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e-Infrastructure monitoring evaluation and tracking support system (iMENTORS)

Published on: 07/11/2012

iMENTORS is the most comprehensive e- infrastructures data map of Sub-Saharan Africa. Launched in April 2012 by Stockholm University and Gov2u iMENTORS is the only e-infrastructure mapping project to date that aims at covering all e-infrastructures of the past 5 years in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

E-infrastructures are networked tools, data and resources that support a community of researchers, broadly including all those who participate in and benefit from research.

The overall objective of EU co-funded project is to enhance the coherence and effectiveness of international actors involved in e-infrastructures development projects and initiatives in SSA. The aim is provide valuable insights on the gaps and progress made in the region. This will enhance the coordination of international actors involved in information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives in SSA.

A unique platform will be created, aiming to provide policy support and networking functions to improve the coordination of international cooperation in this field. The project builds on the results of previous EU-funded projects and follows the conclusions of international conferences on the need to provide tools in support to policy development and programme implementations, by creating more networking opportunities between the various stakeholder groups involved in e-infrastructure developments. In this framework, the project seeks to involve those who have a direct stake in the development of e-infrastructures in the region to ensure that the proposed solution will rest on stakeholder input and feedback.

The project will:

  • Provide policy support by identifying and monitoring all on-going e-infrastructure projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, and perform benchmarking, impact assessments
  • Enhance aid coordination and collaboration by providing insight on e-infrastructure development projects and through the platform’s collaborative features (knowledge sharing) for development of new e-infrastructure development projects
  • Promote of e-infrastructures of common interest to Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa through extensive dissemination activities (workshops, conferences, communication).

iMENTORS is a project co-funded by the European Commission’s DG CONNECT under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Policy Context

Policy context
e-infrastructures are rooted in the Capacities objective of the EU’s FP7 and inspired by the policy work carried out in the context of European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), e-Infrastructures Reflection Group (e-IRG) and the ERA. iMENTORS is a project co-funded by the European Commission’s DG CONNECT under the 7th Framework Programme.

Advanced communication networks are very important contributors for the Millennium Development Goals. In particular, e-infrastructures are key to global partnerships for development (Goal n. 8), peering research teams and enabling collaboration in any scientific domain, and affect directly target 8f ("In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications").

Technology solution

About e-infrastructures
E-infrastructures consist of combination of ICT-based resources and associated tools and services as diverse as the physical supply of backbone connectivity, single- or multi-purpose computing grids, data collection, data management and data analysis tools, supercomputers, online digital materials for research, visualisation and simulation instruments, online storage repositories, collaboration tools, tools for support in relation to methods or analysis, as well as remote access to research instruments and very large research facilities.

E-infrastructures are also the basis to create and access new software and applications in different fields of application of direct relevance for the welfare of civil society across the globe, such as e-Government, e-Learning or e-Health.

E-infrastructures represent a new way of collaborating and sharing resources independently of the user’s geographical location, and are a key enabler for virtual global research communities and a driver for social and economic well-being.

Science and education communities around the world depend on e-infrastructures based on broadband connectivity, which has become a basic infrastructure of modern society, just like roads, electricity or water. For research communities, e-infrastructures make possible the sharing of powerful instruments and computational resources (hardware, software and content), remote access to massive datasets and research facilities, remote operation of research infrastructures and support of distributed infrastructures and use of digital platforms for research collaboration. Electronic or e-infrastructure is an environment where research resources can be readily shared and accessed to promote better and more effective research.

Developing regions stand to benefit in particular as broadband networks reduce the barriers of distance and location, allowing scientists to be ‘linked’ the world over, and allowing international access to valuable work and databases in developing countries for research on critical areas such as health, HIV/AIDS and environmental change, all highly relevant to the Millennium Development Goals. E-infrastructures are networked tools, data and resources that support a community of researchers, broadly including all those who participate in and benefit from research.

Technology choice: Open source software

Lessons learnt

The project will strengthen the development of European policy in developing research infrastructures by providing donors and policy makers with a comprehensive tool to test hypotheses and understand trends in the field of e-infrastructures development assistance across Sub-Saharan African countries. iMENTORS will increase the value of data by providing more descriptive information about international e-infrastructure development and will strengthen efforts to improve donors and recipients strategic planning and coordination.

By following the recommendations of previous EU funded e-infrastructures feasibility studies in Sub-Saharan Africa, iMENTORS will provide a comprehensive insight on e-infrastructure development projects in the region.

First, by identifying and mapping the majority of e-infrastructure projects in Sub-Saharan

Africa, the project will provide valuable knowledge of what is currently on the ground which in itself represents the first to more informed future choices and decision making on e- infrastructures deployment. Additionally, the software tool deployed will assist policy-makers and donor agencies in utilising the information more effectively, by filtering and associating it with other variables to identify on trends in aid flows, areas of interests, allowing them to make more informed decisions.

The platform will also push for stronger cooperation between the different e-infrastructures stakeholder groups, hence providing decisive support in their efforts to develop globally connected and interoperable e-infrastructures.

Lastly, the dissemination activities that are planned in this project will raise the visibility of the e-infrastructures activity in Sub-Saharan African Region towards wider audiences, especially among the research communities from EU countries and international development aid agencies. By engaging key e-infrastructures stakeholders at the recipient country level, the project is projected to trigger debates on the relative effectiveness of donors and create the impetus to move to more effective coordination mechanisms.

Scope: International