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

Seth Johnson seth.p.johnson at gmail.com
Tue May 22 15:37:04 PDT 2012

Right, and this is where the free software community can provide the
ready-made constituency coupled with technical savvy that's needed to
claim the Net as the fundamentally P2P medium that it is.  Those Jay
Sulzberger calls the "Englobulators" want us to debate policy based on
the putting our data on other people's servers -- "the cloud" -- as
that 1) neutralizes the advocates, notably the privacy advocates, and
2) in general, allows policy to be developed prior to end users
getting a clue en masse.  c.f. all Eben Moglen's recent speeches,
including the latest I'm waiting for a video to be available for, one
he gave today at David Isenberg's annual Freedom-To-Connect


On Tue, May 22, 2012 at 6:14 PM, Kim Tucker <kctucker at gmail.com> wrote:
> There are many dark clouds where the issues outlined in the following apply:
> http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/who-does-that-server-really-serve.html
> 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:
> http://autonomo.us/2010/08/the-libre-web-application-stack/
> Kim
> 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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