Online research network launched to boost science and technology

Madagascar has launched an online research network, the Research and Education Network for Academic Learning Activities (iRENALA), which aims to boost science, technology and education in the country as well as internationalise its science.

The network, launched last month, will promote discussions between researchers worldwide as well as students and policy-makers, and will facilitate access to digitised documents available in virtual libraries, according to Horace Gatien, president of Toamasina University.

It will also encourage remote learning in the higher education sector, he said.

According to a statement issued following a cabinet meeting on 30 May, the project aims to forge new links between Madagascar's six state universities, three higher institutes of technology, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and all national research centres.

iRENALA will also connect Madagascar to a cluster of worldwide networks through GÉANT, an existing pan-European research and education network, which connects 40 million users in more than 8,000 institutions worldwide.

"Madagascar is one of five African countries…[privileged] with such an opportunity", said Ny Hasina Andriamanjato, the Malagasy minister of post, telecommunications and new technologies.

Andriamanjato added that the network is part of a wider movement to digitise African universities, an idea developed by African researchers during a France-Africa summit held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in December 1996.

The project stems from an agreement signed in December 2011 between the government and Telma, an internet and mobile phone service provider, which functions via the high speed fibre-optic cable running through the Eastern African Submarine Cable System.

"Learning and research activities are destined to improve, despite the fact that Malagasy universities are poorly equipped with infrastructure and resources," Prime Minister Jean Omer Beriziky said at the launch.

"We will produce many more experts capable of taking the country forward and ending poverty within 20 years."

Patrick Pisal-Hamida, chief executive of Telma, said at the launch: "From today, a new era has begun for the higher education system in Madagascar. A fundamental stage has been reached, thanks to the digitalising of universities and other institutions involved in research."

Etienne Hilaire Razafindehibe, the minister of higher education and scientific research, said the iRENALA association was created to ensure effective use of the network. But, he added, users will have to pay to access the network.

* This article by Rivonala Razafison, “Madagascar launches online research network”, was first published by on 28 June 2012. It is republished under a Creative Commons licence.