What is a NREN?
Research and education organisations are major users of national and regional communication networks and services. A National Research and Education Network (NREN) is a dedicated internet infrastructure and service provider to the research and educational (R&E) communities within a country. NRENs provide connectivity and services to higher education establishments (typically universities) and research institutes, but can also support schools, further education colleges, libraries, museums, teaching hospitals and other public institutes. NRENs are a vital component in e-learning, e-science and e-research strategies as they bring a common approach to the coordination and deployment of national and international communication networks and services.
What is AfricaConnect2?
AfricaConnect2 is an EU co-funded pan-African connectivity project that aims to support the development and consolidation of regional research and education (R&E) networks across Africa. These networks provide access to dedicated, high-capacity internet connectivity and offer a gateway to global R&E collaborations thanks to their interconnection with the pan-European GÉANT network.
How is AfricaConnect2 funded? What are the origins of AfricaConnect2?
The European Commission's Directorate-General International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) contributes €20 million towards the costs of the AfricaConnect2 project (€26.6 million), with the remainder (€6.6m) being provided by the African partners on the basis of a cost-sharing model.
AfricaConnect2 is the successor project of AfricaConnect which, between 2011 and 2014, procured and deployed high-speed internet connections throughout Southern and Eastern Africa, thus significantly contributing to the UbuntuNet network. Thanks to its interconnection with the European network GÉANT, it helped create a regional gateway for collaborative research.
AfricaConnect2 sets out to extend this success story to the whole continent, thus accelerating the development of the Information Society in Africa and putting the entire continent onto the global R&E networking map.
Why do we need AfricaConnect2?
By improving R&E connectivity across Africa, AfricaConnect2 will provide access to cost-effective and high-capacity bandwidth, enabling scientists, researchers and students to better collaborate on a regional, continental and global level. The advanced connectivity will allow researchers to run data-intensive applications at speeds that are unavailable, unreliable or unaffordable over the commercial internet.
AfricaConnect2 will promote digital inclusion, providing wider access to cutting-edge network resources and reducing the digital disparity between Africa and Europe. It will also further regional integration by linking research and academic communities throughout the continent.
Improved connectivity will support applications with high societal impact, thus contributing significantly to population welfare and sustainable development across Africa.
Furthermore, many of today's global challenges, such as climate change or epidemic diseases, require global collaboration to tackle their specific local impacts. AfricaConnect2 will fully integrate African researchers into the global Information Society to help identify and deliver local and global solutions.
How is AfricaConnect2 organised?
Conceived as a pan-African umbrella connectivity project, AfricaConnect2 adopts a modular approach adjusted to the geographical, cultural and organisational context of the African regions and their different stages of NREN development, as well as their sources of funding. AfricaConnect2, therefore, comprises three geographical clusters and involves their respective regional networking organisations:
Southern and Eastern Africa is managed by the UbuntuNet Alliance.
Western and Central Africa is coordinated by GÉANT and WACREN.
North Africa is coordinated by GÉANT and ASREN.
A group of European NRENs (CYNET in Cyprus, GARR in Italy, GRNET in Greece, RENATER in France and RED.es in Spain) are also involved in support and training activities. Does AfricaConnect2 allow Africa to interconnect with other world regions?
Yes. AfricaConnect has already established direct connections to the pan-European GÉANT network from South and Eastern Africa via London and Amsterdam. In addition, the EUMEDCONNECT network also currently links Algeria to Europe via Milan.
AfricaConnect2 will continue to develop new direct connections from Africa to Europe, especially from West and Central Africa.
Thanks to GÉANT's interconnections with other regional networks (from America to South-East Asia), the whole African continent will be fully connected to the global research and education community.
Who are the project partners? AfricaConnect2 therefore comprises three geographical areas (or "clusters") that involve their respective regional networking organisations in the delivery of the project:
Conceived as a pan-African umbrella connectivity project, AfricaConnect2 adopts a modular approach adjusted to the geographical, cultural and organisational context of the African regions and their different stages of NREN development, as well as their sources of funding and long-term prospects.
The UbuntuNet Alliance implements the project across Southern and Eastern Africa in partnership with the local NRENs (Cluster 1).
WACREN delivers the project in West and Central Africa in coordination with GÉANT (Cluster 2).
ASREN works in partnership with GÉANT to deliver the project in North Africa (Cluster 3).
How long will AfricaConnect2 run?
AfricaConnect2 will run for 3.5 years from June 2015.
What plans are in place for networking after AfricaConnect2?What activities will use this network?
AfricaConnect2 will support the development and use of NRENs across Africa as well as create a continental gateway to the global research and education community. After AfricaConnect2 the aim will be to further interconnect African regions and continue developing and upgrading connectivity across the continent.
Any type of not-for-profit research and education activity can use the network. It is especially suited to data-intensive, bandwidth-hungry projects requiring reliable high-speed connectivity, but can equally be used to provide fast access to conventional web-based resources from all over Africa and other parts of the world.
Specific research applications cover areas such as health, bio-medical sciences, climate, agriculture, education and environment.
How successful do you think the AfricaConnect2 project will be?
AfricaConnect2 is building on the proven success of its predecessor networks, AfricaConnect in South-East Africa and EUMEDCONNECT in the Mediterranean, including North Africa.
The demand for high-speed reliable bandwidth for research and education in Africa is high. AfricaConnect2 comes at a time when global collaboration needs to be the norm if we want to solve the challenges faced by humanity.
By enabling students, researchers and academics to exchange precious information quickly and in a reliable way, AfricaConnect2 will accelerate the development of global societal and scientific breakthroughs, establishing Africa as a major player in the fields of research and education.
Why should research and education communities use AfricaConnect2?
AfricaConnect2 delivers high-bandwidth connections that are free from the congestion and expense of commercial internet traffic. Once their host institution is connected, researchers, academics and students can benefit from advanced connectivity at no extra cost.
How do I connect to AfricaConnect2?
If you are an established or aspiring national research and education network (NREN) seeking to benefit from AfricaConnect2, the first step is to contact your regional networking organisation:
- ASREN in North Africa.
- WACREN in West and Central Africa.
- UbuntuNet Alliance across Southern and Eastern Africa.
Click here for contact details.
If you are an education or research institution, please contact your local NREN to gain network access.