March 17, 2009
GRENA is hosting European Commission ”Black Sea Interconnection” project opening ceremony and Executive Board meeting.

Europe’s GÉANT bridges Black Sea digital divide for South Caucasian researchers and students / Bigger and better: GÉANT computer network reaches out to Caucasus / Europe's giant computer network links South Caucasian students and researchers to Europe / One small step for GEANT, one giant leap for the Black Sea region

The Commission today increased the internet capacity available across the Black Sea to researchers in the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) by switching on the region's largest computer network for research and education. The EU-funded regional research and education network Black Sea Interconnection (BSI) links the South Caucasus countries and connects them to the high bandwidth, world-leading, pan-European GÉANT network that already serves 30 million researchers. This new connection will enable researchers and students to collaborate with their European peers in 40 countries, by sharing large amounts of data over the network, for example.
“The Commission wants to direct the internet's evolution to make sure there are no black spots in global research,” said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. “By investing €1.4 million funding in this project, we will bridge a major digital divide by connecting scientists from the Black Sea region to the global research community to the South Caucasus, providing high speed internet connections to universities and research centres. I expect better collaboration with GEANT's 4,000 EU research institutions will lead to better research and better results in Europe and beyond.”
“This major project underpins a number of key aims for EU policy within the Black Sea region,” Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy added. “It implements Black Sea Synergy in the crucial sector of information society, providing a collaborative infrastructure that not only supports research but also the future introduction of new online services such as e-Government, e-Business, e-Health and the use of information and communication technology in education benefiting society as a whole.”
Cutting edge research depends on large databanks and massive processing power to deal with problems such as forecasting earthquakes, decoding genetic information, simulating climate change and energy demands or predicting and managing the spread of epidemics. The Black Sea Interconnection project links the countries of the South Caucasus to the pan-European GÉANT (MEMO/09/…) academic internet at previously unavailable speeds (from a minimum of 34 to 100 Megabits per second, Mbps). These speeds allow the deployment of advanced services across the region, such as more internet addresses through the latest internet protocol (IPv6, a potentially unlimited source of internet addresses (IP/08/803)) and multicast (which allows more effective streaming of videos, for example), which are innovative features of high speed research networking across the world.
The high speed connections will allow a far greater level of collaboration between researchers and scientists in the region. Connecting 377 universities and research institutes in the South Caucasus to the pan-European Geant2 network, which already connects 34 national research networks worldwide, will increase the scope of research and education both in the South Caucasus and Europe itself. It also promises to impact daily life in the region by improving access to and quality of healthcare such as allowing doctors to remotely diagnose conditions and prescribe treatment to poor and isolated rural communities (for more examples, MEMO/09/…).
“Turkey is proud to lead such an important project in such a critical region and also to see the realisation of a regional network among the South Caucasian National Research and Education Networks”, said Prof. Nüket Yetiş, President of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey. “We believe this initial step towards the integration of the whole Black Sea Region to the European scientific community will stimulate collaboration between partner countries and serve as a model for regional development.”
“The BSI project provides the next step forward in collaboration across not just the Black Sea Region but to the global research community,” said Jean-François Bureau, Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy of NATO. “We welcome the introduction of increased network capacity and look forward to working alongside the BSI project to deliver advanced infrastructure to the regional research community.”
Armenian Prime Minister, Mr Tigran Sargsyan, stated, “Our researchers and students have previously found their efforts at collaboration hampered by a lack of high speed connectivity within the region, and vitally to Europe. IT development is the most important task to achieve the Armenian government’s primary goal of the national economy being driven by science and modern technology. The BSI project will provide the infrastructure we need to share knowledge amongst our peers, to enlarge scientific research collaboration and bring new technology and science to Armenia.”
Georgian Vice Prime Minister George Baramidze said, “BSI is the most important step in the last few years to integrate the Georgian research and education community in Europe. It will make it possible for Georgian scientists to run complex applications such as GRID computing and provide access to world-class experiments like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.”
Azerbaijan Minister of Telecommunication and IT Professor Ali Abasov said, “The BSI project is of crucial importance for our scientific community, which consists of 36 research institutes and 20 universities, whose needs are growing rapidly. BSI is a much needed complementary contribution to our country’s ICT strategy, which is the realisation of President Ilham Aliev’s vision to make ICT the second most important area of our economy, after oil.”
The Black Sea Interconnection project will run for 24-months from 17 March 2008.

The Black Sea Interconnection project stems from earlier EC-funded project “Porta Optica” and replaces the NATO-funded “Virtual Silk Highway” which provided satellite connections to provide high speed and high capacity internet connection to GÉANT for the South Caucasus and Central Asia, but was unable to meet the ever increasing connectivity and collaboration needs of the scientific community.
The project is coordinated by the Turkish National Research and Education Network, TÜBİTAK-ULAKBİM – the largest project coordinated by Turkey in the Commission's overall FP7 Research Programme. It involves the South Caucasian National Research and Education Networks: GRENA (Georgia), AzRENA (Azerbaijan) and ASNET-AM/ARENA (Armenia).

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