International Workshop on
African Research & Education Networking
September 25-27 2005 CERN - Geneva, Switzerland

   
 

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30 June 2005

Draft proposal for a focused Networking workshop on "promoting scientific cooperation with Africa through capacity building of the ICT infrastructure" on September 26-27 at CERN:

In the framework of CERN’s participation in the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), a number of priority actions have been identified (see enclosed document "Proposal of Priority Actions from CERN" presented during the Pre-Com-2 meeting in February). The feasibility as well as the desirability of hosting a focused workshop on "promoting scientific collaboration with Africa through capacity building of the ICT infrastructure" in September/October in Geneva, prior to the WSIS summit and preferably during the PrepCom-3 meeting (Sept 12-30), has been actively investigated. The plan is to co-organize such an event with a number of key partners in Europe and North-America.

As it is important to not to clash with other initiatives, but rather to build synergies, we plan to work closely with the Internet2 community who has already organized two one-day workshops in Washington in April 2004 "Extending the Reach of Advanced Networking - International Workshop"

and May 2005 "Enhancing research and education network connectivity to and within Africa": respectively. These workshops were quite naturally US centric with the aim of documenting the existing initiatives and to attract the attention of the US funding agencies such as the US National Science Foundation (NSF). Internet2 recently started a Special Interest Group (SIG) for "Supporting International Collaborations in Hard to Network Parts of the World" and is planning to organize a similar event coinciding with their Fall Member meeting in Philadelphia on Sept 19-22. As can see from the program of these interesting workshops, the main actors in North America are the World Bank, NSF, USAID, NIH (National Institute of Health), IDRC (International Development Research Center (Canada)), the IEEAF (Internet Educational Equal Access Foundation).

On June 6 the United Nations University (UNU), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Global Virtual University (GVU) announced that they had received 150K€ funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) in order to conduct a feasibility study on a pan-African University Network (AFUNET), the results of which will be presented at a parallel event at the WSIS in Tunis, November 2005. The AFUNET process will involve African Universities and the Association of African Universities (AAU) through a series of workshops with the final one planned to take place in Geneva during the Pre-Com-3 meeting.

The current thinking is to leverage on the Internet2/IEEAF and ITU/UNU/GVU initiatives and organize a joint workshop with as strong participation of African Universities as possible (i.e. up to 50% of the participants) through NORAD, IDRC, ISOC, and other organizations funding (e.g. Cisco because of their involvement in NEPAD’s e-School projects, AIF, SIDA and possibly several others)

The purpose of the Geneva workshop is to facilitate collaborations with Africa by building on the momentum created by the Internet2 and IDRC workshops, hopefully co-organizing it with them, but also bringing in additional European and International actors, namely: European governments and European Union representatives, and International organizations such as ISOC, ITU, UNESCO, WHO, together with UNDP, UNICEF and WFP because of their experience in establishing connections with Africa. We will also strive to involve other international organizations such as UNCTAD, UNECA, UNITAR, ICTP & TWAS as well as Telecom Operators with global African's presence, such as Equant, British Telecom (BT), local or regional Telecom Operators, e.g. Telkom, VSNL will also be approached. The TERENA association as well as European National Research networks such as RENATER that are already active in Africa, DANTE/Geant2 through the EUMED-CONNECT project, and, last but not least, scientists particularly from the countries concerned will of course be invited to participate and/or co-organize this workshop.

Preliminary contacts with the WSIS executive secretariat indicate that they are both interested and supportive of the idea of having an African Universities focused workshop at CERN and that in case the workshop is confirmed it could be labeled as one of the official WSIS events, the other two events being the Bilbao summit on 9-11 November 2005 and the Bibliotheca of Alessandria.

Very good contacts have already been established with DANTE, Internet2, IEEAF, IDRC, ISOC, ITU, RENATER, TERENA, UNESCO and WHO, and they have all indicated their interest in this workshop and possibly co-organizing it with CERN.

In addition to contributing to raising awareness regarding the insufficient connectivity of African Universities to the Internet, the workshop will be formatted in such a way that a set of concrete proposals for actions can be elaborated in time for a preliminary oral report during PrepCom-3 in Geneva and the final written report during the WSIS summit in Tunisia.

The proposed format of the target workshop would be two days, and invite 30-50 African qualified scientists. As already explained above, external sponsorship will be looked for in order to cover all workshop related costs and, in particular, the travel costs of the African participants:

1st day - presentations (update on ongoing and future projects/initiatives, success stories, failures, panel to try to understand the fundamental reasons behind the successes and the failures, Telecom Operators viewpoints, International Organizations viewpoints) as well as input from the countries themselves.

2nd day – Morning - 4-5 parallel working groups (subjects to be specified, e.g. identify critical factors in establishing a pan-African research and education network, technology transfer through the organization of ad-hoc schools on networking and Grid technologies, packet based video-conferencing, etc).

2nd day – Afternoon - reports from working groups, conclusions and recommendations.

This above plan is very ambitious given the rather limited amount of time available before the workshop, however, we are confident that, given the excellent feedback received so far from the potential co-organizers, a meaningful workshop can be organized.

A program committee already including the main partners (i.e. DANTE, IDRC, Internet2, IEEAF, ISOC, ITU, RENATER, TERENA) has been established in order to further define the content of the workshop as well as the participants through weekly conference calls.

Attendance to the workshop will be by invitation only and will be limited to 100-125 persons.

The workshop will take place at CERN on September 26-27, despite the known clash with the iGRID (26-29) and GLIF (29-30) meetings in San Diego (USA), as this the only way to make a preliminary report about the main outcome of the workshop to the Pre-Com-3 meeting at the end of that week.

Geneva, 17-25 February 2005

PrepCom-2

 

Proposal of
Priority Actions from CERN

2005 has been declared the "International Year of Physics" by the General Assembly of the United Nations. In 1905, the young Albert Einstein produced three publications on light quanta, special relativity, and the sizes and movements of molecules. A good part of today’s economy is based on his discoveries and those of his colleagues in physics and other sciences.

The late Abdus Salam from Pakistan, a physics Nobel laureate, wrote in 1988 that "in the final analysis, creation, mastery and utilization of modern science and technology is basically what distinguishes the South from the North. On science and technology depend the standards of living of a nation". Calestous Juma, the coordinator of the Task Force on Science, Technology, and Innovation for the UN Millennium Project 2005, has stated, "It is inconceivable that the eight millennium development goals can be achieved by 2015 without a focused science, technology and innovation policy."

Therefore we summarise WSIS goals of priority to CERN as follows: knowledge, education and fair partnerships including technical assistance are the keys to capacity building for development.

ICT are the essential means to store, access, organise and share content in science and education globally. Further, ICT make us all virtual neighbours and enable close collaboration even of distant partners leading to the following action items.

The scientific community should participate actively to internet governance discussions

The internet and its present basically "bottom up" governance works surprisingly well in its rapidly evolving technical, international and national environments. Scientific users and contributors to its rapid development such as CERN with its collaborating institutes around the world provide glimpses into future requirements, emerging from further developments of WWW, of grids and virtualisation, a novel infrastructure for distant partnerships. Security and authentication are necessary in certain areas of the internet to prevent misuse, requiring some new or better adapted organisational frame, trusted and supported by all, preserving, however, the openness and sharing of the present system. CERN is ready to contribute to these discussions.

Action items relating to "e-capacity building", capacity building enhanced by ICT and partnerships

There are four action items specific to the publicly funded scientific community.

To make contents of publicly funded education and research freely accessible on the Web for the use by everybody.

CERN was amongst the first to operate a sizeable e-repository or e-library of its scientific papers, today almost a million openly accessible documents. The "Open Access" and "Open Archiving" initiatives of the scientific community already provide practical emerging standards on how to make validated, certified content generally available.Open Access to validated, easily accessible knowledge will make the Internet to the distributed, but universal repository of human knowledge, the library of Alexandria of today. CERN is firmly committed towards these efforts.

To connect all universities, and therefore the corresponding major cities, to the global networks at sufficient bandwidth, to provide them with the necessary ICT infrastructure and affordable software to use the internet.

The research community in the developed world experienced exponential growth in ICT use, generated by a "demand pull" through rapidly expanding volumes of scientific data, information and knowledge and a "technology push" of exponentially changing performance of ICT equipment. Scientists are often the first users and drivers if not creators of such change. Exponential change means that the digital divide will inevitably increase for some years. However, there are encouraging examples to reduce this problem: The provision of national optical fibre infrastructures have permitted a number of the new EU countries to "leap-frog" from Mb/s to Gb/s, multipurpose, digital networks. This demonstrates that rapid change is possible. International tenders in a de-regulated environment and a maximum of local effort will provide for the best value for money.

Implementation plans for such essential infrastructure can be worked out anywhere and the scientific community and CERN, within its available resources, can advise in this process. Regions should present such concrete plans for all of their insufficiently connected countries to give a concrete focus to the solidarity and development funds, but also to stimulate internet providers and ICT manufacturers to contribute.

CERN has been running a high end Computing School, accessible from the internet. CERN further has vast, hands-on expertise in affordable commodity campus computing and software infrastructure.

Therefore we propose: to organise computing schools, curricula and fellowships for hands-on training on basic, affordable "university campus computing and software infrastructure", requiring, however, additional collaboration, sponsorship and financing.

Finally, for its cutting edge science programmes, CERN operates and depends on scientific partnerships between hundreds of Universities around the world, based on a new, world-wide ICT infrastructure supplemented by visits, fellowships and training to educate the required specialists.

Therefore CERN proposes that: universities and scientific organisations engage in new partnerships between developed and less developed countries to enlarge the common knowledge base and to bring people and nations together.

Concrete progress in these action items will be one of the quantitative measures of success of the WSIS process.

GVU and partners receive funding for the African University Network (AFUNET).

6 June 2005

This week the United Nations University UNU), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)  and the Global Virtual University (GVU) received 150K€ funding  from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) to conduct a feasibility study on AFUNET that will be presented at a parallel event at the World Summit for the Information Society in Tunis, November 2005.

The global objective of this project is explore and implement various measures to provide network connectivity and extend affordable and easy ICT access and services to African universities stating with a few countries and gradually extending to cover the whole continent. The exact phasing will be determined after conducting a detailed feasibility study.

The first AFUNET workshop will take place in Arendal Norway 21 -23 June with a follow up during the WSIS Prepcom in Geneva in September. We would very much welcome any input, ideas, and advices for the workshop by e-mail. We are also planning to arrange a teleconference during the workshop. Please let me know your phone or videoconference number if you would like to take part in the conference. We are also planning to set up an electronic forum on our web site www.gvu.edu.unu after the meeting where you are invited to join in.

The African University Network (AFUNET) is a practical response to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Plan of Action. (The initial formulation of such a network was presented at a side-event organized by the UNU at the WSIS Phase One held in Geneva in December 2003.) It is designed to enhance the capabilities of African universities to take advantage of the opportunities associated with the emergence of the global information society. Investment in African universities today would constitute a critical building pillar in the development of an African knowledge economy whose dividends will be knowledgeable young leaders and professionals well equipped to confront and tackle the challenges facing Africa today and in future.

Harald Holt

Director UNU/GVU

Pointers to relevant African development projects and/or associations

Acacia - Making ICTs more affordable and increasing access in Africa

Advancing ICT knowledge in Africa (AITEC)

African Development Bank (AFDB)

African Development Education Network (ADEN)

African Internet Society Initiative (AISI)

African ISP Association (Afrispa)

African Satellite Corporation

African Telecommunications Union (ATU)

African Union (AU)

African Internet Connectivity (AIC)

African Virtual University (AVU)

Agence Intergouvernementale de la Francophonie (AIF)

Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF)

Alcatel-Space Satellite Program

Assistance for the Development of Telecommunications Industry in Africa (INDAFTEL)

Association of African Universities (AAU)

Association of African Universities - Database of African Theses and Dissertations (DATAD)

AUF - Campus Numerique / Digital Campus

Catalysing Access to ICTs in Africa (CATIA)

Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

Coordination and Modernizing of Technological Higher Education Institutions in Cameroun (COMETES)

Connectivity Africa

The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)

EuropeAid Co-operation Office

UK Department for International Development (DFID)

The Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT)

The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)

Euro-Mediterranean Internet Satellite Platform for Health, medical Education and Research (EMISPHER)

Developing Information Society in the Mediterranean Region (EUMEDIS)

Linking Mediterranean Research and Educational Communities to Europe (EUMEDCONNECT)

Global Development Learning Network (GDLN)

Global Virtual University (GVU)

Global VSAT Forum (GVF)

Increasing Bandwidth for African University Development (IBAUD)

The Information for Development Program (infoDev)

Internet Society’s Workshop Resource Center (ISOC)

Internet Society’s workshops in LDC countries

Informaticiens sans Frontieres/Software without borders (ISF)

Institut francophone des Nouvelles Technologies de l’InFormation (INTIF)

International Development Association (IDA)

International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD)

International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP)

ITU’s Regional Office for Africa (ITU-Telecommunication Development Bureau)

Kalitel (Turkish Satellite Operator offering special tariff to non-profit organizations)

Support for higher-education institutions, setting-up of an extranet between Madagascar’s six Universities (MADSUP)

Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM)

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)

NEPAD’s e-Africa Commission

The Nelson Mandela Institute (NMI)

NMI’s African Institute of Science and Technology (AIST)

NMI’s Sub-Saharan African Learning Network (SSALN),

High capacity connectivity between the USA and Africa (NECTARNET)

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD)

Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC)

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

The Pan-African Virtual Internet Exchange Point initiative (PAVIX)

Regional African Satellite Communications Organization (RASCOM)

The Regional Information Society Network for Africa (RINAF)

The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa

"RESeau Africain de Formation A Distance) / African Network for Distance Learning (RESAFAD)

The Southern Africa Regional Universities Association (SARUA)

SchoolNet South Africa

Schoolnet Uganda

SchoolNet Africa

South Africa’s Tertiary Education Network (TENET)

UNDP Africa support to ICT for development (IIA)

UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

UN University (UNU)

USAID LELAND Initiative

World Association of Industrial and Technological Research Organizations (WAITRO)

World Telecom Development Conference (WTDC)

World Links for Development Program (WBI)