Irish Ambassador Launches Innovation Labs at netLabs!UG

The Irish Ambassador to Uganda, His Excellency William Carlos, has launched four new Innovation laboratories belonging to netLabs!UG, a research center under the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), Makerere University. The new laboratories are:

  1. EPA Ireland Core Networking Lab
  2. Marconi Society Machine Learning Lab
  3. Uganda MikroTik Academy
  4. Wireless and Advanced Networking Lab

At the event held on April 10 2019, H.E. Carlos encouraged research staff and students to seize the opportunity to carry out useful research and solve local problems. “Make use of any opportunity that comes. An opportunity just gives a clear understanding of what you want,” he said. He was happy to note that the labs would spur innovative research and convert ideas into real solutions to local problems. He was happy to note the cordial relationship between Makerere University, particularly netLabs!UG, and Irish institutions. Through Eng. Diarmuid Ó Briain who is a netLabs!UG senior researcher and also a faculty member within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Department has established a strong partnership with the Irish Embassy as well as Irish companies and the Institute of Technology Carlow.

Most of the lab equipment at the research center was generously donated by The Marconi Society, Computer Facilities Technical Services and The Irish Embassy. netLabs!UG now has the capacity to carry out research in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Learning, Big Data, Internet of Things, Advanced Routing and Switching, Wireless Communications and Networking, Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Software Development among others capabilities. The Research Center also prides itself in having the capacity and expertise to carry out practical network installations and deployments. Eng. Dr Dorothy Okello, the Principal Investigator of netLabs!UG, thanked the Ambassador for making time to officiate at the launch of these important laboratories. She called on students, research staff and faculty members to fully utilize the labs. She congratulated five researchers of netLabs!UG who have received MikroTik training and are now certified trainers. She also thanked the Marconi Society and other donors for their donations.

Speaking at the event, the Deputy Principal of CEDAT, Dr Venny Nakazibwe, thanked the Irish Embassy and the Irish partners for the donation of equipment and for their continued support and partnerships with netLabs!UG and Makerere University at large. She said the laboratories would create a wide base of knowledge for students and staff at the research center and the College at large. She thanked Eng. Ó Briain and other staff for their energy and commitment to finding support and resources for the center and for nurturing students to fully benefit from these resources.

Figure 2: The Ambassador is joined by the Deputy Principal of CEDAT, Dr Venny Nakazibwe and Dr Dorothy Okello and other members of the netLabsUG team to cut cake.

The labs are already being used to design and test innovations that promise to have a profound impact on our local industries. For example, two student researchers, Ms. Olivia Nakayima and Ms. Gorret Namulondo are carrying out research using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to identify common diseases in passion fruits way earlier than humans can. They have created an algorithm that classifies and detects diseases based on the image inputs of leaves and fruits. Currently, their innovation can identify woodiness, leaf blight and brown spot and test case studies have been performed at various passion fruit farms in Masaka, Luwero and Hoima districts. This innovation will help farmers to improve yields and enhance their household incomes. This is just one of many other projects that are currently being carried out at the Center.