New technologies support collaborative education and research
By Dr Boubakar Barry
The world is interdependent. We have known it for some time. But with COVID-19, we are now experiencing it. We also know that addressing global challenges requires us to work together.
New technologies ignore borders and can connect the world’s brightest minds to collaborate and accelerate research, drive innovation and enrich education. But, without access to new technologies, African researchers, professors and students could be left out. Africa has not been a significant contributor and user of world research and innovation. Statistics by UNESCO shows that Africa contributes to less than 2% of the world’s research output and has only 91 researchers per million people compared to 4272 for North America and Western Europe. This is largely due to low Internet penetration caused by lack of connectivity; and where there is connectivity, it is usually unaffordable.
That is why AfricaConnect presents a great promise for a more collaborative approach among African research and education communities. It does not only establish high-speed networks to interconnect universities, colleges and research centers across Africa, but also deploys a wide range of services that allow instructors, scientists and students to seamlessly access a wealth of invaluable education and research resources. These include cloud technologies, high performance computing, digital repositories, online libraries, and ODeL (Open and Distance eLearning) as a means for disruptive access to higher education.
The potential of AfricaConnect cannot be overestimated. Africa hosts 38 National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) accounting for around a third of the world’s total. Each NREN serves the ICT needs of its national research and education communities. At an upper level, NRENs are interconnected through regional networks to make up part of the global fabric of research and education networks.
As CEO of WACREN, the regional Research and Education network for West and Central Africa, I work closely with my counterparts in our sister organisations covering North Africa (ASREN) and East and Southern Africa (UbuntuNet Alliance). Together, we implement the AfricaConnect project and, as of today, we connect 6.2 million researchers and…