Working Group on
Broadband and Science
How can we establish e-Infrastructures to benefit the progression of science?
Science and education communities depend on e-Infrastructures that build on broadband connectivity to provide online services supporting the communities’ work. These services have become indispensable, transforming the scientific process by enabling the instantaneous sharing of knowledge, virtual collaborations within and between continents, and remote access to scientific resources and instruments. Chaired by Ms. Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, the Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Broadband and Science acted as a collective think tank, brainstorming on several key issues in the field of Broadband and Science — with a particular emphasis in the developing world — in view of proposing forward thinking, practical solutions which may be conceptualized and marketed to the broadband commission for possible implementation.
Setting the Stage
E-Infrastructures are research and education networks facilitated by information communication technologies (ICTs). They are one of the main engines of scientific progress, and their potential in other social and economic areas is enormous. Developing regions stand to benefit in particular, because broadband networks dramatically reduce the barriers of distance and location.
The establishment of the Broadband Commission in 2010 came five years after the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), and ten years after the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Expanding broadband access in every country is key to accelerating progress towards those goals by the target date of 2015. As such, at its second meeting in New York in September 2010, the Broadband Commission agreed to establish a number of Working Groups to focus on specific issues during 2011. Broadband and Science (WG-S) was one of such Working Groups.
The Way Forward
Conclusions and Recommendations
The Working Group examined the requirements of broadband research and education networks (e-Infrastructures) for data-intensive scientific activities and has drawn attention to the need for such e-infrastructures in developing countries, as well as the link between such networks and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While drawing attention to global challenges and issues for global e-Infrastructures, the 2011 Report also underscored the vast potential of the global collaboration afforded by Information-Communication Technologies.
The strategic recommendations of this Working Group’s report are:
1. Sustainable, interoperable, efficient and accessible broadband infrastructures which can be used for Open Science, as well as for many other needed applications in fields such as health and education, should be an investment priority all over the world, including in developing countries, especially in view of supporting the Millennium Development Goals.
2. Robust policies, legal and regulatory frameworks, as well as interoperability at national, regional and global levels are essential in order to ensure seamless, competitive and affordable access to e-infrastructure services and to scientific material and data.Broadband e-Infrastructures should be explicitly referred to in national research, innovation and education policies and in development aid plans, with appropriate funding allocation.
3. Research and Education Networks (RENs), the bodies set up in most countries -including developing countries– to manage and maintain e-Infrastructures, should be given high political visibility towards governments, regulators and academia given their role in the transformation of developing economies into knowledge societies.
4. National authorities and the relevant international organizations should promote affordable and fair access to broadband e-infrastructures via the establishment and consolidation of national, regional and global RENs, fostering cooperative environments that bridge the Digital Divide (non-connected countries and regions) and the Geographical Divide (disadvantaged non-central areas).
5. RENs should spearhead technological and service innovation in partnership with industry.
6. Broadband e-Infrastructures should be leveraged for public service, fostering the engagement of RENs in other public sectors such as e-Health, e-Government, e-Learning, e- Innovation and “e-Capacity Building”.
7. Broadband e-Infrastructures should support and encourage the involvement of citizens in science.
8. Funding authorities should ensure Open Access to data and results emanating from publicly funded research, enabling Open Science with major societal and economic benefits.
9. ICT capacity building initiatives require urgent support, in particular for training computational scientists and telecom engineers, and for RENs to develop the adequate technical, management and administration skills to operate broadband infrastructures.
The Working Group Model
Composition and Activities
The WG-S was created in January 2011 and held two video-conferences (26 May and 27 September) and a presence meeting (chaired by Carl Buhr on behalf of VP Kroes) on 27 June in Paris on the margins of the OECD HL meeting on the Internet Economy (28-29 June).
Four draft versions of the report were circulated and reviewed by an extensive group of Broadband Commissioners, representatives and additional contributors from academia, industry and public institutions; before its presentation to the Broadband Leadership Summit in October 2011.