Who is SAFIRE?
SAFIRE is an academic identity federation, housed in TENET. Unless you’re a seasoned techie, that probably sounds like Greek to you. Here’s what it actually means:
Firstly, TENET is the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa — a local Non-Profit Company (NPC) and Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) aimed at securing Information and Technology services for the benefit of South African universities and associated research and support institutions.
SAFIRE is essentially a data processor or operator, depending on the lingo you choose to use. They facilitate access to other academic institutions; thanks to SAFIRE, you can use your university login details to access resources at other universities and education-related institutions around the world — at no cost to you.
Why does SAFIRE exist?
Research in higher education is necessarily collaborative today; institutions have to be smart with their limited resources and arrange sharing agreements that are mutually beneficial and save costs.
The tricky part is facilitating that collaboration in a way that scales effectively — which can be a bureaucratic nightmare. SAFIRE exists to simplify the sharing and to make sure it’s secure for students, staff and their institutions.
SAFIRE strives to make the process seamless and integrated so that it’s easy for you to log into another institution to get the resources you need for your research or teaching.
What do they do, exactly?
SAFIRE makes federated login possible. While that might sound highly technical, it’s not an unfamiliar concept to most. If you’ve ever logged into a website using your credentials from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn or something similar, you’ll have done a federated login of sorts.
What SAFIRE does is give you access to other, international education organisations with the credentials from the institution where you’re registered — and much more securely than the examples above.
There are more than 60 similar federations to SAFIRE all over the globe, existing to increase access to resources and promote research collaboration. SAFIRE will allow you to connect to other institutions through inter-federation access and trust agreements, using the vehicle of eduGAIN — think of it as the federation equivalent of the eduroam WiFi roaming service.