While brain drain is affecting most of academic institutions in developing world, the School of Computing and Informatics Technology of Makerere University has managed to be an exception so far. The School has attracted numerous PhD holders worldwide to deliver teaching and research in computing disciplines. These include local, regional, and international staff who obtained their PhDs in some of world's highly reputed institutions. The outflow of the PhD holders so far, although cannot ne neglected, is at minimum level. This cannot be generalized to the whole university however, neither can the number of staff at the School of CIT be confirmed retained for in the long run. For most of the staff in the School of CIT, the major challenge they face is the lack of necessary resources to execute relevant research for local communities. This has been frustrating and may well lead to enthusiast staff to decide to leave. There is a need to retain the existing capacity by engaging and facilitating them in developing innovative research leading to ICT-based solutions, mainly focusing on addressing unique community challenges. UNESCO-HP initiative is an opportunity that can lead to a significant step toward accomplishing this.
In addition, this project shall provide support to our long-term plan of establishing For most of the staff in the School of CIT, the major challenge they face is the lack of necessary resources to execute relevant research for local communities. This has been frustrating and may well lead to enthusiast staff to decide to leave. Thereis a need to retain the existing capacity by engaging and facilitating them in developing innovative research leading to ICT-based solutions, mainly focusing on addressing unique community challenges. UNESCO-HP initiative is an opportunity that can lead to a significant step toward accomplishing this.
In addition, this project shall provide support to our long-term plan of establishing an African Center of Excellence for Innovative ICT Solutions for Developing Countries. Such a center requires close collaborations and partnership with other institutions in developing countries in Africa and Asia, all of which share common challenges. The UNESCO-HP initiative we are responding to, through the promised e-infrastructure for education, will offer a perfect platform to facilitate such collaborations. We propose partnership and networking missions to initiate linkages between Makerere university and institutions in Western and Northern Africa and Arabic countries, which currently is completely nonexistent. Finally, although not least, we propose to enhance existing collaborations in the School of CIT with diasporas.
In general, our project has three key objectives, namely, encouraging locally relevant ICT innovations, establishing collaborations with other institutions through networking, and building capacity in distributed networking. Our specific objectives in this project are as follows:
- Fostering ICT innovations that address local problems
- Facilitating existing staff in executing relevant research
- Enhancing partnership with local institutions
- Forging collaborations with other institutions in developing countries
- Building capacity in distributed computing in Uganda's higher education institutions
- Enhancing collaboration with partnering diasporas
3. Type(s) of activities
To achieve the above objectives, we propose the following key activities:
Project proposal and implementation
This activity shall involve calling for project proposals from staff and students in all Ugandan public universities. We shall identify projects 4 projects that target at addressing local challenges, and that propose implementing ICT-based solutions to address them. We propose to usesome of the fund that will be availed to facilitate implementations of these projects.
Visits to other beneficiary Institutions
Makerere University School of Computing and IT has established itself as a regional centre of excellence in ICT training and research. In turn, the School has established a huge network of partners (local, regional, and international; academic, public and private) from all over the world.
Unfortunately, most of our partners are from developed countries, or local/regional. We don't have any partner from West Africa, North Africa, and Middle East. This activity is proposed bridge the gap between the institutions in these regions in order to forge collaborations to institutions in those regions. To start with, we propose one visit to two of the three regions. A top university in computing discipline or beneficiary of UNESCO-HP project in two of the three mentioned regions shall be identified for the visit. Senior members of staff in School of ICT management shall be facilitated to visit the institutions to establish long term collaborations, mainly with ICT units of the universities.
Seminars on distributed computing
The seminars will train staff and students from Ugandan institutions on distributed computing. It is worth mentioning that the School of Computing and IT has already established very close links with other public universities, namely Kyambogo University, Mbarara University, Gulu University, and Busitema University. This was possible through previously funded projects by NUFFIC (and still on-going) that aimed at building capacity in public universities in Uganda1. This activity shall
further enable us to work together and enhance the existing relationship. In the long run, we expect to have all pubic universities connected using the e-infrastructure promised by UNESCO-HP project.
Visits to network with diasporas
Makerere University School of Computing and IT has established contact with a number of diasporas, and have initiated a number of collaborative activities in the past. For instance, Prof. Joseph Kizza of College of Engineering and Computer Science the University of Tennessee- Chattanooga USA, a Ugandan by origin and our partner in this project, has been closely involved in organizing an Annual International Conference on ICT research that takes place at Makerere. He is also the editor in chief of the International Journal on ICT research that is published at Makerere University. We have been inviting him to our School on annual basis to participate on related activities. This project is a perfect platform to enable us to further enhance and sustain the existing collaborations with him and his institution at large. We propose two visits in this activity.
4. Target beneficiaries
- The School of Computing and IT and Makerere University at large: Will benefit through proposed collaborative activities
- Undergraduate and Postgraduate students at Makerere University: Will benefit through facilitated projects and training seminars
- Staff at the School of Computing and IT: Will benefit from the training seminars on distributed computing
- Staff and students in other Ugandan Universities: through projects and seminars
5. Expected output/results and performance indicators
- A list of completed projects addressing local challenges
- A cohort of staff and students with distributed computing skills
- Established collaborations with institutions in other developing countries. In the long run, this will be indicated by the number of MoUs signed under the initiative
- An established grid node · Enhanced collaboration with local institutions; indicated by staff from local universities who will participate the proposed training seminars
- A number of collaborative projects with other beneficiaries
- Enhanced collaboration with the International partner institution and the staff
6. Resources available for project implementation:
Students and School
Makerere University School of Computing and IT is perhaps one the world's largest computing School with about 5,500 students enrolled in a number of programs in its four academic departments. We have around 5,000 BSc students and roughly 500 post-graduate students of which around 55 students are enrolled in PhD programs and the rest are MSc students.
So far, the School has 17 PhD holders and more than 100 MSc holders who engage in teaching activities. In addition, the School is training more than 30 news PhD holders in collaborations with universities in Netherlands through NUFFIC support2. All these are available for implementation of different proposed activities in this project.
The School of CIT has four academic departments and three non-academic departments. Each academic department has one administrative assistant who can help to facilitate administrative matters to support the project. The other nonacademic department of close relevance of significant importance to the implementation of this project is the Department of ICT Support Services that provides technical support to the networked systems in the School. This department has more than 30 people in total that include computer engineers, network administrators, technicians and laboratory attendants. Other non-academic departments include accountant department with four accountants.
The School of CIT has the largest computing facilities in Africa housed in 15,000 sq meters of space worth over $20million. Its two buildings can accommodate up to 10,000 students in one sitting. Block A building was donated by the Royal Kingdom of Norway to then Institute of Computer Science. The building has offices, 9 fully furnished labs and a conference room. Block B (funded from internally generated funds was completed in December 2008, and to be officially commissioned by His Excellence the President of the Republic of Uganda on January 28, 2009) has: 6 computer labs each accommodating 700 students of which one is fully equipped; 4 smaller computer labs each accommodating 120 students of which two are fully equipped; and 8 small and 6 big lecture theatres. Facilities in at CIT include:
- Teaching Labs equipped with 2,000 computers
- Advanced Geographical Information Systems [GIS] Lab
- Network and Systems Lab
- Mobile Computing Lab
- Advanced Multimedia Lab
- Pan African E-Network Tele-Education Labs
- National Software Incubation Centre/Lab
- E-Learning Lab
- Online Networking Laboratory (iNetLab)
- Cisco Academy Training Labs
- Computer Engineering Lab
It is estimated that the School of CIT has more than half of the University's computers. The School of CIT is fully networked using wired LANs and wireless LANs, and the launch of the first submarine cable (SEACOM) in July 2009 will open doors for cheap bandwidth that will connect all our estimated 3000 PCs to the fast Internet. In addition, open wireless access points are rolled out around the campus which facilitate Internet access to students and staff who own laptops.
7. Implementation strategy
All proposed activities of the project are centred at Makerere University. The project will therefore be managed by the Principal Investigator at Makerere University School of Computing and Informatics Technology. The School establishment has the required human resources such as IT support staff, administrative assistants, and accountants to assist on administrative issues of the project.
- Call for projects and projects implementation: The call shall be announced in all CIT based units in public universities in Uganda. Researchers (staff and students) shall be eligible to submit proposals. However, students proposal must be accompanied with a consent of a supervisor.
- Collaborative visits: The School management (Dean, and Deputy Deans) have a duty to publicise the School and forge collaborations and partnership with other institutions. They are therefore the right people in the School to execute this activity.
- Training Seminars: Staff and students shall be invited to the two proposed training seminars. Students will only be invited from Makerere university whereas staff shall be invited from all public universities. It is expected that UNESO-HP will avail an expert who will facilitate the seminars
8. Plans to ensure project sustainability and its further development
Below are some of the plans to sustain and further development of the project:
- Having assured capacity in distributed computing for our School
- Involving other staff in Makerere University School of Computing and IT in managing and coordinating the project.
- Incorporating distributed grid computing in mainstream academic programs and research
- Establish partnerships and long-term collaborations with other project beneficiaries
The School of CIT is proud of itself for having established a very large partnerships with international institutions (See Appendix C for details). Unfortunately, none of the partners are from Western Africa, Northern Africa, and Arabic countries. In fact, there is an clear disconnect between institutions in East Africa in general and institutions in these regions. We propose to travel to some institutions in these regions for a special mission aimed to forging partnerships and collaborations in research.
We propose some networking//partnership missions; we shall select the region where the two visits shall be accorded, preferably the visits will be to institutions that are already benefiting from this UNESCO-HP project. Each mission is proposed to take two days where visiting staff from Makerere will be required to make a presentation about Makerere University and School of CIT in particular and explore various ways collaborations can be made between the institutions. A report for each visit shall be produced at the end of the visit.