In the last five years, Africa's technology focus has been on infrastructure, exploring ways to lower connectivity costs and pushing networks to underserved and economically unattractive areas. With the costs falling and network infrastructure improving, focus has shifted to local content, and National Research and Education Networks (RENs) are on the forefront of increasing local content development.
For many RENs, support from governments and private sector institutions has helped in bringing more students and content online. In the private sector, Google Inc has worked with RENs by supporting universities directly through infrastructure support or working with students to generate content.
Google has an ongoing project to support RENs in six African countries; Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal. The work with universities focuses on adoption of Internet tools to enhance communication and collaboration (tools like Google apps), training for both students and staff, enhancement of ICT skills capacity and addressing infrastructure challenges such as campus networks and bandwidth.
The projects have complimented other efforts by governments and universities, aimed at bringing more students online. For instance, in Kenya, Google is working with several public and private universities, and there is also an ongoing bandwidth subsidy to the universities, from the government through the Kenya Education Network (KENET).
Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) endeavors to increase collaboration and partnership between various stakeholders for the benefit of interconnection costs, connecting people and eventually bringing more people online.
"With more universities getting online, a large part of the continent's population is getting access to tools that allow them to not only consume content online but also contribute to that content. Students and staff are reaching out and unlocking silos of information that were previously inaccessible to the masses, we are seeing more universities publishing research papers because they understand the true value of information when it’s shared beyond borders," says John Wesonga, Technical Program Manager, Google Apps Supporting Programs in Sub Saharan Africa.
In the development and growth of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), RENs have played a major role in development of content. This year at AfPIF, there will be discussion on innovative ways that RENs can use to develop local content and grow businesses.
Join us at AfPIF between September 3rd and 5th as we discuss the Role of Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in developing local content.