Volunteers for African Grid

V. Krebs
12 January 2005

One of the structures that will welcome cyber-volunteers is CERN, in cooperation with Informaticiens Sans Frontières (ISF), a network of volunteer programmers founded last year. We talked to Silvano de Gennaro, founder of the network and staff member of the CERN multimedia team:

ICV: What motivated you to found ISF?
Silvano de Gennaro: I was producing a documentary film in Africa, "Something out of nothing"... which was an inquiry on the use of the Internet in Senegal and Mali and I could spot some of the basic problems of ICT development in Africa, for which I could see solutions as a computer scientist.

You developed open source software, can you tell us a bit more about it?
LIFE (Linux Integrated Free Environment) is an operating system based on the Debian version of LINUX which offers a gradual approach to the system, with varying application visibility at different levels of user expertise.

This is very important in order to help computer illiterate people open up to using information technology and the Internet. LIFE also includes basic tools for literacy training, transforming the computer into a fully educational platform.

How are you planning to distribute LIFE?
Through two main channels: through web downloads for those who are familiar with the web and by shipping recycled computers with LIFE preinstalled. These will be sent to African projects aimed at equipping cybercafés and schools.

What do you need in terms of human resources and cyber-volunteers?
Our objective is to create a bi-directional flow of information. We will offer internships for African ICT students at CERN, involving them in the development of GRID applications, tailored to the needs of African universities and we will then assist the students in order for them to set up their own projects linked to an African GRID. This will finally allow industrialized countries to donate part of their GRID resources (e.g. computing time, disk space, networks) to research projects in Africa.

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