who care about development of research, or Research, know the importance
of new generation nets to connect centres and laboratories all over the
world. But why should we invest to extend the new networks to countries
in the Mediterranean basin?
- EV: Because
it's in our own interest.
- PI: How?
- EV: Because
we have many things to learn, knowledge to exchange.
- An easy example
is the Algerian meteorological research centres, which we can only dream
- Another example
is monitoring and analyses of the Sahara: today we can use data gathered
at most months after certain events to understand what happened.
- If we had
a fast network we could find out almost in real time what their sensors
reveal, and analyze the data.
it's a question of reciprocity...
- EV: Sticking
to the same example, we still depend today to a considerable extent on
data coming from Reading in the UK: if however we had access to Algerian
data we would have much more precise information than we have now.
- This is a
development that benefits everybody: they could combine European data with
their own. Reciprocity as in we give to them, they give to us.
- They could
develop technologies that can be integrated with European ones and this
process could also be mutual and advantageous.
- Our job is
to help train people in these areas, technicians and engineers, so that
they can develop for themselves everything that goes with the new culture
of networking and of research using dedicated technologies.
aren't there already many forms of collaboration in place?
- EV: Certainly,
but researchers in many Mediterranean countries have many problems, travelling
- For many,
between acquiring a visa, which may take a couple of months, and the costs
involved, etc., it is practically impossible to go abroad.
- With new
networks all this would change: we could collaborate much more actively
and much more rapidly.
- At a recent
meeting in Istanbul, for example, it took a researcher from the university
of Gaza 6 days to get there and 6 more to get back: a good part of this
was just negotiating roadblocks in Gaza.
- These are
the things that make you realize how network connections and grid computing
- They allow
us to exchange data and allow people in certain countries access to calculation
resources much more powerful than their applications.
has the training you provide proved useful?
- EV: Our courses
deal not only with networking in the strict sense, but also with grid middleware:
they too have scientific applications but they don't have the machines
to run them, nor the network to exchange data, never mind the processing
can we contribute to resolving this backwardness in network infrastructure?
- EV: This
is the basis of the initiatives we are undertaking along with our partners,
both in the European Union and European scientific community, who join
the new programmes approved by the Commission.
- In those
Med countries there is often a problem in the market, where telecommunications
are generally dominated by monopoly providers, in situations we find difficult
to relate to: the Moroccan telephone network formally belongs to the king,
by statute, this has always been the case.
- Our very
presence also works as a gentle pressure against these barriers, for example
there is now in Morocco a law that has drastically reduced costs for research
you find local governments show an interest in development of infrastructures?
- EV: Yes,
local governments are very aware of the need. At the WSIS summit in Tunis
there was much discussion on the subject, and some people began to set
up external agencies for monitoring the TLC sector, like our own Agcom.
- Our presence
has knock-on effects, more than pressure I'd say it is an invitation to
change, to open up.
European projects you participate in are ambitious: in addition to linking
up the Mediterranean, as far as the Middle East, you also want to strengthen
co-operation with China, a country particularly difficult to deal with,
from many points of view. How do you go about it?
- EV: The problems
are many and varied. In China there is a research network managed by the
Academy of Science.
- At the same
time there is the Universities Network, controlled by the Ministry for
Universities. The former is used exclusively by researchers, all known
to the authorities and already to some extent screened, and there is a
certain freedom of movement, but the latter, which is accessed by students,
has many restrictions and controls.
- Our difficulties
arise because in order to contact the research institutes we are obliged
to pass through the university network first.
kind of developments can you hope for from these relations with China?
- EV: I'll
give you an example. Italy is running an experiment, Argo, in Tibet.
- It is linked
by fibre optic to networks that reach Lhasa, which is well connected to
- But the scientific
data from our cosmic ray sensors are recorded using inadequate procedures
and instruments, subject to controls and reduction in speed that prevents
arrival in real time: so we cannot monitor the apparatus from Italy, we
have to go there personally, or send one of our Chinese partners.
not an ideal collaboration…
- EV: Let's
say that there is a whole string of difficulties due to the approach of
the Chinese government. For example when we wanted to go to discuss the
project EU-China-GRID, we had to restrict the size of the delegation, and
for a larger delegation, to return in June, we have already started to
- On the other
hand certain meetings must be face to face.
- To a certain
extent they have made things easy for us: no-one so far has been refused
a visa and we can even get one without going to the Chinese embassy in
- In fact,
we do have some credit in China, and Chinese-Italian relations go back
quite a bit.
back to the Mediterranean, what's next on the agenda?
- EV: Coming
up is the framework programme EUMEDConnect III, we are already working
on version II.
- This one
however, instead of connecting the countries of the Mediterranean area
to Europe, one by one, will tackle interconnections between the countries
themselves, a "MED-Belt" for Mediterranean countries.
- This project
is enthusiastically supported, also in Israel and Syria. It will take seven
years and should be approved by the Commission as part of the next framework
these projects supported by the Italian government ?
- EV: No, for
years now there has been no government funding: the GARR network is self-supporting
thanks to the universities and research centres.
- In the past
we had some financing but we don't foresee any more from the state.