Under the patronage of HE Olfa Benouda Sioud, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Tunisia, the Arab States Research and Educational Network (ASREN) successfully conducted its 10th annual conference virtually, during the period: 14-17 December 2020. The conference has been hosted by the Tunisian Computing Center, Al Khawarizmi (CCK).
Many virtual events took place during ASREN’s main conference: “The 10th International Platform on Integrating Arab e-Infrastructures in a Global Environment - e-AGE20”. These included workshops on Internet Security, Open Science Cloud, and other regional and global meetings. The e-AGE20 virtual week provided a window for global collaboration across research and education communities, gathering 35 renowned speakers and experts and more than 180 participants from 60 countries.
The e-AGE20 activities focused on “Power of e-Infrastructures - Shaping the Future of Online Research and Education” as the main theme, with emphasis on the role of e-Infrastructures in the COVID-19 pandemic era.
The e-AGE20 opening was attended by a large number of high level officials and representatives including; Barbé Thierry, Head of Unit at the European Commission, HE Dr. Doaa Khalifa, Minister Plenipotentiary of the League of Arab States, HE Prof. Amr Salama, Secretary General of the Association of Arab Universities, HE Prof. Dr. Hussein Hazeb, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Yemen and Prof. Malek Kochlef, Director General of International Cooperation, on behalf of HE Prof. Olfa Benouda, Minister of Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Tunisia.
HE Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman of ASREN and TAG.GLOBAL concluded the opening session by acknowledging the role of the European Union in co-funding high-speed networks in the context of AFRICACONNECT and EUMEDCONNECT projects. These networks have contributed to supporting research and education in the African and Mediterranean region through interlinkage to the European GEANT research and education network, he said.
Abu-Ghazaleh furthermore emphasized the importance of advancing the Arab e-Infrastructure towards enhancing education and advancing science and technology as well as developing innovation capacity and providing hope to the young generations. He sought the support and collaboration of the research and education leaders from around the world to make this vision a living reality.
The high-level opening also featured a roundtable discussion on "Working Globally", with CEOs of Regional Research and Education Networks from across Europe, North and Latin America, Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Arab region, emphasizing the necessity of cooperation at the global level to support and facilitate research and education collaboration globally.
Regional and Global organizations have demonstrated the effect of their support on the development of research and education infrastructures and communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the European Commission, Association of Arab Universities and International Telecom Union. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) discussed the Role of STI “Science, Technology and Innovation” in creating synergy between Academia and Industry from Sustainable Development Goals perspective (SDGs).
The Internet Society announced the signature of a memorandum of understanding with ASREN to support the developments of ASREN in serving the research and education communities in the region. RIPE NCC continued to support ASREN through sponsorship, capacity building and training. AFRINIC has also supported ASREN through sponsorship.
Regional and Global research and education communities have also discussed the importance of a reliable infrastructures and services to enable innovative and productive research and education. The Arab League of Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) presented their efforts in developing the pan-Arab platform for open educational resources, and invited Arab universities and academics to participate in this platform and to add more open resources. The African Union Commission presented one of their activities on Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES and Africa). Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) presented the research opportunities using the Synchrotron systems, encouraging support to strengthen the Synchrotron communities in Africa. e-Science European Infrastructure for Biodiversity and Ecosystem (LifeWatch ERIC) discussed Research Establishing synergies with ASREN e-AGE on e-Biodiversity for EU Green Deal and SDG 2030.
“Open Science and Open Access” were thoroughly discussed in the e-AGE20 conference through the high level participation and presence of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) and the National Initiatives for Open Science in Europe (NI4OS Europe). ASREN presented its plans towards deploying and implementing Open Science and Open Cloud services in the Arab region with the support of the EU co-funded project africaConenct3. National Open Access initiatives in the region were also discussed with examples in Palestine and regional activities under LIBSENSE initiative.