Silk Road becomes research and education highway

The formal inauguration of the Central Asia Research and Education network (CAREN) took place in Bishkek on 21 September 2010. Operational since July this year, CAREN currently interconnects scientists and students in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. CAREN gives around half a million researchers and academics across the region access to the large databases together with massive processing power needed for cutting-edge research, that will directly benefit the region.
Commission representatives Chantal Hebberecht, HoD in Kyrgyzstan and William Hanna HoU D2 (the latter representing AIDCO HQ managing CAREN) both stressed that CAREN will help bridge the digital divide between Central Asia and Europe. Indeed, it not only provides high-speed connections between scientists across Central Asia; but thanks to the interconnection with its pan-European counterpart GÉANT, it is also a gateway for global collaboration.
CAREN enables Central Asia to participate in regional and global collaborative projects with high impact upon society and with direct relevance to the region, including environmental studies, seismology, tele-medicine and textile research. Distance learning brings new opportunities for students, making education more accessible.
The launch event was the occasion to visit the Central Asian Institute for Applied Geosciences (CAIAG) in Bishkek, where attendees could see first-hand the benefits of the highspeed CAREN links enabling seismologists to access seismic data from monitoring stations in “near-real” time. This information can then be exchanged with colleagues across the region, as well as with scientists at the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) to improve hazard assessment and effective disaster risk management – a life-saving initiative in this earthquake-prone part of the world.
The event was followed by a project Steering Committee and Executive Board Meeting where a number of challenges were taken up for discussion such as:
• How to extend the network (Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are still to join CAREN) and achieve low connectivity costs for the partners.
• How to extend the social benefits of the ICT connectivity made available by CAREN.
• How to ensure fair competition within the ICT market and avoid monopoly based structures to hamper this development.
• How to ensure long-term sustainability, both organizationally and financially.

Background
CAREN receives 80% (€5 million) of its €6.25 million budget from the European Commission, with the remaining funding being provided by the beneficiary countries on a cost-sharing basis. The project is operated and managed by research networking organisation DANTE, in conjunction with the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) of the participating countries. CAREN builds on the achievements of the NATO-funded Silk project, which introduced research networking with the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Søren Klem

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