Fellowship Update: Connecting Institutions in Ekiti State
As a Mozilla Fellow, my project is an effort to establish the first Research Education Network in Etiki State in the southwest of Nigeria. This initial pilot focuses on four institutions within the state: Federal Polytechnic Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State University, Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti, and College of Education Ikere-Ekiti, which has now been upgraded to Bamidele Olumilua University of Education, Science and Technology Ikere-Ekiti.
In this blog post, I’ll share my progress over the past year. You can learn more about the project here.
During the last quarter of 2019 and first quarter of the year 2020, we coordinated with the ICT Directorate about the project. For a project like this, it is important to first brief the ICT Directorate as they are the staff on ground who know how to engage the heads of their institutions for an affirmative or otherwise. Getting support of the head of institutions would also be difficult if the interest is not there. However, all the four institutions’ heads in our pilot were very interested in ICT development in the state, hence, they were very supportive of the project.
The Project also happens to be in-line with the effort of the state government toward making Ekiti a Knowledge Zone. We paid a visit to Mr Akin Oyebode (now commissioner for finance) who in one of his publications stated that the vision is to “Make Ekiti State the destination of choice for investors, job creation, wealth generation, improved quality of life, and peaceful coexistence.”
The state government has been supportive to our effort towards establishing a Research Education Network in Ekiti state. Efforts are currently ongoing to ensure there is fibre connectivity to the institutions.
Capacity is an important factor especially for the technical IT staff members. We ran two trainings one focused on eLearning and Linux which was hosted by Ekiti State University Ado-Ekiti and the other on Network Management and Monitoring hosted by Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti. The eLearning training had a mix of both technical and academic staff members while the network design, management and monitoring training was mainly focused on technical staff.
The Director of ICT, Ekiti State University Prof Olu Olatunji remarked that:
“The Covid-19 pandemic has been a significant challenge to the institution to be able to impact knowledge to our students but it has also been a blessing in disguise to get us to be more intensive with technology in education”
In the first quarter of year 2020, we surveyed the various institutions to establish their readiness and also to understand the terrain and how best to connect the institutions. The institutions were at different stages in terms of their information technology deployment inas regards to the connectivity project and some issues stood out as some of the challenges which includes:
- Lack of adequate IT infrastructure for an on-campus network distribution
- Lack of adequate power supply and backup system to keep existing systems within the institutions operational for some institutions
- Distance between the institutions; it was over 20km from one of the institutions to the central hub while for another institution it was about 14km. Line of sight was also a challenge that was observed, mainly for onean institution that has mountains surrounding it which created a 100m deficit
There were however efforts by the various institution leadership to increase their internal network distribution capacity and it remains an ongoing process for the institutions.
We Utilized Ubiquiti Airfibre x5HD to establish connections between the institutions and were able to establish a 250mbps capacity on the link. Mikrotik routers were deployed at the institution core. Thanks to Mozilla foundation, Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) and Internet Society (ISOC) for supporting this project with the hardwares.
As my fellowship winds down we are at the final lap of the project which is service deployment. We are running proxmox open source virtualization software on our server. The server specification is HP-E Proliant DL380 Gen10 Xeon-S 4210 with 10-Core 32GB 8SFF P408i-A SR 500W and 1TB SSD. We received a free license from proxmox when we requested their support towards the project
In my blog post, during the commencement of my fellowship, I said we are building the road (network) for various cars (services) to ride on it and that is what we have achieved. However, apart from the service sharing among the participating institutions there are some services that we are deploying on the REN server and they include the following:
- Video Conferencing platform for education.
- Learning management platform
- Library management platform
- We are in talks with Nigerian Research Education Network (NgREN) and West African Research Education Network (WACREN) to explore possibility of gaining access to other education related services
- Some of the institutions have applied and obtained their public IP resource space from AFRINIC and will be putting that to use
2020 has been a challenging year yet we were able to make use of the opportunity it presented to commence efforts that have long been desired. Traffic exchange shall actively commence amongst the institutions from 2021 and we shall continue work on the following outstanding to-dos and I will continue to support the institutions and ekiti state government beyond my fellowship
- Four institutions are in this pilot phase, we have been able to establish connectivity amongst three institutions as we continue to explore options to reach the fourth institution with challenging terrain.
- Service deployments continues as we also encourage institutions to share access to their resources which includes, library catalogues, research journal repositories etc
- Drafting of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for consideration by CEOs of the institutions
- Further training on relevant technical needs shall take place in 2021
I would like to acknowledge Prof Christian Bolu who was my former Director and who envisaged this several years back and laid the foundation that inspired me and other members of my team to see this project become a reality.
My profound gratitude to all those that supported us through this project. Here is to wish everyone a happy new year and rewarding 2021