2.2.5 Regional Research and Education Networks

The role of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in providing connectivity to schools cannot be underestimated. NRENs, which for the last decade have also been evolving, in many cases, into Regional Research and Education Networks (RRENs), can help to address pricing inequities across countries by:

a) Aggregating demand among universities and, more broadly, within the school sector;

b) Architecting networks with points of presence across broad and complex geographies; and

c) Working across national boundaries to create regional optical networks. 51

NRENs and RRENs originally were established more than 20 years ago in Europe and the Americas as dedicated networks for the research and education community to support bandwidth-intensive applications in research. In recent years, however, they have been established around the world, increasingly bringing Internet connectivity to schools. 52

At present, about 100 countries in the world have adopted an NREN as the centrepieceof their information and communication technology (ICT) plans for tertiary education institutions and for inter-connecting research institutes and other institutions, such as schools and hospitals. 53

https://edutechdebate.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Global-map_2011.jpg

Source: Edutechdebate, available at : https://edutechdebate.org/research-and-education-networks/the-role-of-nrens-in-national-development/

In many cases, schools are connected through the NREN, which may also be connected to various RRENs. GÉANT, for example, connects students in more than 20,000 primary and secondary schools across 40 countries, linking NRENs throughout Europe.54

In Portugal, the process of providing Internet to schools has been managed by the Portuguese National Foundation for Science Computation, known as FCCN. As a private foundation under the tutelage of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, the FCCN operates an NREN that connects all schools, institutions of higher education and research labs. The Portuguese NREN is, in turn, connected to the European Regional REN called the GEANT network.55

In Namibia, the Xnet Development Alliance Trust, which joined the Ubuntunet Alliance in 2012, was established through a partnership between the incumbent fixed-line telecommunications provider (Telecom Namibia) and a local NGO (SchoolNet Namibia). As a connectivity provider for schools, Xnet’s sole beneficiary from 2004 to 2007 was SchoolNet Namibia. In 2007, Xnet expanded its operations to include all educational institutions. Through partnerships with telecommunications operators in the country, Xnet was able to secure subsidized pricing on behalf of its beneficiaries, which include tertiary institutions, libraries, teacher’s resource centres, vocational training centres, as well as schools. Beyond connectivity, the Xnet ISP offered services such as e-learning, email provisioning, website hosting, spam filtering, etc. 56

As stated by Louis Fox in a recent discussion in the Education Technology Debate:

“NRENs can create leading-edge network capability for the international research community; they enable revolutionary Internet applications; they ensure the rapid transfer of new network services and applications to the broader Internet community; they provide a platform for sharing scientific (and other) applications and resources; they aggregate demand for bandwidth and thereby create “buying clubs,” drive down the cost of bandwidth; and they create social value by including communities outside their primary research university constituencies, like primary and secondary schools, libraries, museums, scientific and cultural institutions. In order to flourish, NRENs must focus on the technical dimensions of data networks and they must also attend to the human dimension, the creation of shareable expertise for support and collaboration across many fields of research and education.57

In the U.S., the K20 Initiative now engages schools in 43 of the 50 states, including more than 70,000 schools and millions of students. It was not conceived at the outset of the creation of Internet2 but has become one of the hallmarks of the U.S.’s advanced R&E network initiatives.58

51 A. Ndiwalana, The Role of NRENs in National Development, available at: https://edutechdebate.org/research-and-education-networks/the-role-of-nrens-in-national-development/

52Regional Strategy for C@ribNET: Provision of Blueprints for the Development and Implementation of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), Blueprint for Barbados. Available at: http://www.ckln.org/home/sites/default/files/Barbados_Blueprint__-_B_&_F[1]_0.pdf

53 Regional Strategy for C@ribNET: Provision of Blueprints for the Development and Implementation of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), Blueprint for Barbados. Available at: http://www.ckln.org/home/sites/default/files/Barbados_Blueprint__-_B_&_F%5b1%5d_0.pdf

54: David West, EUMEDCONNECT3 and European R&E Developments, Abu Dhabi, 17 September 2012.

55 Belo, Rodrigo, “The Effects of Broadband in Schools: Evidence from Portugal, 2011,” available at http://www.heinz.cmu.edu/~rtelang/bb_in_schools.pdf

56Kuria, Wilfred, “NREN Opportunities and Challenges: the Xnet Development Alliance Trust Experience.” Available at: https://edutechdebate.org/research-and-education-networks/nren-opportunities-and-challenges-the-xnet-development-alliance-trust-experience/and Nuance: Newsletter of the Ubuntunet Alliance, April 2012, available at: http://www.ubuntunet.net/april2012and

57: Fox, L., “African NRENs can expand educational opportunities across education sectors,” available at: https://edutechdebate.org/research-and-education-networks/african-nrens-can-expand-educational-opportunities-across-education-sectors/

58: Fox, L., “African NRENs can expand educational opportunities across education sectors,” available at: https://edutechdebate.org/research-and-education-networks/african-nrens-can-expand-educational-opportunities-across-education-sectors/

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