Academia gets remote Internet access

Jacob Nthoiwa
By Jacob Nthoiwa, ITWeb journalist.
Johannesburg, 31 Mar 2011

South Africa has joined the global Eduroam community, which gives students, researchers and staff from academic institutions free access to their university's Internet while visiting other institutions.

This service allows any Eduroam-enabled user to get network access at any institution also connected to Eduroam via wireless hotspots.

Depending on local policies at the visited institutions, Eduroam participants may also have additional resources like printers at their disposal, says the South African National Research Network (Sanren).

Eduroam allows logging on using credentials from a user's home institution regardless of where they are visiting, it says.

“A hierarchical system of servers is used to transport the authentication requests of users from the visited institution to their home institution, and the authentication response back.”

Sanren's Eduroam project is funded by the Department of Science and Technology.

Sanren says it started working with the University of Cape Town (UCT), Rhodes University and the University of the Free State for the SA Eduroam pilot last September, and established the proxies required for local institutions to participate.

The Sanren Eduroam proxies were connected to the European root. “This temporary connection allowed for global Eduroam testing in SA, in anticipation of the establishment of an African root. Today, several institutions are already participating in the project,” it adds.

Knowledge exchange

Laurens Cloete, acting executive director at the CSIR Meraka Institute, says researcher mobility is key to scientific knowledge exchange.

“The implementation of Eduroam is therefore an important step in enhancing South African researchers and students' integration into the global science community by virtue of them having ready access to the Internet while visiting their peers abroad.”

At the same time, it makes SA a more attractive destination for visiting researchers, he adds.

Cloete says this is one of the many envisioned value-added services that can now be provided as a result of the Sanren project.

Welcoming this initiative, the executive director of Information and Communication Technology Services at UCT, Sakkie Janse van Rensburg, says: “This is a great initiative that will allow our own and visiting researchers to be more productive while traveling abroad.”