CAREN project on a roll in Central Asia
It’s been a busy first half of the year for CAREN3: from deploying new circuits, through holding a second successful regional conference (CRNC 2017) to establishing the CAREN Cooperation Center (CAREN CC) as its future regional networking organisation.
Gigabit-speed connectivity – a first for Central Asia
Researchers, academics and students in Central Asia and Europe have welcomed the recent deployment of a ring of 1 Gbps circuits for research and education between the regions; the new connectivity is a key component of the EU-funded Central Asia Research and Education Network (CAREN) project which – now in its 3rd phase - sets out to create a sustainable, high-capacity data network for higher education and research institutions across Central Asia.
Initially, CAREN3 connects the Kyrgyz and Tajik R&E communities to their peers in Europe and the rest of the world via links from Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) and Dushanbe (Tajikistan) to the CAREN network hub in Frankfurt, where they interconnect with the GÉANT network. In addition, for the first time, direct connectivity within the region has also been deployed between the Bishkek and Dushanbe sites, paving the way for a truly regional high-speed R&E backbone in Central Asia.
CRNC 2017: bringing the R&E community together in Bishkek
The arrival of the Gigabit-speed connectivity in Central Asia was celebrated during the 2nd CAREN Regional Networking Conference (CRNC 2017) which took place 25-26 April in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Themed “Empowering the Central Asian research and education communities through global high-speed networking” and jointly hosted by KRENA, the Kyrgyz Research and Education Network Association and Kyrgyz Turkish Manas University, CRNC 2017 attracted over 160 participants from 19 countries around the world: practitioners from the Central Asian research and higher education community, policy makers, connectivity providers, ICT vendors as well as representatives from other regional networks and organisations, such as GÉANT, EaPConnect (Eastern partnership countries), TEIN*CC (Asia-Pacific) and the UbuntuNet Alliance in Eastern and Southern Africa.
In line with the conference theme, the programme focussed on key areas such as cloud computing, network security, AAI and applications for science and education.
Voices from the field
Participants heard first-hand from scientists and academics how CAREN’s high-speed links make a real difference in advancing collaborative research in areas such as environmental studies, seismology, astronomy, telemedicine and preservation of natural and cultural heritage. Prof. Hanno Schaumburg from Hamburg Technical University – a renowned figure in Central Asian academic circles – stressed the need of good internet connectivity to develop a vibrant solar energy industry in the region; telemedical training promotor Prof. Shuji Shimizu from Japan dwelt on opportunities for joint remote medical education activities with local hospitals (which he also paid a visit to whilst in Bishkek), whilst Alexander Zubovich from the Central-Asian Institute for Applied Geosciences (CAIAG) outlined the data transfer and connectivity requirements of geo-monitoring jointly undertaken with colleagues in Germany.
“We are involved in international programmes to identify and study hazardous asteroids,” said Dr Gulchehra Kohirova, another conference speaker and Director of the Institute of Astrophysics of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan which has recently been connected to TARENA, the Tajik NREN. “We transfer and receive large datasets to and from the Minor Planet Center in the US, which is the global focus for all information about the positions of the threats we monitor. Without TARENA’s and CAREN’s secure highspeed connectivity, we simply couldn’t participate in the work of the centre,” she concluded.
Various presentations outlined how e-learning and remote training opportunities are making education and knowledge transfer more accessible in Central Asia. Dr Max Meier from the Hanns Seidel Foundation for example, promoted in his presentation remote lectures and webinars over the CAREN network to foster capacity building of aspiring civil servants, whilst other speakers outlined the potential of ICT in improving the educational process at their own academic institutions.
CAREN CC: the new regional partner
CRNC 2017 also celebrated the official launch of the new CAREN Cooperation Center, to be known as CAREN CC. It has been established by the CAREN partners as a not-for-profit organisation based in Bishkek to maximise the impact of CAREN throughout the Central Asian region and support the participation of further NREN partners and users.
Continued EU support
With €10M EU funding up to 2019, the third project phase started in June 2016, initially with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as beneficiaries following the signing of co-funding agreements between their governments and the European Commission. Work is underway to also re-establish project participation for Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and also include Uzbekistan.
“The development of a high capacity, yet cost-effective data communications infrastructure for research and education is high on the EU agenda as it is key to bringing the best minds together. In this context, we welcome the CAREN project that has recently entered its third phase and, for the first time, brings connectivity at Gigabit speed to Central Asia. In partnership with the NRENs, we look forward to extending CAREN’s benefits to the research and education communities across the whole region.”
Ambassador Cesare De Montis, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Kyrgyz Republic
“GÉANT has been given the mandate by the European Union to help build digital bridges between Europe and other world regions to strengthen existing and catalyse new collaborative research and education activities. EU funding, combined with the expertise of GÉANT and its NREN partners in Central Asia, puts CAREN in a unique position to turn the ancient Silk Road into a highspeed digital highway.”
David West, CAREN project manager, GÉANT
About CRNC 2017
CRNC 2017 was organised by the CAREN project and hosted by the Kyrgyz Research and Education Network Association (KRENA) in conjunction with Kyrgyz Turkish Manas University. The conference was further supported by the local ISP Elcat.
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EU funding for the CAREN project ended in December 2019. The region’s NRENs have started a new phase of regional collaboration. Find out more at https://icaren.org/