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.
Jahangirian, M. and Taylor, S.J.E. (2015). Profiling e-Health projects in Africa: trends and funding patterns. Information Development. 31(3): 199-218. (doi:10.1177/0266666913511478).
Kashefi, A., Taylor, S.J.E, Abbott, P., Anagnostou, A., Tessa, O.M., Oaiya, O., Barry, B. and Alline, D. User Requirements for National Research and Education Networks for Research in West and Central Africa. Information Development, (May 2018). doi:10.1177/0266666918774113.
Ogunleye, O.O, Fadare, J.O., Eriksen, J., Oaiya, O, Massele, A., Truter, I., Taylor, S.J.E., Godman, B. and Gustafsson, L.L. (2019). Reported needs of information resources, research tools, connectivity and infrastructure among African Pharmacological Scientists to improve future patient care and health. Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, 12(5): 481-489. https://doi.org/10.1080/17512433.2019.1605903
Spyridonis, F., Taylor, S.J.E., Abbott, P., Barbera, R., Nungu, A., Gustafsson, L.L., Pehrson, B., Oaiya, O. and Banda, T. (2015). A study on the state-of-the-art of e-Infrastructures uptake in Africa. Palgrave Communications 1, Article number 14007 (doi:10.1057/palcomms.2014.7 – 20th January 2015) http://www.palgrave-journals.com/articles/palcomms20147.
- Taylor, S.J.E., Kiss, T., Anagnostou, A., Terstyanszky, G., Kacsuk, P., Costes, J., Fantini, N. (2018). The CloudSME simulation platform and its applications: A generic multi-cloud platform for developing and executing commercial cloud-based simulations. Future Generation Computer Systems, 88: 524-539