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CERN/ITU/UNU help build momentum for African research and education networking

Geneva, 22 September 2005. As part of efforts to implement the outcome of the first World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), held in Geneva in 2003, the United Nations University (UNU1) in collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU2) and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN3) will hold an International Workshop on African Research and Education Networking to promote scientific cooperation with and within Africa, through the development of networking infrastructure. The event, to be hosted by CERN, takes place in Geneva from September 25-27, 2005.

Faster, reliable and more affordable Internet access is widely recognized as one of the key factors for enhancing research and education efforts in African academic and research institutions, which are the target audience for the workshop. For the first time, this workshop brings together representatives of all key stakeholders: African academic and research institutions, international coordinators, funding agencies, grass-roots implementers and industry. "This  is an important step since it seeks to share experiences, create synergies and a common platform for cooperation which will lead to a well thought and sustainable solution to bridge the digital divide" emphasized Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of ITU and Secretary-General of the World Summit on the Information Society.

The workshop will provide tangible results, in the form of concrete recommendations for actions, to the Preparatory Committee for the WSIS, which is meeting in Geneva on 12-30 September in advance of the Summit, which takes place in Tunis in November.

As part of its deliberations, the workshop will review major networking initiatives and achievements in Africa, as well as share experiences on successes and failures, with a view to drawing lessons that would promote and strengthen on-going and future initiatives in the continent. "In doing this, the workshop will provide an avenue for candid discussion among the participants," said workshop co-chair Hans Hoffmann of CERN. "These will include telecoms operators, international organizations involved in networking academic and scientific institutions, and donors as well as representatives from African academic and research institutions among the participating countries."

In particular, participants will review results of case studies from participating countries as part of a major feasibility study on a pan-African University Network (AFUNET), funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). The workshop will also highlight results of recent meetings on extending African university connectivity, organized by Internet2, the US university-led research network developer and the Canadian IDRC (International Development Research Centre).

The objectives of the workshop include consulting with African academic and research institutions on their needs, strengthening collaboration between them and other stakeholders, compiling a report on case studies and agreeing on business principles for a future AFUNET. The workshop will produce a strategic plan of implementation that will be presented to the WSIS Preparatory Committee, and which will form a blue print for the way forward.

CERN, where the Web was born, serves a global community of scientists, and has traditionally supported efforts to provide better network access for scientists in developing countries. CERN supports in particular actions to make contents of publicly funded education and research freely accessible on the web, and to connect all universities with sufficient bandwidth that they can exploit this information.

The workshop at CERN is organized with the close cooperation of organizations promoting international academic and research networks: DANTE, the Internet Educational Equal Access Foundation, Internet2, the Internet Society, the French national education and research network and the Trans-European research and Education Networking association. In addition, the workshop will include representatives of European governments, the European Union, and UN organizations such as UNESCO and the World Health Organization. Representatives from over half of all African countries will actively participate in the workshop. The international telecoms industry and regional telecoms service providers will be also represented, the workshop being co-sponsored by Cisco.

For more information and to consult the programme, visit the website of the workshop.

1. UNU. The United Nations University’s key mission is to contribute through research and capacity-building, to finding original, forward-looking solutions to the most pressing problems that concern the United Nations, its Peoples and Member States. The value of the UNU - as a University, yet within the UN System - is that it not only seeks responses at a theoretical level, but also concerns itself with the down-to-earth need for practical action.
2. The ITU , headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland is an international organization within the United Nations System where governments and the private sector coordinate global telecom networks and services. It does this through its three bureaus; Radio communication, Standardization and Development Sectors in cooperation and partnerships with its members and sector members. To continue fulfilling its mandate, the ITU has evolved and adapted its structure and mandate over the past 140 years. Today there are 189 Member States and 637 Sector Members. From Africa, there are 53 member states and 81 sector members.
3. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have Observer status.