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Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training Parliamentary Secretary Wajiha Akram

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The Higher Education Commission (HEC) held a ceremony in Islamabad on Monday to launch the Asi@Connect Project 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 the 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.

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 the 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 (csirt) development in Asia.

The deadline for submission for concept notes under Asi@Connect 4th call for proposals is July 15, 2019.

The ceremony was graced by European Union to Pakistan Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain as chief guest and Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training Parliamentary Secretary Wajiha Akram as the guest of honour. HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri, HEC Executive Director Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Muhammad Asghar, TEIN*CC President Yong Hwan Chung and a large number of professionals and academicians were also present on the occasion.

In his address, Cautain said the launch of Asi@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 the EU follows 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 Asi@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 HEC, especially the PERN team, on the launch of Asi@Connect Project. She hoped that 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 the Government was committed to the 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 had 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 the research database.

The chairman stressed the need for accelerating work on the software side 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 PER

Chung said 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 the prosperity of the entire Asia Pacific and Europe,” he hoped.

TEIN*CC Senior Manager Patch Lee shared a presentation on the salient features of Asi@Connect Project and Pakistan’s role in it. He regretted that Pakistan stood nowhere before the 3rd Call for Proposals, however, he appreciated PERN for realising the importance of becoming a part of Asi@Connect Project. He noted that PERN learnt from past failures and blended in with the Asi@Connect community.

The ceremony was also addressed by TEIN*CC Advisory Board Chairman Francis Lee and GÉANT Senior International Engagement Office Helga Spitaler, a Pan European Data Network for R&E Community.

Launched at the Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM 3) in Seoul in 2000, the Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN) initiative was extended to South Asia in 2009. The network has been one of the most successful ASEM initiatives to connect ICT infrastructures between Asia and Europe.

The total number of connected partners increased to 18 including Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Cambodia. Presently, Asi@Connect project has 23 Asian partners.

TEIN*CC and PERN inaugurated Asi@Connect Project so that maximum R&E community members may be involved and that can further add value to the R&E sector of Pakistan and bring some more promising projects to Pakistan in collaboration with the international R&E community of Asia Pacific, Europe and the US.