High-speed network, UbuntuNet, reveals benefits of collaboration

November 29, 2012

David Dickson

David Dickson
Correspondent, SciDev.Net

Proof of the potential benefits of cooperation in ICT development between Africa and Europe has come in the form of a high-speed internet network significantly speeding up the communication of data between researchers on the two continents.

The new network is known as UbuntuNet, and represents a collaboration between the UbuntuNet Alliance, the regional research and education network for Southern and Eastern Africa, and DANTE, which operates the pan-European research and education network GÉANT.

The announcement of the network, the first of its kind in Africa, was made during the first day of the 2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Forum on ICT being held in Lisbon, Portugal, and follows a launch in Dar Es-Salaam two weeks ago.

“This new network will not only promote better collaboration between researchers in Africa, but also make it much easier for them to collaborate with researchers in other parts of the world,” Francis Tusubira, the chief executive officer of UbuntuNet, told SciDev.Net

“It’s a big step forward for research in Africa,” he said. “I have always said that even without external support we would get this done. But it might have taken another five years; now support from the European Union means that it has only taken one year.”

Although the UbuntuNet Alliance initially only connected Kenya, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia to Europe, the expansion of the network will provide connectivity to many more countries in the Southern and Eastern African region.

The enhanced network has been launched as part of the AfricaConnect project, which receives funding both from the European Commission, and from African countries that will benefit from it.

Cathrin Stöver, chief of international relations with DANTE, told the Lisbon meeting that European funding had allowed UbuntuNet “to become a truly African backbone”, with African content being aggregated in Africa.

Although it had been “very challenging” to establish a financial model that requires beneficiaries to contribute, the goal was in the process of being achieved — she announced that 60% of the African co-funding had already been committed by African governments, and about 40% of the funding had been received.

“This places UbuntuNet very favourably when it comes to building financial sustainability in the long term,” Stöver said.

This blog post is part of our 2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Forum on ICT blog, which takes place 28-29 November 2012, in Lisbon, Portugal. To read news and analysis on ICTs please visit our website.

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