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European research Internet network set to include Arab networks

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Dr Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, chair of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) of the United Nations, has launched the Arab Scientific Research and Education Network (ASREN) at the EU-Med event held in Brussels, Belgium.

Building on EUMedConnect2, the high-capacity Internet network for research and education in the Mediterranean which is co-funded by the European Commission, ASREN sets out to widen its geographical footprint by connecting other Arab national research and education networks (NRENs) in addition to the current seven EUMedConnect2 member countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia.

This announcement marks a major step towards sustaining ICT infrastructures for research and education in the Mediterranean region for eScience across Arab nations. 'We recognise that investing in science in general and in universities in particular needs to meet the ambitions of the Arab countries, hence, ASREN will act as an enabler and catalyst for creating investment in the scientific research and development in universities,' said Dr Ghazaleh.

This is a strategic step that is expected to lead to long-term sustainability of e-infrastructures in the Mediterranean and the neighbouring Gulf region, potentially serving a population of over 250 million people and ensuring that scientists and academics in the region can continue to participate in world-class research and education activities.

ASREN is to be created as a legal entity under the auspices of the Arab League and the United Nation's GAID to help secure sustainable e-infrastructures across the Arab world. 'ASREN will also adopt GAID's mission for the advancement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through the use of ICT solutions. It is expected that ASREN will act as the Arab regional network for the ICT solutions matrix for the advancement of MDGs under the honorary chairmanship of the UN secretary general,' added Dr Ghazaleh.

The use of e-infrastructures, such as the EUMedGrid infrastructure supported by the EUMedGrid-Support project, is enabling a new wave of collaborative scientific research through remote access to computing services, instrumentation and resources. The Arab-Mediterranean Region is no exception, as this event showcased user communities' success stories including collaboration between French and Tunisian neurosurgeons in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of epilepsy; participation of Mediterranean high-physicists in the Large Hadron Collider (LCH) experiments to discover the origins of the Universe; assessment of earthquake hazards across the region; agricultural research against the backdrop of desertification and limited water resources; and making education more flexible and accessible through e-learning initiatives.

The conference builds on the success of the previous EU-Med Events and progresses collaboration between countries of the Mediterranean region and European Union (EU) in the field of e-infrastructures and networking for research and education.