Boosting Online Learning and Research in South Africa

Image sourced from PIxabay.

South African universities are poised for major advances in connectivity and research, thanks to a collaborative project with Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South African National Research Network (SANReN), the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (TENET), and Dark Fibre Africa (DFA).

This initiative aims to revolutionize South African higher education with widespread fiber connectivity, fostering equitable access to resources and opportunities.

“To address this gap, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) funded CSIR to establish SANReN in the early 2000s. SANReN aimed to provide reliable connectivity to research councils and institutions, enhancing knowledge sharing and competitiveness. CSIR’s key role in incubating SANReN marked a significant milestone in South Africa’s connectivity landscape,” says Sabelo Dlamini, Director at SANReN.

DFA’s participation is a strategic step toward realizing the vision of seamless academic connectivity for all universities and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. This will involve deploying fiber optic networks to interconnect universities, interfacing with their existing network infrastructure. This partnership empowers universities with greater control over their networks, ensuring faster and more reliable connectivity.

According to Praveen Govender, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at DFA, the primary focus of this project is eradicating digital disparities among universities, ensuring that every institution (and student) has access to state-of-the-art resources.

“Our collaboration with CSIR and SANReN aligns perfectly with DFA’s vision to unlock human potential through connectivity. We’ll enable them to harness the full potential of digital learning with seamless access to online learning materials, advanced research tools, and remote collaboration across institutions,” says Govender.

The project will enhance education and research in the country by offering robust and reliable connectivity, overcoming challenges like load shedding, power outages, and slow speeds that affect academic institutions. Improved connectivity will also enable academic networks to leverage technologies like DWDM for better services.

“The partnership with DFA demonstrates our dedication to providing equitable connectivity to universities across the nation. We are committed to bridging the digital gap, ensuring that students and researchers in any public university and research council in every corner of South Africa can excel with equal access to connectivity,” Dlamini explains.

“Furthermore, we believe this collaborative effort will not only benefit academia but will pave the way for improved service delivery by government agencies and open doors for economic growth. As DFA rolls out its network backbone, other enterprises and organizations will gain access to high-speed connections, enabling them to serve their communities more effectively as well.”