[A2k] Claudia Frittelli: African Universities: Ready for the Cloud?

Kim Tucker kctucker at gmail.com
Tue May 22 15:14:04 PDT 2012

There are many dark clouds where the issues outlined in the following apply:


Instead of "essentially leapfrogging to the cloud", how about some
African (and international) innovation leapfrogging _over_ the clouds
to progressive p2p solutions?

Here is one person's take on addressing such issues:



On 22 May 2012 20:20, Manon Ress <manon.ress at keionline.org> wrote:
> http://chronicle.com/blogs/worldwise/african-universities-ready-for-the-cloud/29594
> African Universities: Ready for the Cloud?
> May 21, 2012, 4:12 pm
> By Guest Writer
> The following is a guest post by Claudia Frittelli, a program officer
> at the Carnegie Corporation of New York who helps oversee its effort
> to strengthen African higher education. The grant maker has supported
> several of the organizations mentioned in the opinion article.
> ———————————————————————————
> Cloud computing—which in its most basic form is a virtual server
> available via the Internet—is growing rapidly as the next
> transformational stage of computing. Although most users may be
> unaware, everyday programs like Hotmail, Google Docs, and recently
> announced Google Drive, operate on the cloud principle of fully
> mobile, instantly accessible, and transferable data.
> The educational and social implications for cloud computing in the
> developing world, particularly for the rapidly expanding education
> sector in Africa, are also potentially transformational. In countries
> where electricity is unreliable and educational resources are scarce,
> cloud computing, like the pay-as-you-go mobile phone, can be a
> powerful tool for socio-economic development, capable of liberating
> users from the memory and processor constraints of location-based
> computing. It can also increase the potential for research
> collaborations with global universities.
> African institutions could benefit rapidly—essentially leapfrogging to
> the cloud—given that they are relatively unconstrained by existing IT
> infrastructure. In addition, the fact that users can access the cloud
> directly from their own devices and modems frees up institutional
> electrical power and bandwidth.
> As African universities increasingly work with other higher-education
> institutions on a local and global level, cloud-based management could
> help foster collaboration and sharing of research across
> organizations, decreasing academic isolation, and encouraging African
> researchers to engage in global conversations.
> The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa, which focuses
> on improving public-health research and doctoral training, worked with
> Google to develop a cloud-based virtual research platform enabling
> nine African university partners, four research institutes, and eight
> partners in North America, Europe, and Australia to collaborate on
> research, and manage application processes, online assignments,
> Webinars, and discussion forums.
> By providing access to a hardware and software infrastructure that
> clusters and integrates high-end computer networks, databases, and
> scientific instruments, an Unesco and Hewlett-Packard effort is using
> the cloud to facilitate “brain gain.” The project allows IT-intensive
> science departments of African universities to use the cloud to
> connect students to the valuable experience of emigrated researchers.
> The Center for Higher Education Transformation in South Africa, a
> policy research think tank, is allowing African universities to access
> and manipulate performance data stored on Google’s public data
> platform—a service that would otherwise by limited by their own IT
> infrastructure. The American Council of Learned Society’s African
> Humanities Program is now using Facebook to communicate with its
> fellows and peer reviewers and to announce requests for proposals,
> seminars, and publications.
> Dropbox, a Web-based file hosting service, is advancing
> student-centered learning by making it possible for students and
> academic staff to share assignments for peer review and manage large
> workloads together. The cloud provides an equitable platform for the
> Open Educational Resource (OER) movement, which gives public access to
> educational materials, and allows users the flexibility and technology
> they need to create more innovative and interactive online
> environments. Organizations like OER Africa are ensuring that African
> educators are active contributors.
> There are of course drawbacks to cloud computing, including security
> and privacy concerns. Universities, especially smaller ones, must
> consider whether their data is less secure when stored remotely on a
> vendor’s servers. And cloud-stored data is subject to the potentially
> arbitrary enforcement of privacy and security laws of the country
> where the servers are located.
> Bandwidth connectivity is the most crucial success factor. Even if
> users bypass an institution’s bandwidth, they are still constrained by
> a country’s bandwidth speed, cost, and regulation. Fiber optic cables,
> now being laid on African coasts, some with landing points at
> universities, will help ease some of these impediments to the cloud’s
> on-ramp.
> Despite the potential obstacles, it’s clear that extending the reach
> of sophisticated, high-powered computing technology to universities on
> the continent could effectively bridge the gap separating Africa’s
> researchers from their counterparts in developed nations.
> --
> Manon Anne Ress
> Knowledge Ecology International
> 1621 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 500
> Washington, DC 20009 USA
> http://www.keionline.org
> manon.ress at keionline.org
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