What are National Research and Education Networks?

Research and education organisations are huge users of national and international communication networks and services. A National Research and Education Network (NREN) is a dedicated Internet infrastructure and service provider to the research and educational communities within a country (Source TERENA). NRENs provide connectivity and services to higher education establishments (typically universities) and research institutes, national and international Communities of Practice, but can also support schools, further education colleges, libraries and other public institutes. In some cases, services may be also provided to other sectors such as government and healthcare, for example. The primary focus of all NRENs is arguably therefore to connect universities and research institutes as well as further institutes, libraries and museums. There are NRENs in many countries in Europe, Latin America and Africa at different levels of maturity. NRENs are a vital component in e-Learning, e-Science and e-Research strategies as they bring a common approach to the coordination and deployment of national and international communication networks and services.

Typically there is a single NREN in each country, although some countries may have specific networks for different research and educational sectors. The organisational and ownership (governance) model for NRENs varies. For example, NRENs can be separately incorporated, government departments, or operated by third parties (often university departments) under contract.

Regional Research and Education Networks

WACREN

WACREN is the West and Central African Research and Education Network. Incubation of the regional network started at AfNOG 2006 and at the Regional Workshop on Research and Education Networks organised by the Association of African Universities (AAU) in Accra in November 2006. The need to build organisational and technical capacity within constituent NREN countries was identified as a requirement for a viable network.

A regional consultative meeting was held in November 2009 as a pre-event to the Open Access Conference 2009. The AAU was given the mandate to identify a Task Team to coordinate activities of working groups to produce documents for the establishment of the Regional Research and Education Network.

Following the meeting of representatives of 11 countries in West Africa and Central Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo) and on the initiative of Research and Education Networking Unit (RENU) of the Association of African Universities (AAU), the first Board of Directors of WACREN was established, composed of nine (9) members and presided by Professor Tiemoman Kone.

Ubuntunet

UbuntuNet Alliance is a regional association of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa. It was established in the latter half of 2005 by five established and emerging NRENs in Eastern and Southern Africa with, these are: MAREN (Malawi), MoRENet, (Mozambique), KENET (Kenya), RwEdNet (Rwanda) and TENET (South Africa). The driving vision was that of securing high speed and affordable Internet connectivity for the African research and education community in Gb/s rather than in Kb/s.

GEANT

GÉANT was formed on 7 October 2014, when its members agreed to change the Articles of Association of TERENA, changing its name to GÉANT Association, and the majority of DANTE shares were transferred to the association. The GÉANT Project is a major area of the association’s work and the association is proud to have adopted the GÉANT name.

RedCLARA

RedCLARA – Cooperación Latino Americana de Redes Avanzadas (Latin American Cooperation of Advanced Networks) – is a non-profit International Law Organisation, whose legal existence is dated on 23 December 2003, when it was acknowledged as such by the legislation of Uruguay.

RedCLARA develops and operates the only Latin American advanced Internet network. Established for regional interconnection and linked to GÉANT (the pan-European advanced network) in 2004 via the ALICE Project (which –until March 2008- was co-funded by the European Commission through its @LIS Programme), RedCLARA provides regional interconnections and connectivity to the world through its international links to GÉANT and Internet2 (USA) and, through them, to the advanced networks of the Caribbean (C@ribnet), Africa (UbuntuNet Alliance), Asia (APAN, TEIN), among others. Thanks to the ALICE2 Project, between December 2008 and March 2012, RedCLARA significantly improved the capacity of its network and expanded its benefits for its members and regional research communities.

RedCLARA is constituted by 13 Latin American countries and its Assembly –where each country has representative- meets every six months to define courses of action and the policies to be implemented.

ASREN

ASREN, the Arab States Research and Education Network, is a non-profit international organisation, registered in Dusseldorf, Germany, on 3rd June 2011, under the umbrella of the League of Arab States. ASREN is the association of the Arab region National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), as well as their strategic partners that aims to implement, manage and extend sustainable Pan-Arab e-Infrastructures dedicated for the research and education communities and to boost scientific research and cooperation in member countries through the provision of world-class e-Infrastructures and e-services.

The goal is to connect Arab institutions among themselves and to the globe through high-speed data-communications networks. Such networks will enable sharing and access to a variety of research services and applications in addition to the utilisation of highly sophisticated and technologically advanced computing resources available only at very few institutions in the world. ASREN aims to boost pan-Arab collaborative research and education projects and activities, contribute to promote scientific research, innovation and education across the Arab region.

What Services Can NRENs Provide to End Users?

The Compendium of National Research and Education Networks in Europe is a comprehensive annual report of the GEANT Association, on the status of European and other NRENs. To illustrate what services a national NREN could provide end users, the Compendium together with relevant reports from other regions have been analysed. Examples of possible services offered by the NRENs are the following:

  • Network and Connectivity Services
  • Middleware Services (Security services, Authentication and mobility services)
  • Collaboration Support Services Network collaboration tools, Networked e-Science and e-Research resources, Support Services like e-Learning, Project development support, Software development, Brokerage)

A strong NREN supported by a strong Regional Research and Education Network such as WACREN could have a major impact on the research and education institutes in a country by facilitating, a range of activities that in turn can then facilitate a wide range of supporting services and initiatives for national and international Communities of Practice and large-scale educational programs. An excellent NREN means that students, educators and researchers would be able to access critical resources and to work together locally, nationally and internationally using contemporary networking and computing facilities.

NRENs play a critical role in the development of critical network infrastructure and networked services for researchers and educators. Facilitating the work of these end users has a major impact on the research benefits that researchers can create and a strong, well-educated population. Both of these in turn can have a major impact on a nation’s economy. NRENs are an asset for a country and a key component to national and international development. In collaboration with WACREN, the TANDEM project is therefore developing a roadmap for the development of NRENs in West and Central Africa.

TANDEM will create a set of dissemination materials demonstrating the benefits of National Research and Education networks with examples of NREN services run by users in Europe and Latin America. The project has already elaborated a first version of the document on the potential of NRENs. These material is in support of the TANDEM National Research and Education Network Survey.