Donors and Collaborators

To recap: in a throwback to the ancient Great Silk Road that connects the two major continents, Asia and Europe, NATO has come up with the Virtual Silk Highway today. The Silk Road spanned 4,000 miles or 6,500 kilometres and reached across countries through Central Asia and Europe and, in fact, was one of the major reasons why civilisations in countries, such as China, India and Arabia developed rapidly during that period. The Virtual Silk Highway is aimed at improving the Internet connectivity for the Caucasian region and Central Asian region, and serve as a catalyst for the establishment of many knowledge societies within these regions.

The Fundamentals of the Project

The Virtual Silk Highway or the Silk Project is aimed at developing the academic and educational communities in its target countries. This project is implemented through the establishment of NRENs or National Research and Education Networks. A look at the list of the different NRENs all over the world yields an exhaustive list of localised or country-based networks. For instance, Asia Pacific has REANNZ for New Zealand and Uninet for Thailand. Latin America is served through CLARA and the European NREN works through something known as DANTE-GEANT2.

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The main focus of these different networks and many other similar networks in the world is the enabling of communication to flow freely among many researchers and educators, and the students all over the country. With Internet connectivity at the helm of things, this flow of communication becomes easy and instantaneous. It will also help the country in question interact with similar communities on an international platform. Among other services, the Silk Project aims at delivering website hosting, connectivity and networking in the concerned regions.

The project has also been made possible with the help of donations from various sources and agencies located in different parts of the world. The Silk Project is also sustained because of membership fees that are paid by the organisations, who participate in the NREN project. Organisations, such as universities, libraries and academic hospitals, become members of the NREN and pay membership fees.

The Infrastructure

1. NATO Science Program NATO came on board this non-military project in a funding role in the year 2001 and has since then established NRENs in many countries in Central Asia, and is continuing to do so in many other regions as well. It is also funding some workshops that are conducted across the globe to further the establishment of such an NREN.

2. Cisco Systems There is a lot of equipment that goes into creating the NRENs and this component, if being donated by Cisco Systems, a leader in the area of electronics and networking technologies. Cisco has donated the networking equipment needed to establish the NRENs. It has donated to the tune of $400,000 of networking equipment.

3. Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron or DESY This Hamburg-based company has been a leader in the space of delivering satellite services to countries that were once a part of the Soviet Union. As part of the Silk Project, it is hosting the hub in Europe. It is also enabling the testing for satellite dishes and other equipment at its Hamburg facility.

4. EurasiaSat This company has given access to satellite connection for the Silk Project.

5. GEANT This is a pan-European data network enables national level NRENs to have access to educational and research institutes all over the world.

Local Requirements

United Nations Development Program or UNDP The UNDP project helped establish NREN in Bulgaria. There were differing amounts allocated for the same. For instance, the revision of the project saw a sum of $472,500 being set aside for the NREN project in 2008. The UNDP has a broad range of activities, like poverty, environment protection and HIV/ AIDS.

Open Society Institute or OSI This is now known as Open Society Foundations or the Soros Foundation, and is the brainchild of an investor, George Soros. As part of its mission to develop civil societies all over the world, this body has sponsored local initiatives and work done on the establishment of NRENs, such as sponsoring a workshop in Prague.

Internet Access Training Program or IATP The IATP has been funded by the USAID since the year 2007 and had a stellar role to play in the establishment of the NREN in Uzbekistan.

Internet Society When the first technical workshop was held for the Silk Project in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the Internet Society provided a grant of $122,000.

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