Telecom Namibia enables e-Research at Gobabeb

Connected
For the first time in many years, the Gobabeb Namib Research Institute is now able to connect with sufficient bandwidth to the rest of the world
Otis Daniels
The Gobabeb Namib Research Institute for the first time in many years, is able to connect with sufficient bandwidth to the rest of the world thanks to Telecom Namibia.

The work of the institute which is located 120 kilometres south-east of Walvis Bay in Namibia's largest nature reserve, the Namib Naukluft Park, is largely cloud-based and this requires sufficient bandwidth for faster computer processing. Telecom migrated the Gobabeb Namib Research Institute to Speedlink, enabling stable, faster internet connectivity at the institute. The successful migration at a cost of more than N$ 200 000.00, took approximately two weeks (from 1 June to 14 June 2022).

Telecom Namibia CEO, Dr Stanley Shanapinda said that the company’s main objective as a national telecommunications operator is to serve as a catalyst for realising Vision 2030 by creating the necessary infrastructural conditions. “Telecom Namibia is excited to enable the center to participate fully in a global context.. This, development demonstrates Telecom Namibia’s commitment to invest in infrastructure development in our quest to assist the government in building a strong culture of innovation, research and entrepreneurship in order to achieve our national goals of economic growth and development. Telecom Namibia is proud to create an opportunity for Gobabeb researchers to conduct research in a world class environment so that the much-needed skills can be developed. Technological limitations have been a stumbling block for efficient communication at the research facility, as researchers had to travel all the way to Walvis Bay for connectivity. The migration is a clear indication of our eagerness to move towards digital transformation, as access to internet, with sufficient bandwidth, is essential for the development of an information society”.

According to Dr Gillian Maggs-Kölling, the Executive Director of the Gobabeb Namib Research Institute, the migration and enhanced internet connectivity has significantly impacted the research institute. “Being a research institute, we rely on having reliable, fast access to online resources, to communicate with colleagues worldwide, to access databases important to our work, and to share our work using social media. Namibian post-graduate students need to access the most recent literature for their studies and to be able to communicate with global experts in their field of study. Tertiary training initiatives offered at Gobabeb for Namibian graduates are more-and-more optimising digital platforms to engage with specialists for specific areas of instruction. Day-to-day management of the operations of the institute are also becoming increasingly dependent on a quick and secure internet connection. Thus, our internet network is truly our professional and intellectual life support. Our remote location has always made our work difficult. The technology migration removed a significant bottleneck in our operations as a centre of scientific excellence.”

She emphasised that connectivity is vital for research facilities such as Gobabeb to run and should be seen as a basic requirement. "Lack of connectivity severely hinders the ability to perform simple functions, conduct research, and compete for grants. “We have subscription software that requires a reliable internet connection to work. Using that software was difficult to impossible prior to the migration of internet connectivity. Similarly, we are now able to launch an ambitious social media campaign, because we have the capability to share videos and other media. International collaborators are now able to contact us reliably, and exchanges of data are smoothed considerably. Gobabeb, in the Namib Desert, is now able to fulfil its potential as a leading research facility focused exclusively on dryland issues of both national importance and global interest.”

The research facility consists of the community research center, a library, laboratories, an office block, a meeting hall, the iconic water tower, staff houses and accommodations for visitors. Since 1998 Gobabeb has been a joint venture between the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and the Desert Research Foundation Namibia (DRFN).