The message shared during the IST-Africa2018 conference in Botswana from 9-11 May 2018 was that researchers and government are committed to turn research into knowledge products, implementing policies to strengthen human resource development, towards sustainability and more people becoming entrepreneurs and creating jobs. A condition for this to be successful is however stable Internet connectivity and sufficient bandwidth. Unfortunately too often Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on the African continent have monopolies, which makes Internet connectivity almost unaffordable. The pan-European GÉANT network calculated that citizens from Mali would be charged more than 1 mill. Euro per month, should they want to have Internet access at 300Mbps, something for which a citizen from the Netherlands would pay only 67 Euro per month. Through the AfricaConnect 2 project, GÉANT is making great progress in bringing affordable Internet to African countries. By collaborating with AfricaConnect2, the pan-European GÉANT network strengthens Europe’s links with the African continent and provides African research and education communities with a gateway for global collaborations – also a requirement for successful research data sharing.
Themes covered during the conference included mHealth, mHealth4Africa, technology-enhanced learning, cyber security, next generation computing, research cyber-infrastructure and NRENs, IoT, geospatial sciences and land administration, open data and open science, e-government, mAgriculture, ICT4D and content technologies and many more. The conference had high-level support from the Botswana government, with the welcome done by the Honourable Minister Onkokame Kitso Mokaola (Ministry of Transport and Communications, Botswana) and the opening address by His Excellency President Mokgweetsi Masisi, which referred to ICT as a democratic variable.
The African Open Science Platform project highlighted the importance of research data being shared, with Dr Simon Hodson (Executive Director, CODATA) sharing more on FAIR data principles, the upcoming International Data Week 2018, and Phase 2 of the African Open Science Platform project. The Botswana Open Science Open Data case study was presented by Prof Julius Atlhopheng.
The series of sessions on ICT initiatives, research capacities and priorities provided great insight into the status of 10 of the 18 African IST member countries, and will help to inform the African Open Science Platform further. The AOSP project is further looking forward towards continuing high-level meetings with African governments where interest was indicated by representatives from selected African countries. We are also looking forward welcoming many new individuals becoming part of the African Open Science network.