CyberVolunteering for Africa@home

Project at a glance

Dates and Place

13 April 2006, Bamako, Mali
Campus Numérique de la Francophonie


ICVolontaires, Campus Numérique de la Francophonie de Bamako

Project details

The first step of Africa@home contributed to the modelling of malaria through the Grid technology that sets up a computer network to transmit heavy data.

The technology chosen for Africa@home is free of all rights and aims to digital solidarity. It is compatible with client workstations that use proprietary or free software.

Africa@home is an interdisciplinary project born from the partnership between the European Nuclear Research Centre (CERN), the University of Geneva, the Institute for Tropical Diseases of Basel, the Universities of Bamako and Dakar, the University Agency for French-speaking Communities (AUF), ICVolunteers and Software Without Borders (ISF). The first step of the project was financed by the Geneva International Academic Network (GIAN).

First step of Africa@home

Every year, malaria affects around 500 million people and causes over a million deaths, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond this burden, malaria is one of the major factors that slow down the economic growth in malaria-endemic countries where the GDP growth rates per capita is lower than those in industrialized countries in 0.25-1.3%. The disease strikes the poorer African communities and increases the social inequalities.

Programs to simulate how malaria is transmitted and how it affects health are important tools for malaria control. They can be used to choose the most efficient vaccine, to define optimal strategies to distribute mosquito nets or for chemotherapy and vaccination.

The Swiss Tropical Institute (STI) developed a computer program on the epidemiology of malaria and started preliminary in-house studies on 40 PC, but more computing power is required to validate the program. In this context, the objective of the Africa@home project is to multiply by a hundred the number of computer resources for the STI, adapting the STI computer program so it can become part of the BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing). This technology is available at the Grid computer lab of CERN. The modelling program would then be downloaded from a public website by thousands of people around the world ready to share part of their computer resources for the project.

The implementation of Africa@home gave birth to intercultural exchanges- two CyberVolunteers came from African Universities and were recruited through the CyberVolunteers Program.
Bakary Sagara teaches computer science at the University of Bamako and spent two months and a half at CERN with the Africa@home team.

BOINC for and in Africa

Too often, research is exclusively conducted in the North even when it deals with issues that regard the South. One of the main assets of Africa@home is that, since the very beginning, it gathered researchers and African students in a high level research project to contribute to the development of the Grid technology.

One of the conclusions of the project was that it would be important to keep working from the results of the first step of the project, especially regarding training and development of skills in order to create the team for an African grid. We are therefore planning a series of information and training sessions in Africa that will include the following websites:

  1. Mali: University of Bamako ( and Francophone Digital campus (
  2. Senegal: University Cheick Anta DIOP, Dakar (
  3. South Africa: Cape Peninsula University of Technology (, Cape Town and Stellenbosch University (, South Africa
  4. Cameroon and/or Congo-Brazza: University of Yaoundé ( and Francophone Digital Campus, Cameroon and/or University Marien Ngouabi of Brazzaville

The goal of these sessions is:

  • To provide the researchers with information on BOINC and the Grid technology to make them aware of the potential they both represent for African research institutes;
  • To set up a network of African partners who are willing to use these technologies and will be gradually included in the network of the Grid;
  • To build the African Grid (installing servers in different places of Africa).

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