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5 October 2023

Enhancing SA university connectivity for research: a mission by DFA, CSIR, and SANReN


South Africa’s leading wholesale, open-access fibre-infrastructure provider, Dark Fibre Africa (DFA), has partnered with Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and South African National Research Network (SANReN) to drive significant advancements in connectivity and research capabilities for South African universities.

The pioneering initiative was established with the goal of revolutionising higher education through widespread fibre internet. It aims to ensure that students and researchers across South Africa can access cutting-edge resources and technology, fostering equitable access to opportunities.

Sabelo Dlamini, Director at SANReN, stated that to address the gap, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) funded CSIR to establish the SANReN in the early 2000s. SANReN aimed to provide reliable connectivity to research councils and institutions, enhancing knowledge sharing and competitiveness. CSIR’s key role in incubating SANReN marked a significant milestone in South Africa’s connectivity landscape.

As a fibre infrastructure provider, DFA’s participation was a strategic step toward realising the vision of seamless academic connectivity for all universities and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. This involved deploying fibre optic networks to interconnect universities, interfacing with their existing network infrastructure. This partnership empowered universities with greater control over their fibre networks, ensuring faster and more reliable connectivity.

The primary focus of this project was eradicating digital disparities among universities, ensuring that every institution (and student) has access to state-of-the-art resources. The project seeks to transform education and research in the country by providing access to robust and reliable connectivity, despite the challenges of load shedding, frequent power outages – particularly in underserved regions, and lagging speeds that have plagued academic institutions. The improved connectivity will also allow academic networks to embrace the benefits of networking technologies like dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) to offer improved services to their stakeholders.

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