NgREN Staff Meet with IT Industry Representatives

In early August 2014, staff from the Nigerian Research and Education Network (NgREN) met with several representatives of the information technology industry to discuss ways in which they could help NgREN member institutions. The first meeting took place on August 12, between several members of NgREN and two representatives from the Johannesburg office of Juniper Networks. The representatives discussed Phase II of Juniper Networks’ AfricaConnect project and ways in which NgREN might network with its peers. Juniper provides routers and switches to some of the world’s best networks for education and research, and the company will develop a proposal for training and offering educational discounts to NgREN.

Two days later, a team from VCE, an EMC Corporation and Cisco Systems joint venture that has the support of other major players in technology, came to NgREN’s Network Monitoring Center to talk about cloud architecture and technology. The VCE team spoke about its Vblock technology, which can integrate solutions from several industry leaders to help organizations allocate resources dynamically.

Services Offered by the Nigerian Research and Education Network

Established in 2012, the Nigerian Research and Education Network (NgREN) aims to connect and assist academic institutions throughout the country. It provides a number of services and resources to further this goal, aiming to promote economic and social development in Nigeria through support for the nation’s academic organizations.

NgREN members benefit from dedicated Internet bandwidth that allows them to reliably collaborate across the country. Operating as an Internet service provider for its members, NgREN has provided IP address pools on a network with a 10-Gbps transfer rate. As it continues to develop its Internet services, the organization aims to ensure 155-Mbps connectivity for each member institution. The organization also facilitates communication solutions such as voice over IP (VoIP) services and multimedia conferencing.

Member institutions may also take advantage of additional resources, including email and a Digital Library Consortium. In the future, NgREN plans to offer web hosting and network security response services, as well as cloud computing.

Corporate Social Responsibility at Cambridge-Hitachi

When businesses want to meet their social responsibility (CSR) goals through work with schools and colleges, they can turn to Cambridge-Hitachi for assistance. Cambridge-Hitachi puts together packages that teachers can use in class or that support a company’s volunteer efforts.

Cambridge-Hitachi has been making digital learning resources since 2003, and the company focuses on the use of interactive whiteboards. Its designs incorporate bright, engaging colors and user-friendly platforms while drawing on content from experts in a number of fields. Support for teachers also forms a key part of any Cambridge-Hitachi CSR program, with lesson plans and philosophical explanations included in the packages.

Cambridge-Hitachi has created CSR packages for tasks ranging from expanding access to careers in law to teaching social inclusiveness. The company has worked with organizations including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and the London Grid for Learning, and it won a 2010 Bett Award for the Race to Learn program it developed with Williams F1. For more information, visit                            

Nigeria Continues Improving on NCCN Social Progress Index

Established in 2013 and led by CEO Chika Mordi, the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN) released its Social Progress Index 2014 in June. The report documents the many ways in which Nigeria continues to see dramatic improvements in numerous metrics.

Initially organized by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter, the Social Progress Index has been used by NCCN to identify actual conditions in Nigeria as opposed to more esoteric ranking criteria, and its results suggest that 2014 is the best year yet for the country’s citizens. NCCN, which seeks to improve its homeland through free-market reforms while rehabilitating Nigeria’s international reputation, found that things had improved across several important variables, from lowered rates of malnutrition to better educational opportunities and increasing personal freedoms.

Moving forward, NCCN hopes to concentrate its efforts on security and corruption, but the organization has already begun celebrating the gains made so far. While much work remains to be done, especially given that the country still ranks 123rd out of 132 countries despite its 28 percent improvement in the rankings, NCCN has already seen many positive results from its work and plans to continue striving to meet the needs of Nigerians.

Malaria Prevention Programs Sponsored by UNICEF

One of the most widely recognized humanitarian organizations in the world, UNICEF conducts a significant amount of work in the field of malaria prevention and treatment. Following is a quick look at some of UNICEF’s approaches to malaria prevention.

- Encouraging healthy behaviors: To reduce the rates of malaria, UNICEF works with members of local communities to teach them about healthy behaviors. In particular, UNICEF stresses the importance of sleeping under nets treated with insecticides. Between 2008 and 2012 alone, UNICEF distributed more than 12 million nets to individuals in over 30 countries.

- Preventative chemoprophylaxis: In pregnant women, malaria can endanger the health of the unborn child via low birth weight and anemia in the mother. In expecting mothers with and without signs of malaria, UNICEF supports Intermittent Preventative Treatment during pregnancy (IPTp), which can reduce clinical malaria rates in young children.

- Improved nutrition: Because malnutrition can decrease immunity and increase the risk of contracting malaria, UNICEF works hard to improve integrated community case management involving severe malnourishment.

The UN Global Education First Initiative Overcomes Enrollment Barriers

Throughout its history, the Global Education First Initiative has set out to increase the availability and quality of education in countries around the world. The program aims to improve school enrollment and completion rates, which reflect the relative availability of education in a particular community. To accomplish its mission, the UN Global Education First Initiative addresses the high costs of education in certain areas, which has a tremendous impact on graduation rates.

The initiative also emphasizes the impact of humanitarian emergencies, which regularly force children out of school by the millions. In order to alleviate the strain caused by conflict and other emergencies, the Global Education First Initiative advocates for national contingency plans for emergencies and places a higher priority on education in humanitarian aid packages. In addition to reducing the effects of gender discrimination at school, the initiative seeks to keep young children in school and out of the workforce, which can hurt their chances of receiving a quality education.

Nigeria’s Progress on Child Welfare

Like much of the rest of Africa, Nigeria continues to struggle to meet the widespread social service needs of its people. Yet over the past decade, the continent’s most populous country has made progress in the area of child welfare. Along with the continuing contributions of nonprofit organizations such as the Michael and Cecilia Foundation, which works to address the medical and educational needs of Nigeria’s children and families, the nation’s leaders have promoted forward-looking laws and partnerships.

Nigeria’s Child Rights Act of 2003 allowed unprecedented participation by individual children in legal proceedings that affect their lives. The act additionally outlined a new system of protective services aimed at assisting children. Based in drafts of legislation produced by the Nigerian chapter of the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect, the 2003 act gives courts the authority to appoint a guardian ad litem to protect a child’s interests during legal proceedings, and also allows children to make their wishes known. While some areas have not implemented the law adequately, it represents a positive step toward safeguarding children’s rights.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) continues to work to create better conditions for Nigeria’s young people. UNICEF has driven efforts to increase access to treatment for childhood diseases and has supported services for rural mothers and children. Today, in cooperation with the country’s federal government, UNICEF promotes the United Nations Millennium Development Goals as the framework for its efforts in Nigeria. Among these goals is the development of programs for basic education, sanitation, and child care.

Understanding How Parliament Works

The Parliament of the United Kingdom possesses a long and distinguished history. Its origins date back to the 13th century, after King John accepted the provisions of the Magna Carta, which conferred on his barons the right to advise him on matters of policy. The first use of the word “parliament” dates from the 1230s. Toward the end of the century, the Clerk of Parliament first began keeping records of the petitions put forward and the resulting legislation.

Parliament consists of two houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Both houses are charged with the duties of examining and providing oversight to the work of government, debating and discussing proposed legislation so that it can be thoroughly vetted, and approving any requested tax increases and financial programs. While, in general, the decisions made in one house must be approved by the other, the House of Commons is the only one able to approve finance-related bills.

Members of the House of Commons are elected by the people who reside in their districts. The members of the House of Lords typically take their positions through appointment, and their number includes many experts in various fields.

While members of the executive branch of government most often propose new laws, all legislation must obtain approval from Parliament to become valid. Members of Parliament in both houses may also introduce legislation. If the House of Commons passes a bill for two years in succession, it can become law, regardless of the vote in the House of Lords.

A View of Trafalgar Square

Tourists and locals alike frequent London’s Trafalgar Square, with its bustling traffic and many historical associations. Situated in the City of Westminster, the square derives its name from Admiral Horatio Nelson’s famous 1805 battle in which he defeated Napoleon’s forces at Trafalgar, off the Spanish coast.

Designed and constructed over a period of years spanning the 1820s to the 1840s, Trafalgar Square today covers a major crossroads incorporating Whitehall, the Strand, and Pall Mall. Nelson’s Column, completed in the early 1840s, serves as a focal point for the square and commemorates the might of the British navy at its zenith.

The National Gallery, on the northern side of the square, houses a comprehensive collection of artwork from the 13th to the 19th centuries. To the east lies the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a splendid example of the Georgian architecture that characterizes the area and the site of numerous musical concerts. Built in the Greek Revival style, Canada House occupies a central position to the west and functions as the Canadian government’s consular offices. On the square’s south side, Whitehall serves as a connector to Parliament Square.

The square is home to noted statues in addition to that of Admiral Nelson, including those depicting King George IV, General Sir Charles James Napier, and Major General Sir Henry Havelock. The empty Fourth Plinth is the site of a rotating collection of art pieces, each selected after fierce competition.

Trafalgar Square’s traditions over the years include seasonal caroling at Christmastime, an event to which the government of Norway has contributed a large tree ever since the Second World War. The square is particularly noted for its public demonstrations and political rallies.

UK Banks Respond to EU Bonus Ban with Salary Increases

Known as the “First Lady” of the Nigerian banking sector, Cecilia Ibru previously served as the managing director and chairman of Oceanic Bank International. Before accepting this position, Cecilia Ibru lived in London for a number of years and continues to follow financial news in Britain today.

In a recent survey, Robert Half Financial Services found that 65 percent of the United Kingdom’s financial services firms have increased employee salaries. The move, designed to preempt the European Union’s upcoming cap on banker bonuses, has resulted in an average salary boost of 20 percent. More than half of chief financial officers surveyed expressed concern that the new regulations, which cap bonuses at twice the employee’s salary, would decrease firms’ global competitiveness. UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne agreed with these officers, arguing that the caps will damage the country’s reputation as a leading financial center. Furthermore, critics worry that these steep salary increases may create an unstable cost structure. The ban, which has been debated for a number of months, is set to begin in January 2014.