Author: Harold Bowa, UbuntuNet Alliance
The 16th annual UbuntuNet Alliance conference, UbuntuNet-Connect 2023, held in Kampala, Uganda, on October 26th and 27th, was an unqualified success. Hosted by the Research and Education Network of Uganda (RENU), this year’s conference surpassed all expectations and made a lasting impact for several remarkable reasons.
One of the standout features of UbuntuNet-Connect 2023 was the remarkable participation it garnered. The innovative online registration system streamlined the registration process, making it quick and convenient. The response from the research and education community was overwhelmingly positive, with many participants taking advantage of the early bird registration period. Even after the registration window had officially closed, a flood of enthusiastic attendees continued to request participation, ultimately exceeding the target with a total registration of 251 participants.
In addition, UbuntuNet-Connect 2023 witnessed a surge in interest, with an outstanding 114 abstracts submitted for consideration. This remarkable response reflected a wealth of knowledge and willingness to contribute to the research and education community. It also meant that the conference was packed with the very best presentations. Ultimately, 31 paper presentations and four-panel discussions were selected, ensuring high-quality content and enriching discussions.
Moreover, UbuntuNet-Connect 2023 included pre-conference events that left a lasting impact. The first-ever Women Hackathon, organized by UbuntuNet Alliance, trained 15 young girls from across the region and provided them with the opportunity to deliver lightning talks during the conference’s closing plenary. This empowering initiative reflects the alliance’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity. Additionally, the Open Science Training for Librarians trained 20 librarians from the region, furthering the cause of open and accessible knowledge.
The RENU team’s dedication and hard work ensured that participants had a world-class experience at the conference. Their commitment to delivering a top-tier event was evident in their meticulous planning and coordination, reflecting the honour of hosting the annual research and education community of Eastern and Southern Africa. They went the extra mile, employing services from Uganda’s best to guarantee a seamless and memorable event for all.
The conference also marked an emotional farewell to Prof. Stephen Simukanga, the outgoing UbuntuNet Alliance board chairperson. Prof. Simukanga’s visionary leadership has overseen the alliance’s remarkable growth and success during his two terms. His inspiring farewell speech, filled with encouragement and well-wishes for his successor, resonated deeply within the community as we bid him a fond farewell and wished him all the best in his future endeavours.
UbuntuNet-Connect 2023 also took the opportunity to honour three pioneering figures in the African research and education community: Dr. Yousef Torman (ASREN CEO), Dr. Boubakar Barry (WACREN CEO), and Prof. Tusu Tusubira (UbuntuNet Alliance’s first CEO). These luminaries played a significant role in laying the foundations for the remarkable progress in research and education across the continent. Read more on this here.
Additionally, UbuntuNet-Connect 2023 included pre-conference events that left a lasting impact. The first-ever Women Hackathon, organized by UbuntuNet Alliance, trained 15 young girls from across the region and provided them with the opportunity to deliver lightning talks during the conference’s closing plenary. This empowering initiative reflects the alliance’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity. Additionally, the Open Science Training for Librarians trained 20 librarians from the region, furthering the cause of open and accessible knowledge.
A series of special announcements marked the conference. None was more fantastic than the announcement of AfricaConnect 4. The fourth iteration of the Africa Connect project, co-funded by the EU, which has overseen the building of the African internet connectivity backbone for research and education, has been approved. This marks a significant commitment by the EU and all partners to continue supporting the digital transformation journey of the research and education community of Africa.
The success of UbuntuNet-Connect 2023 would not have been possible without the support of dedicated sponsors and partners. Gold sponsors, including MTN Uganda, AWS, Bandwidth Cloud Services, and Simplifi Networks, showcased their products through exhibitions and delivered presentations in various parallel sessions. Silver sponsors, such as Tellistic Technologies, Line Optics, RDCT, Internet Society Foundation, and the Uganda Communications Commission, provided essential support, as did bronze sponsors Figshare, Mantra, Core2Africa, and Liberty Insurance.
Partners like the European Union, who supported the event through the AfricaConnect3 project, and IUCEA (Inter-University Council for East Africa) played crucial roles in funding, sourced from GIZ, and facilitating the conference. RENU, the hosting organization, also contributed significantly to ensure the conference’s success. These partners went above and beyond, not sparing any penny, to ensure that the conference was a success.
UbuntuNet-Connect 2023 was a resounding success that will be remembered for years. It brought together an enthusiastic and engaged community, showcased exceptional presentations, and celebrated the dedication of its sponsors, partners, and organizing committee. As we bid farewell to this outstanding event, we look forward to UbuntuNet-Connect 2024, to be held in Tanzania, with great anticipation, expecting even more breakthroughs, innovations, and collaborative strides in the realm of research and education across Eastern and Southern Africa.