. CAREN project brings Gigabit-speed connectivity to Central Asia*

Researchers, academics and students in Central Asia and Europe are already starting to benefit from the recent deployment of a ring of 1 Gbps circuits for research and education (R&E) across the regions, officially inaugurated today at the start of the 2nd CAREN Regional Networking Conference (CRNC 2017) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

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 serving higher education and research institutions across the region.

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 pan-European 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.

Steve Cotter, CEO GÉANT, said: “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 national research and education network (NREN) partners in Central Asia, puts CAREN in a unique position to turn the ancient Silk Road into a high-speed digital highway.”

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; Uzbekistan is also eligible to join.

Ambassador Cesare De Montis, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Kyrgyz Republic commented: “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.”

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 brings together practitioners from the Central Asian research and higher education community, policy makers, connectivity providers, ICT vendors and will also draw on the expertise of representatives from other regional networks and organisations, such as GÉANT, TEIN*CC (Asia-Pacific) and the UbuntuNet Alliance (Southern Africa).

Over the next two days, participants will hear and see 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, telemedicine and preservation of natural and cultural heritage. In addition, presentations will outline how e-learning and remote training opportunities make education and knowledge transfer more accessible.

“We are involved in international programmes to identify and study hazardous asteroids,” said Dr Gulchehra Kohirova, speaker at the conference 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 high-speed connectivity, we simply couldn’t participate in the work of the centre,” she concluded.

CRNC 2017 will also celebrate the official launch of the CAREN Cooperation Center (CAREN*CC)  which was established by the CAREN partners as a not-for-profit organisation, based in Bishkek, to promote R&E networking throughout the Central Asian region and to maximise the impact of CAREN.

Prof. Askar Kutanov, CEO of CAREN*CC, said: “We are delighted to celebrate with the wider R&E networking community the establishment of this powerful CAREN Gigabit-ring. CAREN*CC will do its utmost do promote its benefits to the user communities, to support their collaboration endeavours and help gain the necessary traction to connect other partners in our region.”

* This article first appeared on CAREN website. Read the original version.

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