Visibility: towards a communication Strategy for UbuntuNet Alliance
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This paper describes the role of communication in an organisation, with specific focus on UbuntuNet Alliance. It examines the various tools that the Alliance has used over the past 5 years to communicate with stakeholders; and the current consultative efforts to develop a Communication Strategy. The paper also examines the stage of development and uptake of communication tools in the member NRENs. Organisations have objectives that define their existence and what they aim to achieve. They also have strategies that guide how the objectives will be achieve and tools used to achieve them. To ensure that there is proper and effective coordination and the surrounding community is well informed and aware of the activities of the organisation, communication is paramount. Effective communication requires effective strategies complete with coherent plan of actions. Soon after the idea of establishing UbuntuNet Alliance was conceived, and the Founding Board of Directors in place, three mailing lists were set up at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Sweden. One was for the Founding Board, the second for established and emerging NRENs and the third was for the broader UbuntuNet Community. The NRENs list soon included key contacts in East and Southern Africa, while the Community list grew at a high rate as more people worldwide interested in research and education networking in general and in Africa were added to it. The website, launched in March 2006 received visits from across the world. In May 2008, when NUANCE, the electronic Newsletter of UbuntuNet Alliance: Network, Collaboration, Education was launched, the Community list morphed into the NUANCE distribution list. Fliers and brochures describing the Alliance were also distributed by hand at events across the region. Today, the communications landscape has changed and social networking tools are dominating in passing short messages to audiences. While communicating with stakeholders, gaps have been identified as some communities still do not know research and education networking and UbuntuNet Alliance as an organisation. This has challenged the Alliance to develop a thoughtful and comprehensive communication strategy, which will lead the communication and P a g e | 46 ISSN 2223-7062 Proceedings and reports of the 4th UbuntuNet Alliance annual conference, 2011, pp 45-53 dissemination activities to propel successful change and ensuring the involvement and understanding of all stakeholders. The Communication Strategy identifies 13 target audiences that UbuntuNet Alliance must reach out to. Seven channels of communication have been laid out and 12 tools will be used to reach the audience. The e increasing role of social networking media has been recognised and appropriate tools will be incorporated. The communication strategy will lessen the barriers between its existing member NRENs and the research and education community they serve.