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Brussels, 17 March 2009

GÉANT academic internet links to Black Sea region –Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Black Sea Interconnection?

The Black Sea Interconnection is an academic internet that links national research and education internet networks across the Southern Caucasus. As an extension of GÉANT, the most advanced international network in the world, it will be used by users in 377 universities and research institutes in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia connected via their national networks. This new link is a quantum-leap in terms of performance and international connectivity made available to the science and research community in the Southern Caucasus (from a few megabit per second at best to a stable, state-of-the art infrastructure of tens to hundred megabits per second).

The Black Sea Interconnection project is run under the EU's overall Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological development and coordinated by the Turkish national research and education network TUBITAK. Other partners are also national research and education networks: AS-NET/ARENA (Armenia), AZRENA (Azerbaijan), CEENET (Austria), GRENA (Georgia), GRNET (Greece), and DANTE (the UK).

For more information on the Black Sea Interconnection project:

What is GÉANT?

GÉANT is an advanced pan-European backbone network connecting national research and education networks across Europe totalling more than 50,000 km in length. GÉANT offers unrivalled geographical coverage, high bandwidth and innovative hybrid networking technology (combining advanced light path services with traditional high-end routing). GÉANT gives European academics and researchers a high speed, private network connection to other research centres. It already serves 30 million researchers and 4000 research centres across Europe.

It connects all national research and education networks (NRENs) across Europe, and is used in 36 countries across the continent connected via these national networks. GÉANT also links networks in other parts of the world to enable global research collaboration. It allows European academics and researchers to have dedicated point-to-point high speed internet links between research centres (e.g. for directly linking their supercomputers or radio telescopes).

GÉANT is managed and operated by DANTE and supported by the Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association (TERENA) on behalf of Europe's national research and education networks (the 27 Member States of the EU, Iceland, Norway, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Croatia, Turkey, Israel, Russia, Byelorussia, Ukraine and Moldova).

GÉANT2 replaced GÉANT in mid 2004 and GÉANT3 will be launched towards the end of 2009. It allows more data to be stored, transmitted and analysed than ever before.

For more information on the current GÉANT2, see:

Why are the Black Sea Interconnection and GÉANT needed?

Without high-speed research networks like GÉANT, many research projects and innovative scientific studies at the forefront of their fields would simply not be possible.

Europe is home to the largest and most diverse group of academic and scientific researchers in the world. An extraordinary amount of data is collectively produced every month and is shared between researchers in different countries. It is important that they can work together and share data in real time. Work at the frontier of research increasingly depends on large scale databanks and massive processing power to deal with problems such as decoding genetic information, simulating climate change and energy demands or predicting and managing the spread of epidemics. While many countries have national networks providing these facilities, the European Commission enables the pooling of these resources under GÉANT so that European researchers can combine their efforts.

GÉANT enhances the mobility of researchers by giving them access to the working environment that they use in their home university when they are in other institutions.

The Black Sea interconnection project extends this network to 377 research institutes and universities of Southern Caucasus, a region known for its rich culture and scientific traditions. Scientists from Armenia and Georgia are currently involved in numerous European research projects, like scientific resource sharing infrastructures (GRIDs), the Large Hadron Collider (the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator built by the CERN), environmental monitoring of the Black Sea and high-energy physics collaborations.

What other regions have already been connected to GÉANT?

GÉANT already connects:

  • 7 Mediterranean countries via EUMEDconnect2
  • 5 Balkan countries via SEEREN
  • 5 Central Asian countries via SILK/OCCASION and soon CAREN
  • 14 Asian countries via TEIN3
  • 12 Latin American countries via ALICE2
  • South Africa via a dedicated high speed link and the UbuntuNet Alliance African countries;
  • The US and Canada through a long-standing trans-Atlantic partnership.

What are the benefits of connecting GÉANT and the national research and education networks of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia?

  • It bridges the digital divide: The Black Sea Interconnection allows Caucasian researchers and scholars to access the scientific resources of Europe and fosters scientific collaboration that would otherwise not be possible.
  • It offers a massive data processing capacity: GÉANT and its partner networks can transfer huge quantities of data, which has useful applications in, for example, radio astronomy and natural history. This opens up new means of research which were previously unfeasible. For example, it makes collections available online. It can also link radio antennas creating a virtual antenna the size of the globe.
  • It is a global interconnection: GÉANT connects European researchers with colleagues in North America, Japan, Mediterranean, Latin-America, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, South Africa, Caucasus and Central Asia to support European scientists in their global communication and collaboration needs.
  • It helps to maintain Europe’s leadership in research: GÉANT achieved global leadership in this sector through the wide-scale use of 10 Gigabytes per second – hyper fast technology previously not available on the market. This attracted much leading-edge research work to Europe (for example in version 6 of the Internet Protocol – IPv6, “Grid” networked computing and radio-astronomy). GÉANT sustained this research by using “dark fibre” for individual high speed links to advanced research communities.
  • It will help universities and schools use more advanced and faster technology to connect to the internet. So far universities in the Caucasus used very limited commercial internet connections not tailored to the specific needs of an academic community. The Black Sea Interconnection allows them to use advanced communication for better scientific collaboration and will put new research tools for science at their disposal. National networks and local universities will provide training and support to schools, which often lack the technical know-how to operate a local school network.
  • Broadband and skills gaps: GÉANT provides a benchmarking tool for assessing the availability of broadband in each participating country. In less-advanced areas, GÉANT seeks to close gaps by transferring technical, managerial and policy skills through workshops, consultancy and secondment of experts.

What sort of research is particularly helped by using GÉANT?

Examples range from radio astronomers linking their telescopes around the world, to high-energy physicists sending previously unimaginable amounts of data, or the linking of bio databases that allow scientists to tackle the most challenging problems we face today (such as combining efficiently the computational efforts to fight malaria and to develop vaccines against the avian flu virus).

As well as boosting researchers and scientists, will this project help people in their daily life?

Yes. One of the biggest impacts will be in the field of healthcare, where the fast internet connections will offer new possibilities to medical professionals:

By using the new network that links to GÉANT and worldwide, physicians and researchers in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will have access to specialist medical advice that they can find on the global medical network and in turn can contribute their medical opinions and data to the world.

The high speed internet connections would enable telemedicine through which physicians and researchers could provide e-health services that reach remote regions and that will allow doctors to remotely diagnose conditions and prescribe treatments. At present, the lack of medical specialists in Armenian rural communities and the difficult socio-economic conditions in the region make it physically and financially difficult for many people to access quality medical care. It is even harder for these communities to receive timely and effective medical care during the long winter months, when they are isolated as mountainous roads become impassable due to snow and blizzards. Thanks to the project launched today, telemedicine would also help to overcome this problem.

For example, if the regional cancer centre in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan, pathologists could send high quality images to the University of Basel Telepathology Centre in just seconds over the GÉANT network, Azeris would no longer have to make the 17 hour, 800 km trek to Baku (and as Nakhchivan is an Azeri exclave, cross the Iranian border in the process).

Will doctors in the South Caucasus also be able to use GÉANT to link to medical facilities in Europe, for training and up to date information?

While there are enough physicians in the Caucasus, they sometimes lack high level and post-graduate training. Remote teaching can overcome this problem. Recently, using the highest quality, internationally available computer-based education, and hands-on clinical training, Armenia’s International Academy of Education (IAE) and Health Sciences Online (HSO) have started collaboratively produce well-trained medical specialists. HSO is the only health sciences website with comprehensive, authoritative, free, and ad-free courses, references, and other resources. HSO already has more than 50,000 such resources, with searching and text resources automatically translated into 22 languages (including Russian). The GÉANT network enables efficient use of all these high volume resources and making possible real-time medical practices and video-conference trainings.

For example, the city of Goris in Southern Armenia is quite far from the regional centre in Kapan, and even further from the capital Yerevan. It has a hospital staffed with a few sub-specialists but is at risk of a "brain drain" to the capital Yerevan where there are better professional opportunities. This can be exacerbated when they do not have access to the latest facilities to treat their patients. The Black Sea interconnection to GÉANT will allow physicians in remote areas to consult with colleagues in Yerevan and around Europe and, by exchanging advice on diagnoses and the latest treatments, could potentially save the lives of some of their patients.

Have such benefits already been seen by existing projects?

The opening of a Learning Resource Centre equipped with hardware provided by NATO in the Medical-Scientific Centre of Dermatology and STI in Yerevan and linked with the GÉANT network has already achieved several improvements.

Above all, it allows physicians and general practitioners to search the Health Sciences Online (HSO) database, reviewing and researching an immense quantity of up-do-date and highly reliable health related resources, allowing better service and patient treatment. For example, having used HSO, some practitioners prescribed medicine to patients which they had previously not known about, resulting in much better treatment of illnesses like psoriasis and chronic dermatosis.

How are the Black Sea Interconnection and GÉANT2 funded and organised?

The Black Sea Interconnection is co-funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (80% of the total budget) and beneficiary countries (20%). The European Commission provides funding of € 1.4 million, out of a total budget of just over € 1.86 million.

GÉANT is co-funded by the European Union’s Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. The funding contract groups a number of research and education networking activities, which are managed together as a project. The European Commission provides funding of € 93 million from 1 September 2004 until June 2009 (total costs € 200 million). Overall co-ordination is undertaken by a not-for-profit organisation established in 1993, DANTE.

Why is the EU involved?

Besides the important role it plays in bringing national academic internet networks together, EU funding is needed to upgrade Europe’s research and education networking infrastructure, so as to boost Europe’s attractiveness as a place to do research. EU funding enabled GÉANT to stay at the forefront of research networking technology.

GÉANT integrates national research efforts, which gives structure and focus to the overall European research landscape. It also facilitates the formation of global virtual research communities needed to generate breakthroughs in very high-tech areas such as nuclear research, radio-astronomy, bio-technology. Providing high-speed internet services has not only improved the cost-effectiveness of research, but has fundamentally transformed the way it is carried out (making it extremely more collaborative, for example). Thanks to GÉANT, the results of scientific experiments such as radio astronomic observations can be made available instantly, rather than after 3 weeks.

GÉANT also provides access to remote resources that are sometimes too costly for a single country to further enhance, such as telescopes that are usually in remote places.

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