Updated: May 2003 NATO Publications


The Virtual Silk Highway Project

2. The problem defined

  1. Introduction
  2. The problem defined
 3. Project Overview
 4. Working together for results
 5. Project Expansion
 6. The NATO Science Programme
 7. One Minute Interview
Editorial Note
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The NATO Science Committee has been supporting computer networking projects in the Caucasus and Central Asia regions since 1994. These past and, in some cases, ongoing projects have focused on helping the scientific communities in these countries - the Southern Caucasus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - create the appropriate infrastructure for their communication needs. Rudimentary Local Area Networks (LANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs) have already been established and the existing technology improved to better connect regional research and educational institutions together. With this terrestrial infrastructure in place, it quickly became evident that, in order to make full use of the new infrastructure and improved technology and to facilitate research contacts with the global scientific community, it would also be essential for these countries to have reliable Internet connectivity.

The Virtual Silk Highway Project will connect the academic communities of eight Central Asia and Caucasus countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Since these countries are located beyond the European Internet zone for research and higher education, they do not have affordable access to the high-speed optical fibre connections currently in use in Europe. The only alternative - Internet connectivity via satellite - is also very expensive and generally beyond the reach of the region's scientific and research communities. As a result, the entire scientific community of the eight countries concerned can only receive information at a rate of 64 Kbps (Kilobits per second) to 384 Kbps compared to 56 to 500 Kbps for one person in the average Western European home. Without outside help, these Partner countries are not able to provide the resources needed to upgrade and enhance their Internet connections. Furthermore, without adequate access to the Internet, the region's scientists and researchers remain isolated and cannot exchange expertise with their counterparts around the world.


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