Islamabad - The Higher Education Commission on Monday launched the Asi@Connect Project aimed to bridge the digital divide across Asia Pacific by developing high capacity information network for research and higher education. The project has been launched in collaboration with the European Union and Trans Eurasia Information Network*Cooperation Centre (TEIN*CC).

The project is aimed at bridging the digital divide across Asia Pacific by developing a dedicated regional high capacity Trans Eurasia Information Network for research and higher education, and leveraging the e-infrastructure developed for public service projects. The Asi@Connect provides dedicated high-capacity internet connectivity for research and education communities across Asia-Pacific, operating at speeds of up to 10 Gbps, which currently interconnects universities and research centres in 23 countries across the region.

It also connects 50 million European researchers and academics served by GÉANT network (Pan European Data Network for R&E Community) and supports collaborative programmes in areas such as earth observation, disaster warning, climate research, food security, delivery of e-health and e-learning. Pakistan’s involvement in collaboration will encompass work on high energy physics, internet access, e-culture, cyber performance, telemedicine, intelligent medical services, software defined network, open flow of OF@TEIN, Eduroam, Edugain, and Computer Security Incident Response Team development in Asia.

Deadline for submission for concept notes under Asi@Connect 4th call for proposals is July 15.  The ceremony was attended by Jean-Francois Cautain, ambassador of European Union to Pakistan as chief guest and Wajiha Akram, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training as guest of honour. Dr Tariq Banuri, Chairman HEC, Lt Gen (R) Asghar, Executive Director HEC, Yong Hwan Chung, President TEIN*CC and a large number of professionals and academicians were also present on the occasion.  In his address, Cautain said that the launch of Asia Connect in Pakistan will help bridge the digital divide across Asia Pacific and will cast a positive impact on efforts to strengthen connectivity for research and higher education in the region. He said that the EU followed certain principles to make strong connectivity between Asia and Europe productive and result-oriented. “The principles cover sustainability, transparency, and equal access to all stakeholders,” he elaborated.

He hoped that the Asia Connect project will enhance people-to-people contacts in addition to remarkable results in the form of strong research linkages among scholars across Asia and Europe. He expressed his pleasure that the project, under its 2nd Call for Proposals, has worked on “Campus Network Design and Security” by Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN) and “Connecting the Unconnected – Internet for Underserved Rural Schools” by Balochistan University of Information Technology.

Wajiha Akram congratulated the HEC, especially the PERN team, on launch of Asia@Connect Project. She hoped that the HEC will keep playing its role in collaborative engagements with entities like TEIN*CC. She also shed light on the significance and scope of partnership with Asi@Connect.

She said that the government was committed to development of ICT in Pakistan.

“Despite financial constraints, I strongly believe that the Pakistani nation is resilient and will bounce back to glory,” she stated.

Earlier in his opening remarks, Dr Banuri underlined that the globally-connected world had brought about great opportunities which could not be dreamt of in the past. Highlighting HEC’s initiatives for improved connectivity, he said that HEC has invested highly in ICT and enhanced connectivity.

“PERN has made it possible to have 24-hour connectivity for education and research purposes,” he said adding that the Digital Library project provides researchers with online access to research database.

The Chairman stressed the need for accelerating work on Software side so as to consolidate the use of advanced infrastructure developed by PERN. “We are looking forward to universities to work in this regard.” He informed the audience that HEC plans to initiate National Challenge Fund and Local Challenge Fund in collaboration with the World Bank to promote problem-solving research on national and local problems. He added that 200 colleges will soon be brought into the fold of PERN.

Chung said that the launch of Asi@Connect in Pakistan will help Pakistan’s education community and researchers find new avenues and means to connect with researchers from across Asia and Europe. “The advanced technologies and researches through the project will ultimately contribute to prosperity of the entire Asia Pacific and Europe,” he hoped.