Liberia: Lrren – Driving education, research and innovation in Liberia


In September 2018, heads of various Liberian universities and colleges converged at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MoPT) to discuss the establishment of a National Research and Education Network (NREN) in Liberia. Subsequently, on December 13, 2018, the same group met and signed an agreement for the creation of an NREN which was later named, the Liberia Research and Education Network (LRREN). LRREN should join / connect with regional and international NRENs to stimulate research and education in Liberia; an effort that ultimately improves our national economic development initiatives.

Before we go any further, let’s briefly discuss what an NREN is and the benefits it brings to Liberia at a time when the nation faces severe economic bottlenecks. I will first give an overview of NRENs and briefly discuss the newly established NREN in Liberia; the LRREN.

A National Research and Education Network or NREN is a specialized Internet Service Provider (ISP) that interconnects research and educational institutions within a country or region, and outside with similar networks on the global Internet. NRENs are often viewed as strategic assets of economic and social value to a nation, as they play a major role in bridging the digital divide between academic and research institutions.

In short, NRENs specialize in meeting the data communication, networking, application and electronic services needs of the host nation’s research and education community. They are generally distinguished by their support for a very high speed network, both at the core level and at the access level, with the possibility of offering channels dedicated to individual research projects.

NRENs are seen as incubators of creativity and sources of innovation for both scientific and technological ideas that often spill over into society. For example, the Internet and the World Wide Web are well-known products of the academic and research activities of NREN.

In the past, it was common to see NRENs connecting universities and research laboratories and providing them with the required facilities for higher education, research and development. Nowadays, the scope of NRENs has extended to hospitals, schools (primary and secondary), museums, telecommunications service providers and Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). Despite the diversity of the membership list, universities and research institutes are the main players in the NREN community.

Liberian Research and Education Network (LRREN): inscribed in the draft national ICT policy 2018-2023 is a mandate for the creation of a research and education network to improve education and research for national development. And, recognizing the need for an NREN in Liberia, the MoPT, University of Liberia and several other higher education institutions, the Digital-Liberia E-Government Project (DLEG) and USAID discussed the possibility of ‘establish one in Liberia.

As I mentioned above, a subsequent meeting was held in December 2018 with various parties including local universities and colleges (University of Liberia, AME University, United Methodist University, AME Zion, Stellar Maris Polytechnic, Bomi Community College, Bassa Community College, Starz, Bluecrest and Barshell University) which led to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the creation of the Liberia Research and Education Network (LRREN).

Since the signing of the MoU, USAID and DLEG have made significant financial and technical investments to accelerate the establishment of LRREN. In addition, USAID and DLEG are also funding the deployment of a CAMPUS NETWORK for UL; the institution which took the initiative in setting up LRREN. DLEG and USAID should help connect ALL of UL’s four campuses (Fendall, Capitol Hill, AM Dogliotti and Sinje), providing Internet access to faculty, staff and students. The CAMPUS NETWORK project involves the connection of backbones via fiber optic cables, high-end network equipment and solutions, and the expertise of local and international professionals.

To prepare universities and colleges for this endeavor, DLEG and USAID sent technicians from UL, AME University, and Stellar Maris Polytechnic to Ghana for training (train the trainer) and to understand the operation of NRENs. DLEG also brought in a consultant from Ghana who is familiar with NRENs based on his work with GARNET, Ghana’s NREN.

A few days ago, a team from the University of Oregon’s Network Startup and Resource Center (NSRC) arrived in Liberia to provide a five-day technical training to technicians and network engineers from LRREN members. At the same time, LRREN, through UL, joined the West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN), which is an entity that promotes collaboration between national, regional, international research and research communities. education. UL is also in the process of identifying a facility (on Capitol Hill) that will serve as the secretariat for LRREN. And, since LRREN is a SPECIALIZED INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER (ISP), it is planned to obtain an ISP license from the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA).

So what does LRREN bring to Liberia’s development agenda? The first thing we need to know is that LRREN will support demands for education, research, effective communication and collaboration in Liberian universities. It should promote cooperation and collaboration between the constituents of the academic and research communities. LRREN will position Liberia’s academic and research communities on the international stage by connecting NREN with other global NRENs; and therefore better exposure and easier access to the research and knowledge base accumulated at international level.

LRREN will significantly reduce the cost of the Internet for faculty, staff and students of institutions connected to its network. Since LRREN is an amalgamation of colleges and universities, sharing the costs of network and research equipment, services and applications will ease the burden on individual members. LRREN can benefit from things like economies of scale since it operates as a single network entity in purchasing connectivity services and applications from service providers (CCL, LIBTELCO, Orange, Lonestar, et al. ).

Finally, in terms of sustainability, LRREN will be supported by the contributions of its members and the services it intends to provide. In addition, funding is expected from donors (local and international) including the World Bank, USAID, DFID, the EU, hopefully, the government of Liberia, private and public foundations, NGOs, etc. private industry and others. I am very enthusiastic and optimistic about the UL campus network and the creation of LRREN. I see that both initiatives have a huge impact on our national social, economic and educational goals. That’s all for today.

Until next week,

Carpe Diem!!!!

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