UbuntuNet Connect 2016
Our Service Manager Zukisani Makalima and NREN Exchange Fellow Rob Bristow recently took to Entebbe, Uganda to attend the UbuntuNet Connect 2016 conference. This had been the 9th Annual Conference of the UbuntuNet Alliance for Research and Education Networking.
The conference took place on the 3rd and 4th November and is regarded as one of the premier conferences in Africa. It is an important event in the calendar each year for all the NRENs and other interested parties in both South and Eastern Africa, and also with our neighbours in West Africa and North Africa and the Middle East. It provides a unique opportunity for technical folk, managers and leaders in the NREN world in Africa to come together to discuss, debate, meet and network. The work of the UbuntuNet Alliance is vital in helping NRENs in its member countries get established and develop. There is also representation from other contents - Géant and NorduNET from Europe and people from South America and the US.
In the pre-conference period there were a number of technical workshops that included a “train the trainers” session in collaboration with the Network Startup Resource Centre <https://www.nsrc.org> to develop NRENs’ capacity to establish their own training programmes, and a “DevOps Bootcamp” for developing technical skills in systems deployment.
The day before the conference there was a one day workshop on engaging users, and a number of people (both from the African NREN community and also from Europe and the US) spoke about the challenge of engaging and listening to users of NREN services.
Recapping on his experiences at the conference Rob said it was thought provoking and the sense at the end was that most NRENs face the same difficulty in getting users to understand the strategic aspects of the way the NREN operates, and to look beyond their own institutional needs and priorities.
Rob said the overall discussion was lively and well informed. He noted that it was clear that many of the emerging NRENs struggle with the same issue around the lure of commodity networks for their users who face continuing budgetary pressures. NRENs see that they must continue to stay relevant, partly by offering added value through services like federated identity management, security and collaboration tools, to keep their members on board.
The main conference theme was "Optimising the Impact of NRENs on Africa's Research”, which was split into a number of themes that included:
•Facilitating access to online research services, which include grid computing, identity management and big data
•NRENs’ direct services to researchers, including videoconferencing, remote instruments and dedicated light paths
•Dissemination of research, including possibilities for NREN and library consortia synergies
•Overarching network issues to better support research, including global connectivity and the reach of African Regional RENs in their regions
The conference presentations are available at: