Volume 7: Issue 11: March 2015


In this Issue
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UbuntuNet Alliance appoints Dr Hoba as new CEO

In March 2015, UbuntuNet Alliance, the Regional Research and Education Network for Eastern and Southern Africa, announced  the appointment of Dr Pascal Hoba as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Alliance with effect from 1st January 2015. Dr Hoba succeeds Eng. Dr Francis (Tusu) Tusubira who retired on 28 February 2015 after successfully leading the Alliance since 2007.

Dr Hoba is coming from the Association of African Universities (AAU) in Accra, Ghana where he has been Director of Knowledge Management Information and Communications since 2005. In his role at the AAU, Dr Hoba was also Coordinator of the Europe-Africa quality Connect project and the Database of African Theses and Dissertations (DATAD) programme. He is credited for initiating the Open Access process with the DATAD programme as a regional repository center.

“Becoming CEO of UbuntuNet Alliance presents a privilege to serve the NREN community which I personally contributed to as first Project Coordinator at the AAU in charge of the RENU (Research Education Networking Unit).” Under this responsibility I organised for AAU, the parallel event at WSIS summit in November 2005 which officially launched UbuntuNet Alliance,” says Dr Hoba.

“It is also a huge responsibility for me. Indeed, there is a positive legacy left by the former CEO and it is my responsibility now to take the Alliance to next level which means consolidating the achievements, bring new services and resources and building a strong regional organisation that supports the NRENs and all organisations that promote education and research networking. With humility, innovation, determination and, of course, hard work, and with the collaboration of the community, I am sure we shall surely write another story of the UbuntuNet Alliance,” says Dr Hoba.

With over 15 years experience in Higher Education, Dr Hoba has served on a number of Africa-wide initiatives and boards such as the ICT Advisory Committee of the Pan African/Indian e-Network Project at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa; and the Executive Committee of the Pan-African Leadership Institute for Library Management based in Alexandria in Egypt.  What better person to take the Alliance to the next level of being the hub of innovation in ICT and research for propelling Africa to the realisation of its development goals.

He has authored several scientific papers on strategic information and edited a number of books including: The Contribution of Higher Education to National Educational Systems: Current Challenges for Africa published in 2007; Agents in Development, African Higher Education Networks and Policy Entrepreneurship.

The new UbuntuNet Alliance CEO graduated in business law from Law school of Aix en Provence, France he also holds a Masters Degree and PhD in Scientific and Technical Information from the University of Marseilles in France where he also worked as Lecturer in Information Communication from between 1999 and 2005.  His long successful career in communications has also seen him to international development agency ADEA/IIEP/UNESCO as Programme Officer in Paris, France. Dr Hoba presents the dawn of a new era in service provision and efficiency in UbuntuNet Alliance.

Close-up with the Makerere team designing  the next generation ergonomic for Ebola management

It is undeniable that medics at the frontline of the Ebola fight work in an extremely hot and stressful environment as the full-body Personal Protective Equipment (PPE ) which is necessary to protect them just does not go well with the  humid sub-tropical, tropical, and equatorial climates.  The medics are at risk of dehydration and cannot spend more than a couple of hours treating patients. Frequent breaks to rehydrate increase the chances of missing the guidelines on PPE.  The heat and stress also compromises the quality of the service. Patients too are not spared from the stress  and sweating caused by the heat which further increases their risk of dehydration and other bio-chemical as well as physiological imbalances.

Now, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) and Makerere University College of Health Sciences School of Public Health are currently working to design the next generation ergonomic tent for the management of Ebola patients. The tent being designed is expected to not only stand the hot African climate but provide a versatile and comfortable environment for both medical personnel and patients at as little cost as possible. The design of the ergonomic tent is being facilitated by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development 
Patricia Mtungila,UbuntuNet Alliance Communications Officer and Harriet Adong, RAN Communications Manager, talked to Prof. William Bazeyo the Dean Makerere University School of Public Health, an Associate Professor of Occupational Medicine who will together with Dr. Roy William Mageya, a Lecturer at the School of Public Health and Deputy Chief of Party at RAN, lead a multi-disciplinary team of students and faculty from the College of Health Sciences School of Public Health, and the College of Engineering, Design and Art (CEDAT) at Makerere University, Uganda to realize this task.

Q.1. A new design for the Ebola treatment tent, what is lacking in the current environment in the Ebola treatment tent?

The current, tents are quite poor at heat and air exchange when fully enclosed. The materials used in manufacturing the tent have poor air and temperature exchange, trapping hot air underneath, and creating a temperature build-up. PVC linings are continuous, without aeration pores. The shape of the tent and the un-interrupted walls also promote a constant build-up of heat within the tent cavity, exacerbated by the poor air exchange.

Because of the heat build-up, healthcare workers involved in management of suspected and confirmed Ebola cases in humid sub-tropical, tropical, and equatorial climates work under very stressful conditions characterized by extreme heat and humidity predisposing them to heat stress and its associated complications. In addition, Patients too have to endure the same conditions.

Q.2. Tell us about your team and the general feel knowing that you could provide Africa’s next big innovation in the Ebola fight and save thousands.
We are a multi-disciplinary team of students and faculty from the School of Public Health College of Health Sciences and the College of Engineering, Design and Art (CEDAT) at Makerere University, Uganda.

As a team we feel excited and extremely privileged to have the opportunity to save thousands of lives through developing and prototyping the “next generation ergonomic tent” that will transcend the current tents that were not designed for human habitation in hot climates.

Q.3. In your view, does Africa, Uganda have what it takes to provide these next big solution in the Ebola fight?
Yes. Africa and in particular Uganda, has what it takes to develop the next big solutions not only in the Ebola fight but solutions that are responsive to the humanitarian work as a whole. We have leading teaching institutions that implement trans-disciplinary curriculums designed to develop global health solutions that cut across several pertinent disciplines.

For example: Makerere University School of Public Health has been at the center of training, research and community service in control of outbreaks of major epidemic prone diseases, supporting the Ministry of Health by providing the requisite technical expertise. We have been involved in mass training activities to increase surge capacity for emerging pandemic threats and in response to commonly occurring disasters in the region. The school implements several Master’s Degree programs built on the Public Health Schools without Walls model.

Q. 4. Any other thoughts on innovation from Africa for the fight against Ebola?
Africa has the potential to harness the knowledge and creativity that exists across the different African institutions to develop, prototype and bring to scale transformative innovations in the fight against Ebola.

Several innovations are in the pipeline for instance IBM Research- Africa located at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi has launched an innovative community education platform that facilitates two way communications between Public Health Officials and citizens using basic mobile phones to generate real-time, on-the ground information about public health perception and community needs.

Prof Bazeyo is also the Lab Director/Chief of party for the U.S Global Development Lab’s Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN)- ResilientAfrica Network (RAN). He has over 20 years teaching experience at Makerere University, is a Medical Doctor from Makerere University and holds an M.Med in Occupational Health obtained from University of Singapore in Singapore. For more on research and education networking in Uganda  you may also see Research and Education Network for Uganda(RENU).

Tanzanian researchers ready to use ICTs

A new study indicates that most Tanzanian researchers  have access to online journals, which indicates a positive trend in easing research. Tanzania Education and Research Network (TERNET)’s e-readiness survey of  academic and research institutions  conducted between November and December 2014  with funding from  International Network for the Availability of scientific Publications (INASP) indicates that higher education and research institutions in Tanzania are ready to use ICT for teaching, learning, and research with  8 in 10 researchers in most of institutions  already  accessing online journals.

The Study which sampled 70 research and education institutions listed lack of defined procedures for handling ICT issues  due to the absence of ICT policies  as a challenge in enabling access to desired online resources.

“It is noticed that, all institutions visited had an ICT academic unit/section/department. Most institutions had researchers who need various ICT platforms but most institutions had no such platforms or systems to facilitate research. The responses indicated that 84% of institutions have researchers and 81% have access to journals and online publications," reads the report.

The report recommends development of ICT Policies and significantly strengthening of human resource including hiring of more network engineers, systems administrators and helpdesk staff as key solutions to integrating ICTs in teaching and learning.

The study analysed responses for each of the four categories of e-readiness indicators for each institution. 63% and 94% of respondents indicated they are awareness of The Consortium of Tanzania University and Research Libraries (COTUL) and TERNET respectively.

This is the first major e-readiness survey of academic and research institutions in Tanzanian conducted by the TERNET since its establishment in 2008.  The 2014 e-readiness survey gathered detailed data from Tanzanian Academic and Research Institutions Read more here

IST-Africa 2015 is here

Hosted by the Government of Malawi through the National Commission for Science and Technology, supported by the European Commission and African Union Commission, IST-Africa 2015 will take place in Lilongwe from 06 - 08 May 2015. The 5th Annual IST-Africa Living Lab Thematic Working Group Meeting will take place on 05 May as a pre-conference event. The Advance Programme incorporates 2 plenary sessions and 35 parallel sessions in the Scientific Programme with over 140 presenters from 35 countries. The Scientific Programme for IST-Africa 2015 is based on a double blind peer review of Papers submitted to an open Call for Papers which closed on 19 December 2014.

IST-Africa provides a unique forum to exchange knowledge about research being undertaken in Europe and Africa focused on e-Infrastructures, e-Health, Technology-enhanced Learning, e-Agriculture, e-Government, Digital Libraries, Cloud Computing and International Cooperation. It also provides an opportunity to identify potential partners for future research cooperation under Horizon 2020.

UbuntuNet Alliance is organising a workshop in cooperation with WACREN focused on Identity Federation and Shared Services for Research and Education. This will run back to back with another workshop jointly organised by the new H2020 projects TANDEM, MAGIC and Sci-GaiA entitled Synergy for Global Collaboration in Science Powered by R&E networks, to be held on 7th May 2015.IST-Africa 2015 takes place at the Bingu International Conference Centre (Capital Hill/Presidential Way) Lilongwe. It is necessary to complete online registration prior to the event.

Video Conferencing tool for quality, affordable,  education in Sudanese Universities

Sudanese Research and Education Network (SudREN) has embarked on efforts to re-activate its video conferencing services in order to maximise utilisation of its abundant ICT infrastructure, says its CEO, Dr Sami Salih.  The Initiative being implemented in collaboration with International University of Africa (IUA) is expected to enable Sudanese Universities to commence providing lectures and workshops to remote audiences.

“In collaboration with International University of Africa (IUA), SudREN established a pilot project to build a business model for the video conference system for the sake of service sustainability. In this regards, and according to the IUA policies the classes should be split in two groups, gents and ladies. So, each lecture, tutorial, and practical session is duplicated," says Dr Salih.

According to Dr Salih, the classes are split in order to enable the most appropriate learning for both men and women while upholding all education policies and this poses  extra cost implications to the universities and possible questions on the whether all learners are receiving the exact same quality of learning from the tutor.

Video conferencing has, therefore, presented an opportunity to ensure that all students, men and women, benefit from Sudan’s high quality education system while upholding education sector policies but with the added benefit of reduced costs as Dr Salih explains:

“Phase one of the project is achieved by implementing the VC system in the classrooms, and re-arranges the lecture timetable to accommodate both gents and ladies. The instructors deliver their lectures from one lecture room and the other group of students can participate via VC. And for the sake of equality, the following week’s lecture is toggled so the instructors physically provides the lecture for group 2  while group 1 participates via the VC," he adds.

Video Conferencing is one service that UbuntuNet Alliance NREN Members are stepping to provide in 2015 as it has proven to tremendously reduce the cost of education and research through remote collaboration.

Fast and efficient; appreciating European research networks through the 2014 Compendium of NRENs

Research and Education networks in Europe are getting bigger, better and faster, shows the findings of the recently published 2014 GEANT Association Compendium of European NRENs produced by the GÉANT Association.

Among some of the enviable trends, the Compendium records that  National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Europe have increased the capacity  of national backbone networks  and international connectivity  to an exceptional range of  between 10 Gb/s to a super-sonic capacity in hundreds of gigabit per second without any reported congestion. Now that is computing at the speed of light!

European tech giant, Germany is already planning to upgrade to Terabit capacity! But it is not just speed that is progressing in Europe as service delivery has also registered tremendous efficiency.  This is conveniently tricking down to other world regions through the collaborations with other Regional RENs like the UbuntuNet Alliance in eastern and Southern Africa.

“Over the past year, eduroam [the secure, world-wide roaming access service developed for the international research and education community] has also shown remarkable growth. It is now available not only in all GÉANT countries but also in a growing number of other countries and territories. The number of locations with eduroam availability grew by 25% and the number of authentications more than tripled between January 2013 and January 2014; by September 2014, it was approaching 150 million per month,” reads the TERENA Website.

What with most IT services being provided over the Internet or cloud, Europe is on top with steadily growing cloud services as Karl Meyer of GÉANT Association explains in an interview with NUANCE.

 “We are seeing a realisation amongst both NRENs and R&E institutions that Cloud Services (both internally developed and provided by third parties) offer the community significant advantages in terms of support, scalability and cost. This realisation is now translating into increased provision and take-up of cloud services and this will accelerate as costs decrease and capabilities increase. GÉANT is actively working to ensure that NRENs and the wider R&E community are well positioned to take advantage of cloud services.”

 Cloud services are widely recognised for increasing choice of IT services while providing utmost ease. The GÉANT Association Compendium of European NRENs production is overseen by an international review panel and staff at the GÉANT Association Amsterdam office (formerly TERENA) click here for more

Cathrin Stover finalist in 2015 FDM Awards

Cathrin Stöver  was one of four finalists to be announced in the International Leader of the Year category in the prestigious 2015 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards.

As Chief International Relations and Communications Officer for GEANT Ltd, Cathrin was nominated for her work supporting the global connectivity of GÉANT.  Through this she is both supporting women and inspiring them – by delivering digital opportunities to a worldwide audience.

“Before you light a fibre, or set down a single line of code, you have to network people. This is what Cathrin does,”  says Ann Harding, GÉANT Activity Leader.

The award calls for people who can demonstrate, not only that their work is supporting women, but who can also act as powerful role models. The GÉANT project offers an excellent platform to promote women in technology. Cathrin’s role very tangibly shows the value a career in IT can deliver, to women, and to society as a whole, and this is a key driver in inspiring women into the sector. Find out more here

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