UNESCO and HP Use Grid to Counter Brain Drain in Africa

By Nicole Hemsoth

November 27, 2006

UNESCO and Hewlett-Packard have launched a joint project to help reduce brain drain in Africa by providing Grid computing technology to universities in Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe. I.S.G. Mudenge, Zimbabwe's Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, took part in the launch of the “Piloting Solutions for Reversing Brain Drain into Brain Gain for Africa” project, at UNESCO Headquarters on 20 November. The representatives of Senegal and Ghana to UNESCO, as well as Peter Smith, Assistant UNESCO Director-General for Education, and Bernard Meric, Senior Vice President of Hewlett Packard for Europe, Middle East and Africa, took part in the launch of the project to provide university laboratories and research centres with systems of interconnections that will enable students and faculty to work with researchers and professionals around the world.

The project aims to establish links between researchers who have stayed in their countries and those that have left, connecting scientists to international colleagues, research networks and potential funding organizations. Faculties and students at beneficiary universities will also be able to work on major collaborative research projects with other institutions around the world.

“This project harnesses the enormous potential of the information and communication technologies to bring people together and to spread the benefits of research and development across the north south divide,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura. “We trust that such projects and such partnerships will enable us to reduce significantly the devastating effects of brain drain on some of the weakest societies in the world,” he concluded.

“HP has a unique, long-standing relationship with UNESCO, and the two organizations have worked jointly on several projects in different countries. This new African project builds on the success of a similar UNESCO-HP initiative launched in 2003 in South East Europe to alleviate brain drain in the region that now includes eight countries,” said Bernard Meric, Senior Vice President External Affairs, HP EMEA.

The African project was developed by UNESCO's Education Sector in response to requests by Member States. Over the past decades, African countries have suffered greatly from the emigration of skilled professionals, scientists, academics and researchers who are estimated to be leaving the continent at the rate of 20,000 a year. After its first two-year implementation phase, the project may well be extended to cover other countries.

The Education Ministries of the countries involved, along with UNESCO, will choose the universities that will benefit from the project. Preference will be given to university departments with important information technology components. HP will provide equipment — including servers and Grid-enabling technologies — and local human resources to the universities, as well as training and support, until the projects become self-sustainable. It will also donate PCs and monitors and fund research visits abroad and meetings between beneficiary universities. UNESCO will be in charge of overall coordination and monitoring of activities, as well as administrative management; evaluation and promotion of results.

This new project in Africa follows the successful joint HP-UNESCO “Piloting Solutions for Alleviating Brain Drain in South East Europe” project, launched in 2003 to support faculties and students in harnessing the power of grid computing. Three years after its launch, the project has resulted in the development of websites, databases and new research projects at several of the universities involved. Academics and students from across South East Europe have collaborated with international colleagues, improved research capacities and shared scientific knowledge, encouraging scientists to remain in the region. Four universities (University of Split in Croatia, University of Montenegro, East Sarajevo University and the University of Sarajevo) have become self-sustainable in the use of grid technology and the project continues in three other universities (University of Belgrade, University of Skopje and the University of Tirana).

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Source: UNESCO

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