Reproduced from NUANCE Newsletter:
Since its startup last January, the Somali Research and Education Network (SomaliREN) has made significant progress in terms of establishing itself as the single united voice of the Somali higher education institutions amidst the dividedness of the nation into a number of political groups. Although we haven’t enlisted new members as of yet, a large number of the existing universities in the country have shown their interest in becoming members, and we are working on finalizing the necessary documents and defining the processes for registering new members.
Forming network linkages among the member universities has been an ongoing project carried out in collaboration with KTH. The project has now gone past the network design phase, but has been slow due to the technical challenges on grounds which include the lack of the requisite infrastructure. The three main telecommunications companies rely on terrestrial microwave links to connect the different cities and towns, and do not offer leased line services to their customers. The deployment of fiber optic links is very difficult and costly, especially due to the security condition of the country. However, this trend is set to change as the East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) goes live by the end of the year to connect Berbera and the rest of the country to the international superhighway. The arrival of EASSy at the northern coastline of the country will eventually encourage building the local network infrastructures to facilitate last mile distribution of the bandwidth.
Besides the security issues in parts of Somalia, the issue of piracy along the Somali coastlines presents a challenge to interconnecting these member universities, and also connecting them to the regional networks. This threatens the chance of the NREN fulfilling its technical mandates. However, despite these and many other challenges on the way, SomaliREN is determined to slowly but surely go past them the same way that many other organizations in Somalia have struggled and survived through these times.
Among the success stories of the NREN in its short period of existence is the launch of an EU-funded project to benefit the member institutions in terms of capacity building and improving the quality of higher education. Somali Higher Education Research Networking (SHERNET) project is being implemented in partnership with the University of Nairobi and Jomo Kenyatta University, saw the release of 1 million Euros, which has recently been extended to 1.6 million Euros. SomaliREN has also received an official invitation from the Libyan counterparts to discuss the possibilities of financial assistance to raise the technical capacities of the member universities.
Source: NUANCE Newsletter