Towards the Activation of the Information Society in the Euro-Mediterranean Context
by Stefano Trumpy
Current activities of the Telematics Applications Department of CNUCE-CNR, Pisa, are focused on both supporting the realisation and also promoting the expansion of the Information Society in the Mediterranean area.
The whole Euro-Mediterranean region is of strategic political and social importance; we can recognise a number of de-facto technological and cultural subregions, consisting of either single nations or groups of nations, such as:
- southern European Union countries
- the Arab countries
- the former Yugoslavian republic
- the independent islands (Malta, Cyprus)
Internet technology makes it possible to create a virtual regional network for the entire Mediterranean area or for particular subsets of user communities.
From the technological viewpoint, it is essential that groups of people coming from different subregions collaborate on a number of related activities such as:
- Internet management (eg national naming authorities and co-ordination with continental authorities like RERENA-RIPE/NCC, routing problems)
- assessment of network technology (eg IP protocols, standards, security, ATM technology, new generation services)
- stipulation of special agreements with the international telecommunications providers
- relations with the international financing bodies
- information services.
This will facilitate cooperative work in the region in the following key sectors: Research and Development, Admini-stration, Small and Medium Enterprises, Telemedicine, Teleteaching, Environment and Resources Management, etc.
In recent years, the department for Telematics Applications at CNUCE-CNR has been involved in the coordination of a number of important initiatives aimed at stimulating cooperation among the Mediterranean subregions. These activities include:
G7 pilot projects for the activation of the 'Information Society'
The G7 countries, in cooperation with the international carriers, are now making operative an experimental infrastructure running ATM technology (initially at 34Mbps, soon at 155Mbps), which will interconnect Europe with North America and Japan. This is the GIBN (Global Interoperability of Broadband Networks) pilot project of which the author is the Italian coordinator. A discussion is currently under way on how to open the infrastructure to non G7 countries, including the less developed ones. The ministerial conference held in South Africa, in May 96, was dedicated to the extension of the Information Society to the southern hemisphere, or more generally, to developing countries. The G7 projects represent a good occasion for the Mediterranean countries to experiment multimedia services, on a regional basis, provided that the carriers are able to provide suitable means, at affordable costs. For information, see: http://homer.ic.gc.ca/G7/
TERENA (Trans European Research & Education Networking Association)
The author is the current president of TERENA, an association of European research networks including those of countries in the surrounding regions, like Slovenia, Macedonia, Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Iran and India. TERENA provides a forum for the research network users and planners of the European region; it also organizes conferences (eg the next joint European conference on networking JENC8 to be held in Edinburgh, 12-15 May 97, see http://www.terena.nl/conf/JENC8.html) and workshops, and promotes technical working groups aimed at stimulating the development of the services currently available to the research community. TERENA is the Internet naming authority for the European region, through the RIPE/NCC service. Those Mediterranean countries not yet represented in the association are encouraged to join in order to become active partners in the technical management of the international networks and in the planning of future developments.
UNESCO RINAF (Regional Informatics Network for AFrica)
CNUCE-CNR, Pisa, is cooperating in the RINAF project, begun by IIP (Intergovernmental Informatics Project) in 1992 with the aim of bringing basic Internet services (or improving existing ones) to 15 African countries. The continent has been divided into five regions: the most technologically developed regions are the northern and the southern ones. The North has an important role to play: it belongs to the Mediterranean area, and thus can be seen as an extension of Europe, while also being part of Africa. It can therefore provide a bridge between the different cultures of the two continents. RINAF encourages this double role. Regional coordination is located in Algeria, at the CERIST Institute. Two national nodes are being installed in Mauritania and in Morocco. Compatibility with the conditions of telecommunications in these countries and the sustainability of the services once RINAF ends will have to be guaranteed. For information, see: http://www.cnuce.cnr.it/RINAF/
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is sponsoring a collaboration between CNUCE and Egyptian partners to establish international network services at the Institute of Research in Informatics in Mubarak city, and to activate the computing facilities of the networking and multimedia departments of this institute.
CNUCE is providing the technical support needed to initiate very basic Internet services in academic institutions in Tirana, Albania.
Future activities in North Africa
The Arab countries have recently launched a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging a more active participation in the Information Society. For example, a Colloquium on The Arab world and the information society sponsored by ITU and UNESCO and organised by CERT (Centre d'Etudes et Recherches des Telecomunications) is to be held in Tunis, 5-8 May 97 (http://www.irsit.rnrt.tn/symposium/). At this Colloquium, RAITNET (Regional Arab Information Technology NETwork), a new organization which should play a major role in building the Regional Information Highway will be launched. In particular, RAITNET intends to establish close relations with TERENA and other European networking organisations in order to have support for training programs and technology transfer. For more infor-mation see: http://www.ritsec.net/raitnet.
Stefano Trumpy CNUCE-CNR
Tel: +39 50 593323