E-Infrastructures and the UN Sustainable Development Goals – GÉANT as a fundamental element of Europe’s e-infrastructure, delivering the pan-European GÉANT network for scientific excellence, research, education and innovation. – Bigstage 02 2022

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21 June 2022 | Start 13:15 CEST | SISSA Main Auditorium | Video recording | Transcript
BigStage 2022 overview

Session description

In this presentation, Hendrik Ike of GÉANT will introduce his research infrastructure, provide context behind the global drive towards the UN SDG agenda, and an explanation of the goals from a policymaking perspective, including the European Commission’s commitment to the goals. The session will then link this to the work that the GÉANT community has already conducted in order to help realise the goals, yet also provide an insight into the problems (and opportunities) that have arisen in mapping and measuring such work to policy benchmarks. How far can RENs and NRENs claim to contribute directly and indirectly? This will be unearthed.


  • Presentation


Key participants:

  • Hendrik Ike, GÉANT

Video record



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>> HENDRIK IKE: Hello, everybody. My name is Hendrik Ike. I work for GEANT, which is the European eInfrastructure for National Research and Education Networks. This BigStage intervention, I’m going to quickly go through what GEANT is, what the role is and how we’re interacting with the SDGs.

So for a brief overview of GEANT and our purpose, we have a simple aim, that’s to support collaboration and the development among researchers and disseminate information and provide access to a portfolio of services and the infrastructure resources.

Now, we’ll go into it in a second. If general, GEANT, we’re the public research and education networks which enter connect research institutions and users within countries throughout Europe and also throughout the globe and it is just not the simple Internet connectivity itself, it is also the services we have on top of that and also on top of that, there is the human interaction. We have our community programme, we have our taskforces and special interest groups where members of our community can get together and talk about how research and education tools can be developed.

To put it very simply, GEANT is a membership association, you will see a lot of acronyms here. You have what all of these names here what, they represent, they represent one European country and in each European country you have a national research and education network.

To naught on a map, where things are a bit easier to see, you will see first and foremost that GEANT is a non-political entity, so we’re geographically European but not limited to the E.U.27, our membership spreads across Europe and whose within our membership, clearly at the decision of our GEANT General Assembly. As you can see, together we support, if we consider the lengths that we have to the end institutions, universities, research labs, other educational institutions, across Europe, 10,000 institutions and a global reach, well, within Europe only 50 million academic users.

So I’ll get into the analogy in a second as to how this works.

If you clump these together, you see GEANT as one image, we’re the blue European symbol in the left and the point of this slide, it is that all over the world there are different regional networks and they’re made up of their own and there is a Federation of Interconnectivity, be that with the pure connectivity of data itself or the services on top of that.

Here, for example, a collaborative project that we have with the European Commission from GEANT. This is the EAP connect project and this shows a development of lines that’s been cofunded by the European Commission and it goes into the regions beyond the E.U.27 and it is a running and I’m happy to report back considering the current geopolitical circumstances. There is an eastern part of just beyond the GEANT network and we have the network, and this is the representative member within GEANT and I think it is very important to note it is a representative member that we have, they host connectivity, you can see that on the map, but all the way up to the knot poll and we talked about digital sovereignty and an aspect that have in the European Commission’s eye of the data gateway declaration and concerning the polar data gateway and the new lengths to be found to Asia and also the way you can have access to the research infrastructures within its own region such as high performance computing, this is going to be an important part of what I think of the Europe digital sovereignty going forward. That’s the GEANT section of the entire network and it is a Federation of Members, representative members and it is an umbrella.

Here is the total umbrella.

Here is GEANT as one.

To give a very quick overview, if you’re thinking technically how GEANT works, a simple answer, you have a researcher in Madrid who wants to Sherry search information with a researcher in what’s another Spanish city, let’s say over here. What they need to do, they need to share their data from one University to another. What do they do? They use the national research and education network. So they will use that network, so that researcher may want to share their data with a fellow collaborator in France, for example, maybe they want to send that information to Paris. In order to do that, they need to get that information across Europe. GEANT is essentially the entrance of all if you think of it in terms of an umbrella. If that researcher wants to send research from Madrid to Paris, they use the local one, they use the GEANT transnational link, then it goes back down to the national research and education network and there in France, then that research in Paris should receive that information. They do receive that information. We’re a highly successful network, cofunded by the European Commission for over 20 years, it is a fantastic organization. If you have any questions about GEANT or this, come find me at the end.

The purpose of this talk, it is to talk about the SDGs. As we’re evolving as a community, it is not cable and access services that make us relevant to policymakers and also the science and the research and the education that we enable. At the moment we’re really trying to map how we contribute to the SDGs, it is important for the future of the planet and future policy engagement with institutions in Brussels and high-levels such as the UN or other regional bodies.

Here is a brief overview. The European Commission if you look on the left, here are the six political priorities, and they have been mapping them to the SDGs. If I was thinking from this perspective, I would say that we fit in the third level, the digital age, that’s where you have the number four, quality education and you have number nine, industry, innovation, infrastructure. If you think about what science and research does, how the researcher cans collaborate with the networks, actually we enable, help far more of these goals. So I’ll use a brief case study.

Here we have the European Green Deal, the ambition is simple, they want to reduce greenhouse gas ambitions according to the 1990 levels and the grander ambition, it is to have Europe be the first climate neutral continent by 2050. This is going to be enabled by lots of different forms of regulation and legislation and directives.

What will happen the Green Deal, it is going to be a variety of thematic areas. One of them is digital. So we have with the transitions, what the European Commission wants to do essentially is to model the earth with realtime AI data and by doing that, be it can measure the contemporary events and it can protect future ones. That’s where you say okay, we’re talking about Climate Change, but will this help? This is by Question 1 where we help. We provide the highways for where the data needs to get from any research infrastructure to computing centres to make the models and eventually that information is fed back to policymakers. It is one long chain and this is where we play the part.

The European data strategy, this is very much tied into it. We have been hearing earlier about how digital sovereignty is starting to become a larger issue in Europe. It essentially has one aim, to create a single European marketplace for data. If you can think about in the most simple terms, it is an area for data, however, it is a very, very complicated setup and my colleague had asked this question a few weeks ago, what is data altruism and that’s a question that I wish many people think about when we think about common data spaces because it depend who you ask. A research will have a different definition of data altruism than someone in the private sector. What should be given away, a transactional tool, around trust, the way that the spaces are coming across in the future, we’ll slowly start listing them on the screen. This is part of the dream, to have the lake with the data being pulled where it can. The digital twin, the digital transformation of the model planet of the earth, that will be in that second blob down there, the grown deal data space now renamed destination earth.

So tying that altogether, in short, there is lots of policies, lots of different institutions to making policies, and it’s very hard to sometimes understand how to measure where we are as a community when we say we’re doing better for the earth.

We still have some case studies. So we have our flag shift trust and identity service, many of you may use Eduroam, it was created within our community originally and grown by itself because we’re a collaborative community.

As such, we have Eduroam users using common credentials in Europe and beyond.

It is not just technology, we have a community-based education, a taskforce where practitioners of educational tools and services actually meet on a common basis and discuss what the community can do more for people in education.

SDG 9 industry, innovation, infrastructure, this is our bread and butter I think as we already covered. We interconnect both within Member States, outside of Member States, beyond regions globally, be it ourselves, our partners, GEANT, these interconnections are there, they have been there a long time, they’re based on trust and reciprocity.

We really are seeing that as the initiatives, the European Commission, they have for us in the future, quantum, these infrastructure, they really are going to be at the centre of sharing this information both within Europe and globally when the time comes.

Partnership, SDG 17, GEANT and predecessors have been around a long time and it is always driven by an opt-in consensus-based approach, reciprocity, trust. Our members decide what we should do as the common voice, as a common stirrer. This is a good way to set up a long lasting partnership with any institution. I think when we go to the UN, when we go to the Commission, they’re asking how should we set autopsy body, since we have been around since the 80s stand for a force for good in explaining how partnerships can work.

The final SDG I’ll go into, the case study, gender equality. This is more and more important, it is arbitrary saying it is more important, you have to have a gender equality plan, it is an arbitrary start to a process which needs to be sustained. We nonetheless are increasing the number of women and STEM campaigns we host and also trying to increase the number of women and our recruitment in GEANT. I can only speak of the GEANT association I work for, I know that similar efforts are happening across the community.

This isn’t really good enough. I don’t mean just for gender equality but how we measure the SDGs. What I’m really doing here, it is almost dream watching, I’m essentially putting a flag, SDG next to case studies that we want to do. What we want to do in the future is to be a bit more ambitious when it comes to the Sustainable Development Goals and with that, I’ll use a case study.

I said the network is our bread and butter earlier, one thing we’re currently trying to do is estimate really it sounds really simple, how much energy our network uses in total.

Actually, some of the different machine, some different routers, some of them actually, you have live energy measurement, some have monthly reporting, others even require an engineer to go through the site where the pop, the point of presence is, to figure out how much energy that routes to users. As a result, we’re at the very, very early start of the process of we don’t have the KPI to say how much energy we use, let alone what, to do to reduce energy, apart from investing in new equipment, which we have done. It is complex.

When it comes to the SDGs, I realize not listing case studies like I did earlier, but we’re trying to make things measurable and we have the tools to do that. These are targets, four of these, they’re fulfilled. There is actually 231 unique indicators beneath each target, and what we’re going to start doing, it is going through each goal and seeing where we have any actions which are applicable to us and, therefore, see if we have any indicators that we can use to fill in and actually go a bit further in explaining how to contribute to the SDGs.

We’re going to do it like this.

This is probably the most important one. If any organization wants to see how they can contribute to the SDG and make it measurable, institutions can read back on what the prone Commission is funding GEANT to do something that they say, hey, there is a requirement that you fulfill the SDGs in these areas, this is the way you do it. You identify the goal, you identify the target, what’s applicable to you, then you start going into the indicators.

So here we have an example for SDG9 and 9 is – the target within this one, it is to facilitate resilient infrastructure in African countries and we do that as one of our projects with our African partners, connect free, the European Commission puts money into that, and we actually have indicators. There are things that we can prove with both financial evidence and examples where you can fulfill these indicators and feed the information back and we can actually start showing how our community as a whole starts to contribute to the SDGs. That’s the work we’re actually going to do at the start of the next four projects, GEANT 5-1 Being at the beginning of 2023. It is work that I’ll be leading on and I’m really, really excited to with my colleagues throughout.

My final image before I leave, this was the last time our community got together apart from we had our first global conference 2022 last week, so there are a few more people there, that’s the community I’m a part of, GEANT, representative research and education networks, we’re altogether. We’re trying to make the future a better place slowly, slowly, step by step. I’m very proud to be a part of it.

That concludes my talk. Thank you very much.

Any questions or forever hold your peace? Thank you.

I’m slightly deaf, if you could speak up, I would appreciate it.

It is not me. It is the microphone that needs to speak up.

Can you hear me okay?


>> Thank you for the presentation. Very useful. Two question, to be sure, who is in France your member, I guess it is –

>> HENDRIK IKE: Renetar.

>> You have others in France, only one.

>> HENDRIK IKE: Only one.

>> The second, how do you connect with other European organizations like other centres in the area of the Internet I would say? My last point, it is not really a question, it is that as I am Chair of the end user, the perspective with ICANN, it could be interesting to have interaction with you.

Thank you.

>> HENDRIK IKE: I answered the first question, the French member.

For other parts of the Internet, there are yes and nos in our community. We’re slowly getting involved in the data level. Of course we know people in RIPE NRC, if we talk about a traditional research infrastructure like CERN, we service them. When we talk about Internet standards, our community, GEANT, we have social interactions but the way we interact, it is not as condition create as the way I just described to you with that infrastructural map.

Regarding ICANN and Internet Governance associations, ISOC as well, GEANT is slowly getting more and more involved in trying to be at the discussions and also the IGF, we presented last year on the group on earth observation and how our community can help enable the work they do there. From an Internet Governance perspective we’re starting from points of humble space but we have a strong history of people being involved in the Internet. With time, we’re hoping to build a stronger voice.