A second phase of the EU-funded EaPConnect project will start in July, bolstered by a renewed EU-Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy commitment to a strong digital presence in the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood.
Key among EaPConnect’s achievements in the past five years are greater integration with GÉANT activities, services and networks, and benefits to research, education and wider society in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Connectivity is key
Before EaPConnect, connectivity between Eastern partner countries and the GEANT pan-European network was indirect, low-capacity or non-existent. Now all countries are connected with a tenfold capacity increase in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus and around 7-fold in Armenia. Procurement in collaboration with GÉANT succeeded in reducing Internet connectivity prices by around 60% in Belarus and Ukraine, and by around 80% in the South Caucasus countries.
Connectivity improvements are critical for data-intensive research. For instance, Ukrainian and Belarusian high-energy physicists are helping unravel fundamental secrets of the universe, using data from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider experiments.
Services and support
Around 800,000 students, researchers and staff at universities, research institutes and other connected institutions can access EaPConnect partner networks and services. During the project, the number of connected institutions grew significantly in Georgia (17%), Armenia (26%) and Azerbaijan (58%).
The provision of online meeting and learning tools was also stepped up in response to COVID-19 to ensure learning continues during the crisis.
Partners’ cloud services have also grown – 126 organisations are now using them; for example, for academic publishing in Ukraine, climate change prediction in Georgia, extreme weather forecasting in Armenia, and medical imaging handling and analysis in Moldova and Belarus.
Community and collaboration
EaPConnect has built productive human networks between its EaP partners, other national research and education networks (NREN)
and e-infrastructures. Ten European and three non-European NRENs have been associate partners; a mentorship scheme to create practical technical collaborations has already resulted in an Armenian computer emergency response team.
Four project ‘EaPEC’ conferences attracted around 530 people from 50+ organisations and featured 22 projects selected under the project’s Enlighten Your Research programme. 30 training events and workshops gave around 500 participants the opportunity to meet and learn together. These events helped create and strengthen relationships with researchers, national ministries and institutions, and to raise partners’ visibility with local and national media.
The EaPConnect project aims to create a regional research and education network in the EU’s Eastern Partner countries namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The overall objective is to decrease the digital divide, improve intra-regional connectivity and facilitate the participation of local scientists, students and academics in global research and education collaborations.