The Phare Connection
Linking up Central and Eastern Europe
In western Europe the first national university networks, linking up research institutes and universities at a national level, started to emerge during the eighties. They organised themselves and established their own pan-European network infrastructure, interconnecting each other. Since the early nineties central and eastern European countries have followed suit and now there is a well-established national research network organisation in most countries in the region. As a result the interconnection of all research networks across Europe became an urgent requirement in order to exploit Europe's research potential to the fullest.
Through the Phare R&D Networking Programme eleven countries in central and eastern Europe are now connected to the rest of the European research Internet. Researchers in these eleven countries can communicate with their western European counterparts and with each other. Researchers in both parts of Europe benefit from the new connections, and Europe as a whole now has a wider and stronger community of researchers.
The Internet at work: a practical example
Researchers at the Institutes of Isotopes of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences are working on a research project to measure and analyse the characteristics of isotopes in minerals and rocks. The results will be used in the selection of a possible site for a radioactive waste disposal in Hungary. The Institute was a beneficiary of the Phare programme in 1993. The researchers participating in the project used the Internet in several ways in support of their activities. In the preparation phase they used the World Wide Web in search for similar projects around the world. In the next phase they used electronic mail to establish contacts which led to research collaboration with the Radiopharmacy Division of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland.
Phare R&D Networking: facilitating the information revolution
Computer networks, the Internet and the WWW in particular, have contributed to an information revolution, in western and central and eastern Europe. The Phare R&D Networking Programme has promoted the usage of Internet technology and the availability of Internet services in the CEE region. Through cooperative agreements with Telecom Operators and commercial Internet service providers the research networks have played an active role in the introduction and promotion of the commercial Internet in the Phare countries.
The Internet has had a direct effect on government policy in many countries as well: the concept of the 'Information Society' is now generally adopted. It instigated governments to define a national long term Information Strategy. The Internet is extensively used by governments and a vast amount of information has become available to the public in a much more direct and efficient way than before. Thus the Internet has had a significant positive influence on the transforming societies in central and eastern Europe.
The 'history' of Phare R&D
There have been two projects under the Phare R&D Networking Programme: the first stretched from 1991-1994 (and covered only the five countries that qualified for Phare funding in 1991). During this period the national research networks - under establishment - of (then) Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania were connected to the rest of the European research community.
The Phare 1994 R&D Networking Programme took off in November 1994, and covered a larger group of countries: Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Under Phare 1994 new connections to the Baltic States were realised. Support was provided for connections which the Polish university network established on its own initiative as well as for upgrading the links between Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Contracts have been awarded for new connections to Albania and Bulgaria, which are currently in an advanced stage of preparation. In addition, the connections that were established under Phare 1991 for Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovenia were substantially upgraded.
Phare also supports the setting up of the national computer network infrastructure. Computer equipment, such as routers, modems, workstations and network management software was provided to the partner countries for this purpose.
INSIGHT: Weaving the web in Central and Eastern Europe
The World Wide Web is one of the fastest growing services on the Internet. It's an attractive and relatively easy way of presenting information and providing pointers to information located elsewhere. Also in the CEE countries web sites have emerged rapidly in the last few years.
INSIGHT is a project under the COPERNICUS Programme of the European Commission which supports nine countries in central and eastern Europe in the setting up of a national WWW server, with particular focus on providing information of interest to the research community. The following countries participate in INSIGHT: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Managers of web sites of the National Research Networks (as well as other organisations) in these countries are being trained in providing a high quality web service to their community. INSIGHT addresses technical as well as contents-related requirements of a WWW information service. The project started in January 1995 and covers two years.
Sowing the seeds, reaping the fruit
The setting up of the network infrastructure that is currently in place in central and eastern Europe has been quite challenging. Some countries already had a more advanced infrastructure - both technically and organisationally - in place than others. One of the Phare countries (Hungary) will participate from the start of service in TEN-34, the pan- European 34 Mbps network which is currently being implemented for and by the European national research networks. The Czech Republic is preparing to join shortly afterwards. TEN-34 is based on the use of advanced communications technology, which is not yet commercially available even in western Europe. It is very encouraging that these two Phare countries are now ready to join in this ambitious project. To a large extent their progress can be ascribed to the Phare activity.
The TEN-34 Consortium consists of all the western European research networks who work together with the European telecom operators to set up this high capacity pan-European backbone network. TEN-34 is a Telematics for Research project under the Fourth Framework Programme of the European Commission. TEN34- NET is expected to become operational in the first quarter of 1997.
DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe Ltd), a not-for-profit company in Cambridge (UK), is managing the Phare 1994 R&D Networking Programme, the INSIGHT project (technical support provided by TERENA, Trans-European Research Network Association), and acts as coordinating partner in TEN- 34. DANTE has a prominent place in European research networking. The company was established in 1993 by a number of European national research networks, and has the mandate to organise and manage pan-European advanced networking services for the research community. One of DANTE's services is EuropaNET, a pan-European backbone network interconnecting all western European research networks. (Nearly) all Phare countries are now also connected to EuropaNET.
The Phare Programme
The Phare Programme is a European Union initiative which provides grant finance to support its partner countries in central and eastern Europe to the stage where they are ready to assume the obligations of European Union membership.