Reliable ICT Infrastructure a condition for research data sharing – African NRENs to play an important role

Whether it will be called a guideline, a roadmap or a framework – all participants during the AOSP ICT Infrastructure meeting held on 14 May 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa were in agreement that a document guiding African countries in preparing ICT infrastructures in support of research data sharing, will be of benefit to all. The one day meeting brought together key stakeholders. African regional NRENs (National Research Education Networks) attendees included Dr Pascal Hoba (Chief Executive Officer, UbuntuNet Alliance), Dr Ousmane Moussa Tessa (Chief Executive Officer, NigerREN & member of the WACREN Board, on behalf of Dr Boubakar Barry (Executive Director, WACREN), Dr Yousef Torman (Managing Director, ASREN) and Dr Leon Staphorst (Executive Director, SANRen).

The objective of this meeting was to help NRENs better understand the needs experienced by collaborative data intensive research projects, and for NRENs to consider future service delivery in support of research data. The three projects represented included H3ABioNet (Prof Nicky Mulder, Head: Computational Biology, UCT & Lead: H3ABioNet), GBIF (Dr Mélianie Raymond, Senior Programme Officer for Node Development, GBIF Secretariat) and Dr Jasper Horrell (representing the Square Kilometre Array Organisation, SA).

Regional NRENs represented indicated that they are in full support of working with AOSP on developing and populating a framework as part of service delivery to their research communities, and to also invite national NRENs in their respective regions to explore opportunities. Important elements to be included in such a document have been identified, and the group will continue as a working group, building on what is already in place through the SADC Cyberinfrastructure Framework, of which an overview was provided by Prof Colin Wright. This framework was approved by SADC ministers in June 2016, and the next step would be to revisit the existing framework and to adapt – where needed – for the whole of Africa, with input from key stakeholders across Africa. It was also clear that – through possible partnerships and lessons learned from KENET, Ilifu, DIRISA, Sci-GaIA and more, the design, development and implementation of ICT infrastructures in support of data sharing and curation can become a reality – sooner rather than later.

The AOSP ICT Infrastructure Framework will be tested during various stages and across different domains, before it will be finalized to be shared with African countries interested in advancing the sharing and responsible management of data.

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