China-built university connectivity platform launched

A US$50 million, Chinese-built connectivity platform for the Ethiopian Education and Research Network – EthERNet – has been inaugurated in the country’s capital Addis Ababa, connecting universities to high-speed internet and to each other.

The ultimate aim is to enable Ethiopian universities to participate actively in the global education and research community.

The EthERNet platform, built by Chinese telecom service provider ZTE, connects 36 public universities in the East African country. It was inaugurated at Addis Ababa University on 15 April, Xinhuanet reported.

According to EthERNet Director Zelalem Assefa, universities will also be connected to African and international networks in future, enabling their participation in continental and global higher education and research.

EthERNet’s website says it was initiated in 2001 as part of a national capacity-building programme, along with Schoolnet and WoredaNet. The aim was to build the capacity of public universities to share educational resources and research locally and globally.

According to an EthERNet report, Ethiopia’s higher education sector suffers from numerous problems, including a shortage of qualified lecturers – especially in newer public universities – lack of reference, teaching and textbook materials, and limited resources for research.

Rapidly rising student numbers has exacerbated capacity challenges, as has the opening of many new higher education institutions. The quality of education and training needs to be improved to tackle Ethiopia’s skilled manpower shortages and meet aggressive growth plans.


EthERNet is seen as one step towards dealing with these higher education challenges.

It creates a platform for collaborative research with shared computing infrastructure, which ensures affordable bandwidth for Ethiopian higher education and research networks.

EthERNet provides several services including a digital library with e-books, journals, teaching and learning resources, tele-education, and publication repositories for higher education institutions and communities.

It also provides design and ICT solutions for universities as well as troubleshooting and improving their internet and supporting systems.

Speaking at the inauguration, Ethiopia’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology Debretsion Gebremichael was quoted as saying that the project’s main aim was to provide network connectivity.

“We will expect as output from this project highly competent graduates in their respective fields. We also expect to get a return on the development of our instructors because they will be exposed not only to highly skilled Ethiopian lecturers but to a global network,” he said.