Named after the Great Silk Road trading route linking Asia and Europe, the NATO Virtual Silk Highway (SILK) project was initiated in 2002 under the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme that NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division (NATO-PDD) is managing. During seven years it has provided affordable, high-speed Internet access via satellite to the academic communities in the Caucasus and Central Asian countries. The Kabul University in Afghanistan was included in 2006.
While the Caucasus and Central Asia sites are migrating to terrestrial connectivity with support by the European Union, the new NATO project “SILK-Afghanistan” will extend the connectivity to initially seven provinces of Afghanistan.
NATO-PDD, through its Science for Peace and Security Programme, assists the Afghan authorities in paving the way for developing their educational system. In early 2009 NATO-PDD tasked the NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency (NC3A) to prepare an Invitation For Bids to the Industry for expanding Internet connectivity for universities and higher education institutes in Afghanistan.
The signature of the Letter of Agreement between NC3A and NATO-PDD concludes the tender process which took place in spring/summer 2009 and authorizes the “SILK-Afghanistan” project to be run for three years. NC3A will act as Procurement Agent and manage the new contract with the selected service provider to maximize the potential of the “SILK-Afghanistan” project for universities in Afghanistan.
“NC3A is committed to support NATO’s Comprehensive Approach through Information and Communications Technologies. The SILK-Afghanistan project is a good example of how far NATO members could go together – International Staff, NC3A, Industry and Nations – and benefit from cooperation initiatives. We are looking forward to successfully achieving the full operational capability for this academic network and to supporting other projects bringing stability to Afghanistan and empowering Afghani people to improve their lives”, declared Mr. Velizar Shalamanov, NC3A Directorate Sponsor Account (DSA) NATO Nations (NN).
Seven universities were identified as the first beneficiaries of this expansion project: Bamiyan, Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Khost, Mazar-e-Sharif and Sheberghan, in addition to the already serviced Kabul University and the Government Media and Information Centre in Kabul, enabling them to access the public Internet network and the GEANT network (multi-Gigabit Pan-European data communications network) dedicated to use in research and education.
The selected provider, VIZADA Networks in Norway, will ensure connectivity to the nine sites via satellite resources. VIZADA will install satellite ground terminals at each site. Traffic will be anchored at VIZADA’s teleport in Bratislava, Slovakia and will connect from there to the European network.