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» 24.03.2011 - How cyber-activism lent savvy to North African protests
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» 15.12.2009 - Clean energy fund for poor countries launched in Copenhagen
» 09.11.2009 - African mobile market continues to develop at a rapid rate

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Technology | Science - Education

Open-source software intakes African universities

Representatives from African and Spanish universities discussing an open-software project

© Andrés Pardo/afrol News
afrol News, 9 June
- Academic research software is still unavailable in many African universities. Now, universities in Senegal, Mozambique, Cameroon, Madagascar and Equatorial Guinea work with partners in Catalonia to fill this gap.

A large number of African universities, plagued by small and sporadic budgets, have only basic IT networks that focus on applications such as email or financial management. However, information relating to academic research is mostly still processed inefficiently and by hand.

In January, five African universities in the midst of modernisation attempts teamed up with eight public universities in the Spanish autonomous province of Catalonia to develop cheap but efficient software solutions that could address this lack of infrastructure.

Now, the project is bearing fruit. Later this week, a delegation of fourteen representatives from the five African universities is to visit Barcelona from today to set out the specific functions required by each application and to start work on their development. The idea is that these new programmes be functioning within a year.

Beatriz Silva from the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) told afrol News that the aim of the African-Spanish project is to develop "three new programmes based on existing free software applications." The workshop in Barcelona is to define the functionalities which each of these softwares have to fulfil.

"During the next year, the African universities will develop these softwares, together with Catalan experts in this field," Ms Silva explains. "The development will be lead by the African universities. Once the programmes are developed, we will organise another workshop and a training programme to prepare the installation of these programs in the African universities."

The advantage of creating applications using free and open-source software is that, as well as not having to pay for the programmes, universities can adapt them to their needs, according to the UOC. Applications are scheduled to be developed in three areas: to consult the specialities of each university; to systematise calls, and to manage both the scientific and financial aspects of projects.

When developed and installed, the IT applications for research management aim at increasing "the visibility of and strengthen the work carried out in the field of academic research at five important African universities," according to the UOC.

The five African universities participating in the project are Senegal's Cheikh Anta Diop, Mozambique's Eduardo Mondlane, Cameroon's Yaoundé I, Madagascar's Antananarivo and Equatorial Guinea's National University.

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