High and trusted Internet connectivity is a requirement for research conducted towards advancing discoveries and innovation, especially where researchers work in collaboration with peers globally to address challenges faced in terms of diseases, climate change, food security and more. The launch of WACREN – the Western and Central African Research and Education Network providing Internet to universities from West and Central Africa – was a proud moment and a highlight of the WACREN2018 conference, also attended by members of the African Open Science Platform (AOSP). The WACREN2018 Conference from 14 to 16 March 2018 took place in Lomé, Togo, and the event had high-level support from the government, with the conference being opened by the prime minister of Togo, Komi Sélom Klassou.
Although the initial focus of NRENs was to provide connectivity and state-of-the-art affordable bandwidth on demand, more and more there is a move towards also providing value added services to their users, the members of university communities. AOSP had the opportunity to present a paper on ICT support by NRENs to advance collaboration and data sharing among individuals, organisations and countries. NRENs can potentially offer many services to their users through making resources and middleware available through grid and cloud computing. This includes access to the following:
- Centres for High Performance Computing (incl. scientific applications, complex data sets, computing facilities & computing power)
- User controlled light paths
- Federated identity services, security
- Data storage and archives (repositories, data centres)
- Connecting e-resources e.g. electron & astronomical microscopes
- Medical imaging
- Sensor networks
- Capacity building
- Dedicated point-to-point Internet Protocol circuits
One of the outcomes of the African Open Science Platform is an ICT Infrastructure Framework and Roadmap in support of data sharing. The 2015 Africa Data Consensus Study at the High Level Conference on the Data Revolution further calls for such a framework, and AOSP is looking forward working with NREN directors across the continent towards this. WACREN2019 will be hosted by Ghana, and hopefully great progress would have been made towards service delivery for further discussion.