Participation in ICT related conferences is one of the main activities of the ICT4EEDU project, under the Eritrea-Finland cooperation agreement. This opens a wonderful opportunity for the leading members of the project. Following the last eLearning Africa conference participation in Cairo, Egypt, last May 2016, I had the opportunity to participate in the UbuntuNet Aliance annual conference held in Entebbe, Uganda at the beginning of November. It was held in the Imperial Golf View Hotel in Entebbe, where participants from all member countries of the UbuntuNet Aliance convened for the annual conference and shared their experiences. The theme of the conference was “Optimizing the Impact of NRENs on Africa’s Research”
This Aliance is a Regional Research and Education Network for Eastern and Southern Africa region. The Regional REN for Western and Central Africa, WACREN, and the same for Northern African countries along with the Arab region, ASREN, also participated in the conference with the main mission to integrate those three regional alliances, so that research and Education activities throughout the continent will be all interconnected for cooperation and resources sharing. Hence, all countries of Africa, being under their regional alliance will be interconnected to each other through the forthcoming projects.
Coordinators from both Eritrean and Finish parties for the ICT4EEDU project were supposed to participate in this annual conference, but due to some pre-engagements, only myself could participate in the conference. The main mission of our participation under the ICT4EEDU project was to express our interest to join the regional REN, UbuntuNet Aliance. Thanks to Dr.Pascal Hoba, the UbuntuNet Aliance CEO, whom I could get in touch with through my networking with the Internet Society representatives during the eLearning Africa Conference in Cairo in May 2016, for his special invitation to participate in the conference so that we could also meet face to face and discuss matters that will lead us for the membership. It was exciting to hear that Dr.Pascal Hoba expressed special recognition for Eritrea’s participation for the first time in the conference with the intention of joining the alliance, during his conference opening discourse.
It was such an exciting opportunity for me that I was warmly welcomed for the participation and special arrangement to discuss with the CEO of the alliance, Dr.Pascal Hoba, when I expressed our interest and intention to join the regional Education & research alliance. We have discussed in detail regarding the requirements that we have to meet in order to join Ubuntunet and the support that Ubuntunet Alliance can give to realize our efforts. He mentioned that they also have been considering dealing with possible initiative to include the remaining countries of the region, Eritrea being one of the few, who are not yet members of the alliance. Moreover, I had interesting bilateral discussion with the Ugandan REN (RENU) CEO, Dr.Isaac Kassana over breakfast time on the second day of the conference, when we discussed how Eritrea can initiate the process for joining the alliance and what lessons & experiences we can share from RENU. He kindly promised to lend a hand in all matters to advise and share experience at any stage of our plan to get prepared with our national REN establishment and on the procedures we need to follow to join the alliance.
I also had a chance to meet NORDUNET Policy and Strategy Officer, Dr.Erik-Jan Bos, over lunch period on the second day of the conference, and shared views and possible support in our process to realize the national REN, ERUNet (Eritrean Universities Network). I mentioned about the ICT4EEDU project we have with Finland and my previous official contacts with FUNET experts, FUNET being a member of NORDUNET the Nordic region REN. Dr.Boss was exited to hear about our connections to FUNET and the Finish projects and that he is ready to support our efforts to establish our national REN and join the regional alliance soon. Besides, I also had a chance to meet and introduce myself to the CEO of WACREN (Dr. Boubakar Barry) and CEO of ASREN Dr.Yousef Torman and promised that they can always share their experiences when needed.
Besides, I had close contacts with the CEO of Sudanese REN (SUDREN), CEO of Tanzanian REN (the TanNet), Members of Zambian REN (ZAMREN), and others connected to national research and education networks of the region and established the possible means of keeping in touch for further discussion and/or support. Interestingly, the CEO of the Sudanese REN (Dr. Khalid Elbadawi) has promised to be in touch and extend his support to our efforts to establish our national REN and further join the regional alliance, as he is the closest national REN we can share experience with.
The two-day conference hosted interesting presentations from big regional research and education alliances from different continents, like NORDUNET, GEANT, NEAAR, WACREN, ASREN, RED CLARA, INASP, Internet Society, GNA, Sie-GaIA and more.
In general, it was an excellent opportunity for me to participate in this conference, which gave me a broader insight in to the resources and environment that this regional alliance can offer. Being a member of this regional alliance will provide free and wider access to research and education resources available across the region and a medium to link researchers across distances, and not limited to the regions it covers, but to international resources and networks at large. Therefore, it is time for us to build our own NREN and join such a resourceful alliance to develop our research and education endeavors and share with our counterparts in the wider world. This experience will facilitate our endeavors to interconnect all institutions of higher education and establish our ‘ERUNET’, which, I believe, is in good track under the Eritrea-Finnish cooperation project, the ICT4EEDU. Rest is assured that UbuntuNet is warmly welcoming our interest for membership, should we do our home work and follow the procedures it requires.
More information on the conference can be accessed from – https://events.ubuntunet.net
Hoping to participate in the next annual conference representing our project, in different membership status —
Peace to All!