UN project to reduce Africa’s brain drain

images_19.jpgScientists at a Senegalese university are the first to benefit from a United Nations-backed project aimed at providing colleges in five African countries with the technology and tools needed to prevent the migration of graduates and reduce the continent’s “brain drain.”

The installation of the first computing grid at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar is part of a joint initiative by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Hewlett-Packard and the Grid Computing Institute of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

Grid computing is a hardware and software infrastructure that clusters and integrates high-end computer networks, databases and scientific instruments from multiple sources to form a virtual environment in which users can work collaboratively.

Connected over the Internet, these sets of servers or computers make it possible to process and store data and to multiply computing power and speed.

The University’s grid node, set up by the Grid Computing Institute of the CNRS, is the first sub-Saharan African component of the grid infrastructure created in 2004 by the European Union.

“Launching this first link represents an important step in bridging the digital divide between North and South,” UNESCO said in a news release.

“It will facilitate international scientific cooperation for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole and for Senegal in particular. Thanks to this link, scientists at the University now have access to considerable information technology resources,” the agency added.

The joint project “Reversing Brain Drain into Brain Gain for Africa” follows the successful implementation of a similar UNESCO/Hewlett-Packard initiative for Southeast Europe, launched in 2003.

That effort helped create websites, databases and new research projects in several universities in the region. Four universities have become entirely self-sustainable in the use of grid technology and the project continues in three others.