An initiative of the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) programme, the SILK project was launched in 2002 to provide Internet access to academic institutions in the eight NATO partner countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). Since then, hundreds of institutes have been connected to the Web. NATO has helped create academic networks, managed by national research and educational networks (NRENs), and has provided equipment and infrastructure.
At the meeting’s opening, the SILK board members – representatives from the NRENs and external advisers – received certificates of appreciation from the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Jean-François Bureau, for their contribution to the success of the NATO SILK project.
As the project comes to an end in June 2010, board members and other participants will discuss the transfer of connectivity in Central Asia on 1 July 2010 to the Central Asian Research and Educational Network (CAREN) project, supported by the European Commission (EC).
The EC’s Black Sea Interconnection (BSI) project has already taken over from the SILK project in the Caucasus, where connectivity provision has been switched from satellite to fibre. Representatives from the telecom company VIZADA Networks, which currently holds a contract with NATO-SPS for the provision of satellite Internet service to the SILK network, will also attend.
Meanwhile, an expansion of the SILK network to Afghanistan has brought connectivity to 15 academic and governmental institutions in Kabul and will soon incorporate universities in seven Afghan provinces. NATO has invited IT experts from Afghan universities to participate in discussions on future steps, including the formation of a new supervisory board for the expansion project “SILK-Afghanistan”.
In a series of side meetings, experts are discussing plans for using the SILK-established networks for applications such as cyber defence and earthquake response. The Turkish Computer Emergency Response Team and the Geoforschungzentrum Potsdam in Germany will participate.