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e-Infrastructures for Africa

e-Infrastructures are complex, integrated collections of digital technologies ranging from open access repositories, web-based software applications to high performance grid and cloud computing. These enable communities of scientists to collaborate internationally using advanced digital applications. e-Infrastructures underpin many advances in Open Science (e.g. Open access repositories for data and publications).

National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) are organisations that oversee the development and provision of communication networks and supporting digital technologies and e-Infrastructure services at a national level. Prior to 2008, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) had little in terms of NRENs or e-Infrastructures.

In 2008 the European Commission commissioned the FEAST study to roadmap strategies to creating both physical networks and African NRENs linked to European NRENs. These led to the AfricaConnect programmes which have had a major impact in SSA and the emergence of SSA NRENs, especially the Regional Research and Education Networks coordinating and leading efforts between the emerging SSA NRENs (Ubuntunet Alliance (East and South SSA) and WACREN (West and Central Africa)). In this context, this research has advanced the emergence of African NRENs and African e-Infrastructures and in turn has affected many research and education end users across Africa.

In 2009, Taylor led the FP7 ERINA4Africa project (2009-2011) that established for the first time the impact of e-Infrastructures in Africa in terms of the Millennium Development Goals (now the Sustainable Development Goals) by creating several innovative African-based e-Infrastructure and e-Science demonstrators. The results from this identified that e-Infrastructures had major potential for Africa, that the emerging African NRENs had a significant role to play in terms of emerging African economies. For example, our eHealth application survey identified funding dependency, the provision of suitable communication networks and use of unsupported technologies as major factors in project failure. However, the diversity of e-Infrastructure technologies and architecture and speed of technological change makes baseline innovation difficult to develop.

Work carried out by Taylor in industry as part of the FP7 CloudSME project that recognised that end user access to complex software and e-Infrastructure services could be simplified by creating web-based front ends or, in this context, science gateways. As Technical Coordinator of the FP7 eI4Africa project (2012-2014), Taylor proposed a reference architecture for African e-Infrastructures that assisted emerging NRENs to understand fundamental service provision. This led to several African NRENs expanding their services and further application development, and several scientific communities adopting their own science gateways (sophisticated web-based frontends to e-Infrastructures) and services. To broaden the impact of this work, the H2020 Sci-GaIA project (2015-2017) created a standard set of training material for Hackfests that enabled many scientists to create a range of science gateway-based applications. Significantly, this project also created an approach for NRENs to develop African-based open access repositories to support Open Science. This is having a widespread impact on African Scientists by enabling access to the outputs of their research. For example, this, and the Science Gateway approach, have now been adopted in the WACREN NREN Services Roadmap over 11 African countries (REF2).

Work continues and we welcome collaborators.

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Publications


Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Professor Simon Taylor - Simon J E Taylor is a Professor of Computer Science specialising in Modelling & Simulation and Digital Infrastructures.  He has made many contributions to manufacturing, health care and international development.  He has worked with international consortia (in particular UNICT, WACREN and the UBUNTUNET ALLIANCE) to contribute to the development of National Research and Education Networks in Africa that has impacted over 3 million students and 300 universities. He has also worked with international consortia (in particular Saker Solutions, the University of Westminster, SZTAKI and CloudSME UG) to develop high performance simulation systems that are being used by over 30 European SMEs and large-scale enterprises such as the Ford Motor Company and Sellafield PLC.  He also contributes to the development of Open Science principles and practice for Africa and for Modelling & Simulation as a field. He has led modules in distributed computing in the Department of Computer Science for many years with high module evaluations scores and is an enthusiastic teacher.  He has also led the development of several postgraduate degrees.  He has supervised over 20 doctoral students, has examined more than 25 doctoral students from across the world and has managed over 15 research fellows. Professor Taylor co-founded and is a former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Simulation and the UK Operational Research Society Simulation Workshop Series.  He chaired ACM SIGSIM between 2005-2008 and since then has been an active member of the ACM SIGSIM Steering Committee. He has chaired international standardisation groups under the Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization and has conducted several organisational review panels (e.g., DSTL) and simulation audits. He is currently the executive chair for the annual Simulation Exploration Experience (https://www.exploresim.com/) and a member of the Computer Simulation Archive steering committee (https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/computer-simulation/).  He has also chaired several conferences and is the General Chair for the IEEE/ACM 2025 Winter Simulation Conference.

Related Research Group(s)

Computer Science for Social Good

Computer Science for Social Good - Our group works with partners in the Global South to lead and promote interdisciplinary research in the field of computer science and social good. We focus on investigating and developing new ways and innovative technologies to address challenging socio-economic problems.


Project last modified 19/10/2021