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January 2003

 
Dossier

BALKAN NEIGHBOURS

 


Case Study
Northern connections

 
    Mountains and islands make Greece an enthusiastic proponent of the virtual communities enabled by digital networking.

T he pan-European GÉANT network links over 3,000 universities and educational institutions into thriving virtual communities. The Greek Research and Technology Network (GRNET) is leading a consortium to extend GÉANT connectivity into the Balkans. The south-east European research and education networking initiative (Seeren) includes the national research and education networks (NRENs) of the Balkan states and networks such as Terena an EU-supported research and education association. Seeren aims to ease the 'digital divide' that isolates south-east Europe, thus contributing to stability and development in the region an aim that GRNET is determined to champion as Jorge Sanchez-Papaspiliou, the project co-ordinator, explains. "The Balkans physically separate Greece from our EU partners and we have a high interest in developing the region therefore we are prepared to work more than others to overcome obstacles."


Green-field approach

Seeren will oversee the design and implementation of 2-34 Mbps (megabits per second) interconnections linking the partner NRENs into regional GÉANT points of presence (PoPs). These fast international connections will open doors to the many scientific and educational communities within the European Union.

However, GRNET will do more than that. Many Balkan NRENs have poor infrastructure. Here GRNET is leveraging other funding sources, as Sanchez describes: "We are supporting NATO funding applications for infrastructure upgrades the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia applied in September, in Albania we are targeting a January application. This is a key feature, co-ordinating other funding opportunities to maximise regional impact." Substantial Greek bilateral aid is coming on-line and GRNET is investigating Interreg( 1 ) funding with other EU partners.

A second feature is the legal and organisational establishment of an effective NREN a Seeren workshop will address this topic in early 2003. Significantly, these NRENs are green-field sites with few legacy systems. They can take technology leaps, such as the experimental deployment of the latest Internet protocol (IPv6) to the desktop.

Current GEANT data tranfert speeds

Seeren is working to increase data transfer speeds among Greece's Balkan neighbours.

Seeren is working to increase data transfer speeds among Greece's Balkan neighbours.


Greek input

Greek experience benefits Seeren with university departments shared among islands and regions and an international diaspora of scientific talent, Greece has learnt to be inclusive at a distance. At GRNET, network support functions are decentralised through a distributed network operations centre linking regional universities these bridge the physical isolation, promote communication and keep qualified personnel in the regions. Seeren shares work packages in the same distributed, but inclusive manner, helping to stem the emigration of scientific talent. "Common interest drives action," says Sanchez. "Our cultural and historical ties are the context for growing economic links, as Greek companies lead investment in the region. But through Seeren, we act as an enabler for communication and co-operation with all of Europe." (1) Interreg is a Community initiative within the European Regional Development Fund, which promotes co-operation between regions of different countries.

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