SANREN/TENET/ASAUDIT Workshop on Federated Identity Management


The SANREN Competency Area at the CSIR Meraka Institute, TENET and ASAUDIT (Association for South African University Directors of Information Technology) held a joint workshop in May 2013 to establish a national federated identity management platform for the research and higher education sector in South Africa.
Federated identity management refers to a set of policies and technical measures that will remove cumbersome barriers making it difficult for members of the research and education community to collaborate and share knowledge. Identity federations allow users to use the log-on credentials from their own institutions to access information, data and services from numerous service providers (e.g. library services, cloud services, commercial services). 
 
The biggest advantage that an identity federation provides is that it allows the creators of services to deploy them without having to maintain their own database of users, thus making it much easier for both the users and service providers to use and access services.
 
Representatives from many universities, science councils, higher education institutions and other scientific research organisations attended the workshop. The workshop consisted of presentations by international experts on identity federation. It culminated in the establishment of a steering committee that will provide oversight and drive the implementation of a federated identity management system for South Africa. Various working groups were also established during the meeting.
 
“Taking the first step towards the formation of a unified Federated Identify organisation will be transformational for research and education in South Africa and in particular for the University of Cape Town. Not only will this trusted approach to access management allow researchers to have better access to South African and International resources, but it will also bring SA in line with International best practices.” commented Sakkie Janse van Rensburg, Executive Director ICT Services at the University of Cape Town.
 
Leon Staphorst, the SANREN Competency Area Manager at the CSIR mentioned that it is high time that South Africa implements a federated identity management service in the research and higher education sector, “We are finding that researchers struggle to participate in local and international collaborations because of something as simple as securely logging on to websites to access shared resources. This workshop has successfully kick-started a process that will eventually remove this barrier for the community”.
 
“Identity Federation is foundational to the work of a mature NREN,” said Duncan Greaves, CEO of TENET. “But it isn’t easy to deploy. Successful implementations require multi-partner co-operation of the kind we’re seeing in this workshop. As we advance South Africa’s NREN to new levels of capability we’ll depend more and more on such multi-player collaborations.”