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Eastern Mediterranean spurred on by EUMEDCONNECT3 project extension and Lebanon capacity upgrade​

Cambridge | 19 January 2017
 

The year has started well for the NREN and user community across the Eastern Mediterranean thanks to a three-year extension of the EU-funded EUMEDCONNECT3 project, which supports international R&E connectivity for the region. But that’s not all: until December 2019 the beneficiary partners in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine can also benefit from an increase in the European Commission’s co-funding share from 36% to 60% of the overall project costs which is set to catalyse further connections and capacity upgrades. 

The contract amendment was formalised earlier this month between project coordinator GÉANT and the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) of the European Commission which provides €3.2M funding. The extension was announced at e-AGE 2016 – the flagship event of project partner ASREN - held at the beginning of December at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Lebanon. During the opening session, ministers as well as senior officials, including from the EC, stressed the importance of technological literacy as a key factor for socio-economic and scientific progress and recognised the role of initiatives such as EUMEDCONNECT3 in enabling international collaboration and in forging citizens of the world. 

Conference participants also welcomed the announcement of the recent capacity upgrade of Lebanon’s international connectivity link. In early 2016, AUB allocated 10 Mbps of its internet bandwidth to interconnect to the GÉANT network via ASREN’s London hub for a pilot connection.  The success of this and the prospect of the EUMEDCONNECT3 project extension led to the capacity being upgraded to 320 Mbps in November and accelerated plans for an NREN in Lebanon (LERN). ​

The Lebanese success story and amended EUMEDCONNECT3 contract terms are expected to further encourage R&E networking activity in Jordan and Palestine. Jordan is already connected at 155 Mbps by ASREN using EUMEDCONNECT3 funding. Further upgrades are expected to support the SESAME synchrotron radiation facility as it enters production phase and the Jordan R&E community starts to take advantage of the connectivity.  

Palestine is also keen to re-join the international R&E networking community. Plans are underway to establish a 155 Mbps international link with EUMEDCONNECT3 funding and with other donors, such as the Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization. 

​​David West, GÉANT’s EUMEDCONNECT3 project manager, commented: 
“This extension demonstrates that GÉA​​NT is a partner of choice of the European Commission in its quest to support regional networks around the world and interconnect them with the GÉANT pan-European network to facilitate global R&E collaborations. Starting in 2004, the EUMEDCONNECT programme led to the first of such regional GÉANT-like models being set up outside Europe and the latest extension and the increased funding share is already spurring on our partners to rekindle R&E networking in the region.”


Background: 

The EU-funded EUMEDCONNECT project supports research and education (R&E) networking for the Eastern Mediterranean (Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine). Now in its 3rd phase, it provides high-capacity international internet connectivity for academic and scientific collaborations. The project is run by the GÉANT organisation in partnership with ASREN, the local NRENs and the NRENs of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy and Spain. ​

Through its earlier phases the EUMEDCONNECT programme also provided a regional R&E network for North Africa, with Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia benefiting since 2004. In July 2015, the North African countries became partners in the new AfricaConnect2 project, also managed by GÉANT and ASREN. Close links with the EUMEDCONNECT3 community are being maintained as the two projects bring the African and Arab R&E communities together.​