“How can I even think about communicating when I’m insecure about being considered a Research and Education Network or not, as I am not connected yet?” An important question raised during the communications and visibility workshop on the 23rd of November co-located at the 11th UbuntuNet-Connect conference held in Zanzibar.

A highlighted response to this question was that the reason why you are putting in effort on a daily to support researchers and students in terms of network, be it physical infrastructures or human networks, is already good enough.

After Hastings Ndebvu (UbuntuNet Alliance) and Dimple Sokartara (GÉANT) shared their findings and best practices from other parts of the world, this important question was discussed by representatives of SomaliRENMAREN, MaliREN, Eko-Konnect, KENET, i RENALA, MoRENet, TERNET, and BERNET, with a representative from the European Commission carefully listening and providing input after the workshop. Additionally, the participants expressed their concern that they think something ‘big’ and ‘positive’ needs to happen for forms of communication to come into the picture. Being part of a community that strives to support students and researchers to have the best toolkit for their studies and careers, shouldn’t demotivate members on sharing content, albeit stories that show challenges rather than successes. A response that quickly came up, which lead to a stimulating discussion where all participants of the workshop shared their views on these topics. This was exactly, what this first workshop was intended for: African NRENs empowering each other, brainstorming on how to go about communication activities, and identify the needs of communications support.

In just 1.5 hours time, participants not only discussed aforementioned issues but were also asked to come up with an impromptu communications strategy based on a presented made-up case. This exercise tackled another common issue which is lack of funds and resources. Without realising, the participants showed themselves how basic communications activities could be rolled out. The help of the UbuntuNet Alliance and GÉANT, through the AfricaConnect2 project, in terms of communication was then emphasised, informing the participants that there is manpower to be found through the project but also in the global community. A great example is the Global PR Network that has a mailinglist and meets once a year to share insights.

The workshop ended with a motivational speech by Dr. Magreth Mushi (CEO TERNET) and some concrete action points that aims to support African NRENs in raising awareness on challenges, successes, and share any type of relevant content. The first step being to create a group where all interested members can raise any question, issue or idea.

Interested to be included in this group? Please send an e-mail to dimple.sokartara@geant.org.