Common Interest Group Application

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Message from SPVS   received on 18/02/88 at 16:48:55
                     Phone (012) 841-3977
                                           7 January 1988
The Postmaster General
Dear  Sir
We herewith wish to apply to the Postmaster General for recognition of a
group of organisations as a common interest group, in terms of item 2.1.1
of the statement on "Post Office Policy on Private Data-Communications
The "Common Interest" which unites this group is Academic and Research
Activities, and the organisations concerned are Research Councils,
Universities,  and SABINET (South African Bibliographic and Information
Network).  (Refer to the list of computer sites of main initial
Each of these organisations has its own computing system, and there is a
growing need for the interlinking of these systems for purposes of
obtaining access to specialised resources, for exchanging computing files
among academics and researchers and for obtaining access to "common"

information, as detailed in the attached memorandum.
In linking their computing systems, this Common Interest group will make
use of all types of SAPO services, viz., DIGINET, SAPONET-P, analogue
and dial-up lines.
The network used by this Common Interest Group will be heterogeneous, and
control of the individual links of the network will be decentralised.  In
due course a Network Management and Policy Board will be set up, but in the
meantime the CSIR's Foundation for Research Development (the arm of the
CSIR Responsible for National Research Programmes, and for the support of
University Research in the Natural and Earth Sciences) is acting as
coordinator for the network development, in close consultation with the
other bodies.
Similar groups exist in many overseas countries and operate with the
knowledge and consent of their national PTT's.  One of the objectives in
developing the network is eventually to be able to link with similar
networks overseas, thus enabling any academic or researcher to have
computer contact with a colleague anywhere in the world.
We trust that the attached memorandum will give you the required
information on which to base a favourable decision.  Should you require any
additional information, we would be pleased to supply it  and if necessary
further discuss the concept and details involved.
Yours faithfully
 V A Shaw
Foundation for Research Development - CSIR
P du B Welman
Network Committee of Committee of University Principals
W F Coetzee
Manager: SABINET
   Access to computing facilities is an increasingly important component of
   academic and research activities, and developments in electronic
   communication are facilitating communication among academics and
   researchers, enabling more rapid exchange of ideas, pooling of
   intellectual resources and collaboration among workers in the same
   field.  Research networks for academic and research purposes are
   operational in nearly all the "developed" countries and it is essential
   that the academic and research community in South Africa be able to
   participate on an equal footing with their peer communities overseas.
   The most outstanding example of an Academic and Research Network is
   BITNET, with its associated networks, EARN (European Academic and
   Research Network), NORTHNET (Canadian counterpart to EARN). (Refer to
   Annexure 1).
   This group of networks includes over a thousand computers situated over
   several continents and one of its functions is to provide a "store and
   forward" capability for the transfer of files between various types of
   computers, using the RSCS protocol and an addressing system based on
   site and user identification.  This enables a scientist, registered on
   any university or research computer, to make contact by computer and
   exchange files with virtually any other scientist, almost world-wide, as
   long as he knows his site and user identification.
   There are also many other "national" academic and research networks,
   giving more sophisticated computer communications facilities, all making
   extensive use of PTT facilities, such as JANET (Joint Academic Network)
   in the UK; SUNET in Scandanavia; DFN (Deutsche Forschungsnetz) in West
   It is proposed to establish a similar natioanl academic and research
   network (becoming known as UNINET) in South Africa, which will, first of
   all, facilitate computer access and data exchange among South African
   academics and researchers, and equally important, enable such a South
   African network to be linked with other national and international
   It is difficult to define the network configuration in detail, as it is
   expected to be implemented gradually, and to grow continuously, but it
   can described in concept.
   The main concept is the installation of a "backbone" network
   incorporating existing long-lead lines of the Council for Scientific
   Reaearch (CSIR) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) to provide links,
   country-wide, to connect machines and/or networks within an organisation
   and between the participating organisations.
   As some of these lines already carry heavy and continuous traffic within
   a single organisation, it is proposed that this "backbone" network will
   be based on Digital Time Division Multiplexors (DTDM) with networking
   capabilities, linked by means of DIGINET point-to-point circuits.
   It is envisaged that, in the initial implementation, there will be
   approximately 9 such DTDM's linked by approximately 11 DIGINET point-to
   point circuits.
   This "backbone" network, consisting mostly of long-lead links, will be
   supplemented by local links from individual sites to the DTDM's and also
   by SAPONET-P circuits, where appropriate.
   The local links will be on DIGINET where practicable, or analogue where
   DIGINET is not available.
   SAPONET-P circuits will generally be used where traffic is light over
   long distances and where, "one-to-many", rather than point-to-point
   interconnection is required.
   The UNINET network will provide for a number of different uses in the
   academic and research field, some of which are outlined below.
   Access to Specialised Facilities
   In the scientific environment it is not economic, and in many cases not
   at all feasible for every organisation to provide expensive specialised
   computing facilities, such as large-scale vector processors; specialised
   CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) facilities; educational systems such as
   PLATO; and other special-purpose software.  These specialised facilities
   may exist at any location within the academic/research community.
   The Research Councils all sponsor research at universities, and their
   researchers must be able to get access (from their normal terminals) to
   the computing facilities of their sponsors.
   It is therefore essential that an academic or researcher at any site, be
   able to access facilities at several other sites from the
   terminal/micro, that he normally uses for his "local" computing.
   Collaborative Research Projects
   There is a growing tendency, stimulated by the economic need to make the
   best possible use of the country's very limited resources of both brain-
   power and specialised equipment, towards the setting up of collaborative
   projects among researchers of several different organisations. (One such
   project in formation is on Digital Technology.)
   It is essential that these researchers be able to interlink their
   computing systems, to share software and other facilities, and to
   communicate information held on their computers.
   Communication Between Academics and Researchers Locally and World-Wide
   Many of our academics and researchers have studied overseas and have
   direct experience of the benefits of BITNET and similar networks, and on
   their return they wish to continue contact with colleagues abroad.
   Computing centres are regularly approached with requests for connections
   to BITNET, as well as requests for the same facilities locally.
   It is therefore becoming essential to establish a local network of the
   BITNET type, both for fostering computer communication among researchers
   locally, and for establishing a connection with the overseas networks.
   Access to SABINET
   The South African Bibliographic Information Network, was established in
   1985 as a not-for profit organisation, under sponsorship by the
   Department of National Education, in order to provide centralised
   bibliographic information to the "Library and Information" Community.
   The majority of SABINET users are at universities or research
   organisations.  Access to bibliographic information is a cornerstone of
   academic and research activities. It is essential for terminals,
   normally used for accessing local computers and data-bases should also
   be able to link into SABINET, rather than having to establish special
   "SABINET terminals", separately linked to the SABINET computer.
   It would be ideal if the SABINET computer and data-bases could be
   operated as just another "resource" on the academic and research
   network, by configuring ports on the network to the SABINET computer.
   Transmission of Statistics and Administrative Information
   Universities are required to prepare and submit certain statistics to
   the Department of National Educations; many of these statistical files
   are already in computer-readable form.  The existence of the proposed
   network would facilitate the electronic transmission of these statistics
   electronically, with consequent savings in time and effort.
   The sponsoring of research by the Research Councils necessitate the
   exchange of information regarding applications for sponsorship, projects
   approved, payment of grants, progress on projects, etc.
   The existence of a joint network will facilitate the development of
   electronic information interchange systems.
   The Common Interest Group will consist of a number of autonomous
   organisations, each of whom have their own computing systems and/or
   It is proposed to administer the UNINET network by allocating
   responsibility for a particular link  and the terminating equipment to a
   specific organisation which will relate to the SAPO, in respect of that
   link as a normal SAPO client.
   Eventually UNINET will be controlled by a Network Management and Policy
   Board which will be representative of the participants; until that Board
   is established, the CSIR's Foundation for Research Development will be
   acting on behalf of the present and future participants.
   FRD, initially, and ultimately the Board, will be responsible for
   overall liaison with the SAPO on policy matters regarding UNINET, and
   will be responsible for ensuring that conditions imposed by SAPO are
   respected by the participants.
   A detailed configuration of the proposed interlinking of computer
   systems within the UNINET network is set out here provisionally to
   illustrate the way that the participants' computer systems will be
   interlinked. In practice there will be modifications to the
   interconnections, and new inter-connections will included.  The network
   interconnections will have to be properly documented for operational and
   administrative purposes and SAPO will be regularly informed of any
   modifications as they are made.
   ( This is being worked out at Present)
   The need for an academic and research  network and its feasibility has
   been clearly established.  As the use of this network involves a certain
   amount of third party traffic in the form of "storage and forwarding" of
   messages and files it is necessary to have the approval of the
   Postmaster-general for the recognition of the participants as a Common
   Interest Group.
   The justification for such recognition is submitted in this memorandum.
   The establishment and operation of this network will offer considerable
   benefits for the academic and research community, particularly in the
   effective utilisation of the country's very scarce research manpower and
   Access to information is a vital aspect of research and academic
   activities, and the inclusion of SABINET in this Common Interest Group
   is essential.
Annexure A
- Council for Scientific  and Industrial Research
         Scientia (Pretoria), NRIO Stellenbosch, NAC (Faure)
- Medical Research Council
         Bellville, Johannesburg
- Human Sciences Research Council
- Water Research Commission
         Computer Centre for Water Research (CCWR) Pietermaritzburg
- Potchefstroom University
- Pretoria University
- Witwatersrand University
- University of Natal
- Rhodes University
- University of Stellenbosch
- University of Cape Town
- University of the Western Cape