From Moby Dick to the Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, epic stories about the ocean and the dangers it poses have captured the attention of readers around the world. The seas have always represented an almost invincible enemy, dominated only by a few brave men who set out to face it. For NRENs in Latin America and Europe, the underwater distance between the two continents has always been an epic challenge and their great enemy was the lack of direct connection between regions, which could enhance data transmission and strengthen collaborative projects.
Like the heroes of the stories by Herman Melville and Jules Verne, these organisations managed to overcome this challenge through a project that has already become a reference for connectivity and cooperation between institutions in the world of science, education and research, and which had its formal closure last November 17th: the BELLA Programme, which connected the two regions through the EllaLink submarine cable and reinforced RedCLARA’s backbone in Latin America with the aim of offering the NRENs the benefits of this new high-capacity connectivity.
The closing ceremony of the project led by RedCLARA took place within the framework of the Dialogue on the Challenges and Opportunities of Digital Transformation in Latin America and the Caribbean, an event held in Montevideo, between the 14th and 18th of November 2022. European Commission authorities, leaders of the NRENs involved in the initiative and presidents of Latin American universities, among others, were present. All united to celebrate a milestone in academic cooperation between Latin America and Europe.
“BELLA is without doubt one of the most interesting and important things we’ve done in years. We developed a very complex project between many players, such as the European Commission, the European national networks, the European regional network and the Latin American national networks. It was a very complex initiative and, finally, we reached a very successful conclusion, which has a very interesting meaning for the region and for the relationship with Europe. This connection can bring economic growth, social development, can expand European markets and Latin American market, can help economic growth of both regions. It cannot be solely and exclusively an ‘academic’ project. We are academic networks that rely on the university, but these universities are amid a society that needs to face the great challenge of digital”, celebrated the Executive Director of RedCLARA, Luis Eliécer Cadenas.
In the opinion of Tom Fryer, International Relations Manager of the pan-European network GÉANT, although the history of cooperation between the two regions is long, with initiatives such as ALICE, ELCIRA and MAGIC, BELLA had a different impact. “GÉANT and RedCLARA have been working together for almost 20 years and always with the aim of reducing the digital divide for the academic community. However, BELLA has achieved an impact beyond this community and this is the result of the constant dialogue and deep collaboration that we are developing between the NREN community, users, and public bodies and entities with an interest in development. As the African saying goes, ‘if you want to go faster, go alone; but if you want to go further, go together”, compared Fryer.
RedCLARA released a video on the closing ceremony, explaining what BELLA was and what is proposed for the next phase of the project, called BELLA II, which aims to bring the benefits of transcontinental connectivity to the Caribbean region. Among the highlights of the video, which moved the audience and drew applause from those present at the cocktail party, is one of the most impressive use cases of the first phase of the Program: the surgery of the Brazilian conjoined twins Arthur and Bernardo Lima, who were successfully separated in August 2022 thanks to the cooperation between doctors from Brazil and England, who used BELLA’s connectivity for modeling and data processing; and that’s just part of what can be achieved with BELLA, which also already has a direct impact on areas such as astronomy, Earth observation, high energy physics and climate change.
Félix Fernández Shaw, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the General Directorate for Cooperation and Development (DG-INTPA) of the European Commission, congratulated RedCLARA for the success of the first phase of the project. “The video perfectly encapsulates everything BELLA was and what we hope BELLA II will be. Whenever we talk about this project and its continuation, even its culmination, we will talk about one of the projects that really confirms the richness of exchanges between Europe and Latin America. BELLA is a true ‘beacon’ project of the relationship between the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean, which we want to put back on the table as a necessary relationship and as an essential relationship for what I think we are all here for: the transmission of knowledge, to improve the understanding of human issues, environmental issues, the entry of our two regions into a more technologically advanced world, but at the same time more humane and closer to people’s needs”, said the Director.
In a report published in March 2022, the same European Commission classified the BELLA project as “a remarkable step forward” that achieved its objective of “responding to the long-term needs of high-capacity interconnectivity of European and Latin American education and research networks.”
The connection between Europe and Latin America is made through Portuguese and Brazilian territories, with stations in Sines (Portugal) and Fortaleza (Brazil). The 6,000 km cable is in operation, after its official inauguration in June 2021. In its terrestrial phase, BELLA completed the infrastructure of RedCLARA’s fiber optic network, with more than 34,000 km, connecting users of the REUNA network in Chile, RNP in Brazil and CEDIA in Ecuador to the BELLA-S submarine cable, leaving open the opportunity to activate or connect to academic networks in Panama, Colombia and Argentina in the short term.
The closing night of BELLA and the announcement of BELLA II also had the participation of Juan Pablo Carvallo, Executive Director of CEDIA (Ecuador), José Palacios, President of the Board of Directors of REUNA (Chile) and Nelson Simões, General Director of RNP (Brazil), in addition to Tom Fryer, Head of International Relations at GÉANT, and Luis Eliécer Cadenas, Executive Director of RedCLARA, institutions that contributed to the development and success of the Program.
The BELLA Consortium was formed, in addition to RedCLARA and GÉANT, by the advanced Latin American networks, and by the European NRENs DFN (Germany), FCT/FCCN (Portugal), GARR (Italy), RedIRIS (Spain) and RENATER (France). Funding for the BELLA project came from the European Union, through three directorates (DG-CONNECT, DG-INTPA and DG-DEFIS), and from NRENs in Latin America. The total value of Project BELLA was €40 million, of which €25 million was provided by the European Union and €15 million by the community of Latin American academic networks, which also provided in-kind contributions through their national infrastructures, adding an approximate value of 25 million euros.
For more information about the BELLA Program, its new BELLA II phase, its cases and the latest news, please visit https://bella-programme.redclara.net/