As a combination of ICT-based resources and associated tools and services such as networks, computing systems and scientific data repositories… As a new way of collaborating and sharing resources independently of the researcher’s geographical location…. As a key enabler for virtual global research communities… As a driver for social and economic well-being… e-Infrastructures are definitely changing the way science is carried out!
Researchers are today facing unprecedented levels of complexity in tackling scientific challenges with global societal impact. These challenges cannot be addressed by a single researcher, institution or country. Examples: researching climate change requires complex computer simulations that access data stored in on-line repositories all over the globe; creating individualised models of humans for targeted healthcare requires increasingly sophisticated modelling and simulation; and emulating catastrophes such as pandemics and tsunamis requires researchers to increasingly experiment in virtual worlds rather than in real environments. In all these examples it is essential to bring together scientists from different scientific fields, from different parts of the world, and to give them access to top-of-the-line computational and data resources. This is what e-Infrastructures are about: enabling collaboration, sharing resources, and providing access to information.
The insufficiency of infrastructure on the African continent (Intra-African telecommunications mostly need to be sent via the North due to poor interconnection facilities…) severely constrains economic growth and unfortunately hampers human and social development.
In the meanwhile S&T cooperation between Europe and Africa has now entered a very promising phase. In this framework, e-Infrastructures are logically playing a key role (whereas S&T cooperation between the two continents has to be strengthened) since they provide research organisations with a key opportunity to share access to (regional or global) scientific facilities and to support the development of their collaborative projects. Cooperation between Europe and Africa in the e-Infrastructures field particularly benefits from:
- The signature in October 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, of the “EU-Africa Partnership on Infrastructure” (“creating and sustaining regional infrastructure networks and services”) aiming at interconnecting the African continent (in transport, water, energy, and ICT), identifying EASSy (Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System) as a flagship project, and supported by the creation of the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund,
- The quick development of African National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) and of their interconnection, a momentum supported by the African UbuntuNet Alliance,
- The launch of the EU-funded FEAST study, coordinated by the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), supported by Dante and the TERENA forum and aiming at providing the EC with recommendations concerning the implementation of a NREN backbone in Sub-Saharan Africa,
- Last but not least, the AfricaConnect project supporting the development of NRENs in sub-Saharan Africa and their interconnection with Europe’s GÉANT network
The “2010 Euro-Africa e-Infrastructures Conference” – the first of its kind – is an event that nobody will want to miss. Aiming at standing out as the premier gathering place for all stakeholders engaged (or interested) in the e-Infrastructure domain, everyone concerned with e-Infrastructures developments and exploitation in Africa is very welcome to join the Conference to both share and learn!
Head of Unit
GÉANT and e-Infrastructures
Directorate-General Information Society and Media (DG INFSO)