Words: Hendrik Ike (GÉANT) and Silvia Fiore (GÉANT)
The development of modern communications technology has led to an increasingly connected world in the digital space. Because of this, research & education infrastructural projects such as GÉANT and the community of NRENs behind it are being linked as part of the solution to current and future societal challenges facing the globe. With the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) having become a benchmark to strive towards a better world, GÉANT’s activities can be matched to them through three areas of work.
Ensure equitable quality education (SDG 4)
GÉANT’s flagship Trust & Identity services, such as eduroam, eduGAIN and eduTEAMS assist students worldwide. With more than 10,000 eduroam hotspots available at universities, research centres, academies, many schools, and other research and education institutions in more than 100 territories around the world, eduroam is growing to more and more hotspots globally, including
additional places such as libraries, museums and public spaces.
The eduroam Wi-Fi roaming service provides seamless internet activity to researchers and students and is free-of-charge to users. eduGAIN enables students to follow courses at universities other than their own using their existing credentials, and eduTEAMS enables research communities to securely access and share common resources and services.
openUp2U is an open-source, interoperable and GDPR compliant platform based on the Up2U project and now available to all European schools and university from March 2020 facilitating remote learning and educational during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An inclusive infrastructure to foster innovation (SDG 9)
As the UN itself acknowledges,many developing countries lack basic communication technology infrastructure. Considering that the GÉANT network is the most advanced and well-connected R&E network in the world, it serves to understand the standard and good practices of GÉANT’s R&E infrastructure, not just within the European sphere but also globally.
GÉANT’s role in Europe is unique: by interconnecting Europe’s National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) it brings Europe’s brightest minds together to collaborate virtually and accelerate research, drive innovation and enrich education. By also fostering this mindset with international partners, GÉANT directly and indirectly contributes to the global science economy worldwide.
The network that GÉANT operates is also projected to be more deeply situated at the intersection of European industry, innovation and infrastructure in the future. This can be seen in agreements to provide the backbone capacity between Europe’s future High-Performance Computing (HPC) centres, as well as future connectivity to ITER, the world’s largest nuclear fusion project being constructed by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission in Southern France. GÉANT and its Members already connect and support research infrastructures that have a global reach, such as CERN, the European research organisation that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.
Implementing global partnerships for sustainable development (SDG 17)
GÉANT has been a trusted partner of the European Commission (EC) for many years, as the coordinator of network projects co-funded by the European Union (EU) and NREN organisations in Europe, and by those in other world regions. Within such partnerships, GÉANT has planned, procured and implemented networks in Europe and around the world, and led collaborative innovation, federated service delivery, and support for knowledge-sharing, to the research and education community. GÉANT’s global partnerships and projects include the AfricaConnect and CAREN projects; and EaPConnect and EUMEDCONNECT projects, generously co-financed by DG DEVCO and DG NEAR respectively. These projects help bridge the digital divide across different territorial regions. The GÉANT project itself is a truly panEuropean collaboration between 39 partners, including 37 European NRENs, NORDUnet (representing five Nordic countries) and the GÉANT Association itself.
For GÉANT and European NRENs specifically, the association of over 40 European Members (including national, representative and associate members) has been formed over twenty years by precursory organisations via an opt-in, consensus driven approach. The primary principle for collaborative technology work is based on the reciprocity of service provision, utilising a trust-based approach. Governance mechanisms such as the GÉANT General Assembly serve to safeguard the interests of all Members as a whole. The principles of reciprocity, consensus and trust have ‘spilled over’ to other collaborative institutions, such as the Global eduroam Governance Committee.
The future after COVID-19
On 3 May 2020, the EC issued a press release that was co-authored by various heads of state in order to articulate a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The coordinated ‘rally’ around science and solidarity is set to be primarily guided by the Sustainable Development Goals. During these times GÉANT and its community of NRENs will look to support all appropriate measures aiming to combat and contain the COVID-19 virus in Europe and across the world with global partners. The connection between the pandemic and the SDGs serve as a positive reminder that the GÉANT community has the expertise, knowledge and trust to continue serving those at the forefront of research and education at the current time and in the future.