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 Thursday, January 17, 2013
A high-speed network that allows faster data transmission both among researchers in southern and eastern Africa and with scientists in Europe and other parts of the world has been launched.

The UbuntuNet network, unveiled in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last month, builds on links initially established between Europe and five African countries by the UbuntuNet Alliance, the regional research and education network for eastern and southern Africa.

The network provides a high-speed Internet connection between national research and education networks (NRENs) in the region and with the pan-European GÉANT network, giving access to 40 million users in 8,000 institutions.

It was developed under the AfricaConnect programme, which aims to provide researchers across Africa with access to faster data transmission facilities to encourage global research collaboration. The European Commission provides 80 per cent of the programme's funding, with the rest coming from African governments out of their support for the NRENs.

European funding for AfricaConnect is due to last until 2015, after which the project is intended to be solely funded by its African partners.

Francis Tusubira, chief executive officer of the UbuntuNet Alliance, said that the organisation's goal was to ensure that all countries in southern and eastern Africa had viable NRENs connected to the UbuntuNet network.

But he added that it was a major challenge to build the capacity to run the national networks effectively, partly because of the lack of graduates with relevant computer skills being produced by universities.

"We have thousands of engineering students coming out of universities, but put them in a working environment [involving computers] and they have no idea what to do", he said.

Therefore one priority for the UbuntuNet Alliance under the AfricaConnect project is to establish programmes to boost the teaching of computer engineering skills in African universities over the next four years.

(Source: SciDev)