- National Research & Education networks, commonly referred to as NRENs interconnects universities and research institutions within a country.
- They also provide a technical test-bed for what will eventually spill into the mainstream internet within two to three years.
- The recent Finance Act 2018 that introduced 15 percent tax on internet services threatens to disrupt this delicate NREN ecosystem because it fails to appreciate the intrinsic value that NRENs provides.
- Government must therefore carefully balance between the short term financial gain of taxing NRENs against the long term benefits of exempting them.
sheVery few people understand the difference between the typical Internet Service Provider (ISP) and National Research & Education networks, commonly referred to as NRENs.
In its simplest form, an NREN interconnects universities and research institutions within a country. The idea is to provide a high-speed link for researchers to share huge research data-sets within an exclusive environment.
Incidentally, the Internet, as we know it today, was originally a research network connecting several universities in the US and later on extended to include European universities.
Buy the mid 1980s, private enterprises had started to use this global network for commercial purposes. Eventually by the early 1990s, browsers were introduced to make this network more usable for 'Wanjiku' and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today’s global Internet, which pervades all forms of our socio-economic lives, was actually a research and education network.
So what happened to the research community and their need to exclusively share huge research datasets?
They re-created Internet2 by building and interconnecting exclusively to each other, very much like in the old days. However, todays Internet2 has far much better quality and speeds that exceed what the public internet currently experiences.
NRENs bandwidth capacities allow for collaborative research in cutting edge domains like DNA sequencing, Climate change, Remote Health & Surgery and Remote Manufacturing.
They also provide a technical test-bed for what will eventually spill into the mainstream internet within two to three years.
African networks and researchers have not been left behind, given that South Africa, Egypt and Kenya have had sustainable NRENs for more than ten years in form of Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (TENET), Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT) and Kenya Education Network (KENET), respectively.