Link to high-speed network will boost research collaboration

Researchers at Cambodia’s leading universities are to be connected to a pan-Asian research and education network via a high-speed link, improving access to regional and international data, helping to boost research quality and facilitating international research collaboration.

Using a new link initially connecting the Institute of Technology of Cambodia in Phnom Penh to VinaREN – neighbouring Vietnam’s national research and education network – Cambodia will be hooked into the Trans-Eurasia Information Network, TEIN3.

This was announced last week by DANTE, the non-profit organisation that manages TEIN3, which currently links 16 other Asian countries. Vietnam has been connected to TEIN since 2004.

David West, project manager for TEIN3 at DANTE, told University World News that the high-speed link was an important step in bridging the digital divide and improving Cambodia’s science and research capacity.

“A lot of research projects are no longer conducted in one laboratory. Institutions now need good internet connections as vast amounts of data need to be exchanged.”

“Until you have the network you can’t participate in regional or international programmes, so the first step is to put the network in place and then collaboration and participation can follow.”

Cambodian researchers often have to rely on slow, unreliable and expensive internet connections.

Another four of Cambodia’s research universities – the Royal University of Phnom Penh, the Royal University of Law and Economics, the University of Health Sciences and the National Institute of Education – will be linked to TEIN3 via the CamREN network in a second stage of the project.

Other public and private universities in Cambodia will be invited to join at a later stage.

VinaREN, which is managed by the National Agency for Science and Technology Information, now connects more than 100 leading universities, research institutions and hospitals in Vietnam and could serve as a model for the development of Cambodia’s equivalent, CamREN.

“Cambodia’s aim is to connect all its research centres,” said West. “It takes two to three years to reach outlying centres. What we’re doing is providing the funding for the international connections. This in itself has a catalytic impact on the country.”

Sackona Phoeurng of CamREN said: “Our connection to TEIN3 comes at a critical stage in our country’s research development. The fields of study that can now be developed thanks to this link include e-learning, telemedicine, Earth and atmospheric sciences, emerging diseases, crop research and information and communication technology. Science and technology in these sectors still needs to be more developed.”

DANTE is organising a TEIN3 workshop in Phnom Penh on 25 May to help Cambodian participants make use of the facility. TEIN3 participants from other South East Asian countries will explain how they rolled out the network in their own countries.

“The first step is to raise interest, and then we can help them find contacts and collaborators,” said West.

He said the network had important potential to improve research in Cambodia, in particular, agriculture-based research, as a number of countries in South East Asia are working on flood- and pest-resistant rice varieties and exchanging data on their findings.

“They will be research projects with societal impact,” West said, and would include research on food security, climate change mitigation and medical research and training.

In the long term the network could also have a knock-on effect on the country’s brain drain by helping to retain researchers. “Often bright young researchers from countries like Cambodia will go to countries with better facilities,” West said.

Richer countries in Asia have used TEIN3 for international research collaboration and data exchange on high-energy physics tests with the Europe Accelerator Centre, and for long-distance astronomical observation.

South Korea, for example, is conducting joint research with other Asian nations and Europe on developing new communication broadcasting fusion technologies for the transmission of large quantities of traffic.

A TEIN* Cooperation Center has been established in Seoul, with Korean government funding, to act as a quasi-secretariat to manage the system within Asia as DANTE hands over the management of the network in September in the fourth phase of the TEIN programme (TEIN4) which runs until 2015.

TEIN3, which also connects Asian researchers with counterparts in Europe via the pan-European GÉANT (Gigabit European Advanced Network Technology), involves Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Funded by the European Union and the Asian countries involved, it connects some 8,000 institutions and research centres in Asia.

Bangladesh was added to the network in January this year. TEIN, which originally focused on South East Asia, has been extended to South Asia in the past two years.