New Research Network to Provide High Speed Connectivity for Central Asia

Central Asian researchers and students will be able to better collaborate with their colleagues across the world, through a new EU-funded high-speed data-communications network. The CAREN (Central Asia Research and Education Network) project will provide high capacity Internet links for the first time to one million students and researchers in over 200 universities and research institutions along the ancient Silk Road in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to each other and to the global research community through connection to the high-speed pan-European GÉANT network.

Progress on the network was discussed at two high profile meetings in Almaty, Kazakhstan between 30 June and 2 July 2009. The CAREN Executive Committee meeting of the CAREN project partners was followed by the first CAREN Steering Group meeting. Chaired by the European Commission, attendees to the Steering Group meeting include senior ministerial officials from the central Asian partner countries, demonstrating the importance of this project to the region and beyond.

Existing and future projects that will benefit from CAREN span areas such as environmental monitoring, radio astronomy, telemedicine, the digitalisation of cultural heritage, e-learning, palaeontology and mineral extraction.

Scheduled to come into operation in early 2010, CAREN is currently tendering for a terrestrial broadband network that will replace current links from the satellite-based, NATO-funded virtual Silk Highway project. As it is fibre-based, CAREN will deliver improved connectivity through a more stable, cost-effective network infrastructure.

The network is co-funded by the European Commission, which is providing initial financial support of €5 million until the end of 2011, and by the Central Asian countries. The project will be operated and managed by research networking organisation DANTE in conjunction with the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) of the countries involved.

CAREN builds on existing EC-led research network programmes, including the Black Sea Initiative (BSI), which connects the neighbouring South Caucasus to Europe, the TEIN3 network which covers Eastern Asia and the ORIENT link to China. This is part of an overall strategy to connect researchers across the globe, increasing collaboration and stimulating development through high-speed network infrastructures.

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