michael Foley, says there is so far no information of NREN development in Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Djibout, Libya and Lesotho (Which NUANCE announced has started the process of initiating for an NREN in the previous edition).

But on a positive note, 18 countries on the continent boost of operational NRENs that the report has ranked according to their varying levels of progress.

NRENs of Algeria, Egypt, Kenya and South Africa have been ranked as the most progressive with a highest score of 6 which denotes a full maturity stage of an NREN. 

Apart from highlighting the progress of the development t of NRENs in Sub- Saharan Africa, the 107 page report also provides guidelines and best practices on NREN establishment.

Dakar Declaration on Open Access gets big boost

The Open Access global community received a major boost in May 2016 when delegates to the fourth Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) Conference on Electronic Publishing adopted the ‘Dakar Declaration on Open Access Publishing in Africa and the Global South’.

The Dakar Declaration calls on scholars/researchers and students, policy makers and other stakeholders in the Global South (which includes Africa, Central and Latin America, and developing Asia including the Middle East) to undertake research and share findings of research that will improve the quality of people’s lives.

The Dakar Declaration is a product  of three days of intense discussion during the CODESRIA conference, titled ‘The OA Movement and the Future of Africa’s Knowledge Economy’, which took place from 29 March to 1 April 2016 in Dakar, Senegal.
It was drafted by a panel comprising representatives of CODESRIA, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and CLACSO (the  Latin American Council of Social Sciences), and eminent scholars, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Beban Sammy Chumbow, the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Yaoundé 1 in Cameroon, and Eve Gray of the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

CODESRIA’s fourth conference brought together researchers, librarians, publishers and policy makers to discuss Open Access in Africa and other parts of the Global South.

Conference presenters and delegates shared case studies of OA at their institutions, and discussion ranged across topics including the ‘decolonization’ of the African university, open data and data sharing among scientists in resource-constrained environments, and strengthening scholarly community-led OA publishing.

“Privatization of public knowledge by commercial companies is not acceptable,” Dr Ebrima Sall, CODESRIA Executive Secretary, told delegates in his opening remarks. He also announced that CODESRIA was preparing to require OA for all its research output.

Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka, Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, called for more institutional OA policies in Nigeria and across Africa. Professor Beban Sammy Chumbow, Vice Chancellor of the ICT University and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Yaounde 1, Cameroon, also urged other institutions to join the OA movement.

Dr Williams Nwagwu (University of Ibadan/CODESRIA) stressed that researchers do research to inform, enlighten and educate the public; therefore their research outcomes are a public good. However, he said, over time research had become a commodity, and global academic publishing was now controlled by just five major publishers. Nwagwu described OA as a revolution that democratized knowledge power, and challenged the concept of what a journal is.

This article first appeared on the EIFL website. Read the original version.

An NREN’s positioning vis-à-vis commercial ISPs 

By Duncan Martin

Inevitably the roles and activities of an NREN impact upon those of commercial service providers as participants in a competitive industry, and it is important for an NREN’s management to think about and manage the NREN’s relations with commercial ISPs.

One objective is to cultivate the ISP’s understanding and respect for the NREN’s developmental role; its non-profit nature, and its restriction to serving only research and education institutions.  This can be done by:

 

  • Active membership in and participation in the conferences and projects of national industry associations;
  • Settlement-free peering with all-comers at local Internet exchanges;
  • sharing open content (e.g. open source software distributions) hosted on the NREN’s mirror servers with local ISPs; and by
  • never entering into a direct bidding competition with any commercial ISP.

The following story illustrates the last bullet point. Some ten or more years ago, a parastatal research institution – let me call it “the PSRI” - wanted to connect to its local NREN and use the NREN’s services.  Mindful of his institution’s public-sector nature and concomitant procurement processes and regulations, the ICT Director planned to issue a public call for bids from duly licensed operators to provide Internet services, and wanted the NREN to submit a bid.

The NREN replied that it would not compete directly for business with commercial ISPs and would not respond to a call for bids in any competitive tender process.   However, it stressed that PSRI was eligible to become a member of the NREN and, as such, to order the NREN’s services. 

Consequently the choice the PSRI had to make was the following:  Shall we proceed with the call for tenders from commercial operators, knowing that our NREN will submit no bid; or shall we abandon the formal call for tenders and instead become a member of the NREN, purchase the Internet services we require from it, and so doing become part of the Global REN?  Happily, the PSRI decided to join the NREN!

KENET boost Internet for students, making speeds 25 times faster* 

Kenya Education Network (KENET) and Liquid Telecom Kenya have migrated Kenya's education and research institutions onto connections that are up to 25 times faster than were possible in the past.

The new connections are increasing the total Internet capacity distributed to KENET member institutions using Liquid Telecom Kenya's network from as little as 200 megabytes in 2009 to now 6,000 megabytes in 2016, as each member is progressively connected at higher speeds.

At the end of a three year programme of connection, the partnership will deliver high speed Internet to more than 500,000 students and 20,000 members of staff across Kenya, most of who were previously suffering challenges in Internet access.

"The upgrades have been made essential by the changing educational landscape," said Professor Meoli Kashorda, KENET Executive Director, who said the majority of students and staff now rely on the Internet for learning and research: "They now view it as a necessity."

"The increase in Internet traffic has been phenomenal, with students acquiring devices that can access Wi-Fi, while institutions are using the Internet more. The Internet is changing ways of learning," he said.

This shift to greater Internet use ties with research showing that Internet access is key to delivering improved grades and academic performance. One study at the Federal Urdu University in Pakistan found that students who spend more hours studying on the Internet were averaging B+ to A- grades, while those who used it less were averaging B to B+.

According to fourth year student Lewis Muchiri from Kenya Methodist University, the faster Internet speeds have transformed his own learning. "With faster internet, I am accessing research papers, E-books and other learning materials that have helped me save time and focus more on my studies. We used to spend a lot of time waiting for pages to load, but today, with faster Wi-Fi, we even study from our smartphones," he said.

Providing faster and easier Internet access to students in Kenya and the rest of Africa is a key aim for Liquid Telecom.
"Getting the country's educational institutions and students onto high-speed Internet is an important step for Liquid Telecom Kenya, and aligns with our mission of achieving Internet access for every African and accelerating the benefits to society and the economy that come from high-quality Internet," said Ben Roberts, CEO Liquid Telecom Kenya.

KENET's upgrade of its connections through the deployment of the new Liquid Telecom Kenya technology follows from a partnership of several years between the two organizations.

KENET is mandated to provide affordable and cost-effective Internet connections that serve large numbers of students simultaneously. "Liquid Telecom Kenya has been our primary and back-up provider for a long time and its network is the most affordable of all providers," said Professor Kashorda.

Liquid Telecom now provides 70 per cent of KENET's leased line Internet capacity, and is in the process of upgrading the distribution network capacity by installing new equipment on member sites and increasing the reliability and quality of connection.

This article first appeared on the KENET website. Read the original article.

R&E connectivity project in Central Asia rebooted*

Over 500,000 researchers, academics and students across Central Asia stand to benefit from the launch of the 3rd phase of the EU-funded Central Asia Research and Education Network (CAREN) project which resumes regional R&E connectivity after the previous project phase ended in August 2015.

The contract signing between the European Commission and GÉANT at the end of June was welcomed by the CAREN project partners gathered at the CAREN Executive Committee meeting which took place 4-5 July in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Holding this first project meeting immediately after the signing reflects the urgent need to re-launch the CAREN project as soon as possible.

With 4.5M Euro initial EU co-funding (through its Development Co-operation budgets) the project will run up to 2019. CAREN3 will initially reconnect Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan where the governments have signed bilateral financing agreements with the EC. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are also eligible to join the project subject to EC approval and similar government financing agreements.

Building on the previous two project phases, a new tender is already underway to re-establish a high-capacity regional network in Central Asia and to maintain and further develop advanced connectivity for R&E communities with counterparts in Europe and in other parts of the world. Existing and future collaborative projects span areas such as environmental monitoring, solar energy, telemedicine, the digitalisation of cultural heritage and e-learning which are to be re-started and further developed.

“CAREN3 opens the door to re-establish R&E collaborations between Central Asia and Europe. I believe the financing commitments secured with the Central Asian governments should strengthen the prospects for long-term project sustainability. Awarding the contract for the third phase of CAREN to GÉANT also reaffirms its role as the EC’s trusted manager of R&E networking projects in this strategically important region”. said David West, CAREN Project Manager, GÉANT.

*This article first appeared on the CAREN website. Read the original version

Call for Articles

NUANCE is the 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 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