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advanced internet

Program encourages cooperative production

Tidia is going to carry out projects like those on network technology, an incubator of contents, and on distance learning

BRAZThe Information Technology in the Development of the Advanced Internet (Tidia) project, sponsored by FAPESP, is beginning to get ready to launch its first projects. The program’s objective is to carry out induced research in the areas of network engineering, traffic control, optic communication and software, among others, in partnership with private enterprise, and, above all, to form specialists in network technology, the Internet and telecommunications. The projects that are starting to be structured were conceived after an analysis of the 123 projects forwarded to the Foundation, in response to the call for proposals published in October last year.

The first project that will, strictly speaking, supply the basis for the operation of the program provides for the use of an optic fiber network covering the state, with a speed of up to 400 gigabits a second, for the carrying of technological research and academic and educational communication. “It will be a laboratory for studies in optic communication and special applications for the Internet that require interaction between specialists”, explains Hugo Fragnito, from the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), the coordinator of the project. The physical network is now available: the Highway Department S.A. (Dersa in the Portuguese Acronym), as well as other companies, allowed FAPESP to use the optic and fiber cables that accompany the main highways in São Paulo. “Now we have to do the interconnections, to take the fiber up to the universities and research institutes that are taking part in the project”, says Fragnito. The interconnection between the optic cables at the companies and the researchcenters will be financed by the Foundation.

Once this infrastructure has been set up, the network will be available for carrying out applications like telemedicine, high definition videoconferencing and hardware for optic netwares; besides this, there will be systemic studies, such as on network security, or quantum cryptography, just to mention a few examples. “We hope to have the light running through the fiber by the end of the year”, forecasts Fragnito, referring to the beginning of operations.

The United States use an optic fiber network, Abilene, to run Internet 2, a program put into effect by a consortium that includes 180 universities and 45 American companies, the University Consortium for Advanced Internet Development (Ucaid). Tidia’s optic infrastructure will have different and innovative characteristics, since it will make it possible to support various networks operating simultaneously. To do so, multiple fiber optic cables interconnecting several points will be used, and in each fiber it will be possible to transmit lasers of different wave lengths, which will make it possible to test the different connection architectures, and logical networks as well.

Incubator of contents
Tidia’s second project is for the creation of an incubator of contents, such as software, educational material, books, etc. The objective is to encourage the cooperative creation of digital contents around open information, and, at the same time, to disseminate the use of contents in Portuguese on the Internet, according to Imre Simon, from the University of São Paulo (USP), the project’s coordinator. The development of open software is a strategic solution: it runs in any environment, it contributes towards the formation of human resources and to the identification of leaders on their merits. “It is easier to do reverse engineering and set up a hardware company than a software company, which is more complicated”, Fragnito comments.

The project was inspired on the findings that a large portion of the proposals forwarded to FAPESP emphasized the need for developing free open code software, in order to expand their availability and to encourage its cooperative production. The main service offered by the incubator will be to house projects for the creation of academic contents, supported by and agile and efficient infrastructure, free of bureaucracy, to meet the demands of the academic community. According to Simon, FAPESP will call for tenders and will finance the setting up and the operation of the virtual incubator. Projects may be freely registered, but registration will obey rules that are to be drawn up. “The understanding of the commission is that it only ought to propose to FAPESP projects that have wide support from the community and have built into them clear expectations of substantial increases in the academic and technological activities related to the advanced Internet”, he explains.

The definition of the projects will be done after ample consultations with the community. One of the proposals that is being assessed by the commission, for example, was presented by the School of Future, of the University of São Paulo (USP), which keeps a collection with hundreds of titles of books whose authors have been dead for over 70 years and which are therefore no longer under the protection of the Law on Copyright. The great majority of these titles no longer have any commercial attraction, and, in spite of their incalculable value, are only to be found in secondhand book stores. The idea that is being assessed is to make it practicable to codify the contents of this virtual library, in the ambit of the incubator, to as to put them at the disposal of the largest possible number of interested people. “There are very successful experiments of this kind, like the Gutemberg project, in the United States”, Simon observes.

The licenses for the use of the contents will obey the legal provisions in force on intellectual property. The incubator will give priority, however, to encouraging the creation and dissemination of contents that are widely available, Simon explains. The incubated projects will be able to ask the foundation for assistance – for example, in the ambit of programs like the Small Business Innovation Research program (PIPE) or the Partnership for Technological Innovation program (PITE) to expand their activities. The proposals will be evaluated by taking into account the results already achieved in the development and in the dissemination of contents, the demand for finance, and the importance and competitiveness of the project. Should there be sufficient demand, the Tidia program may set up specific lines of finance for the development of contents in the ambit of the incubator.

Learning on the network
The contents developed in the incubator, just like Tidia’s third project, to implement learning programs on the network (e-learning), will be distributed to the academic community by means of an optic fiber network (atest-bed). E-learning is one of the most promising areas of the Internet. The project, which is beginning to be structured, provides both for the development of tools for the production of contents and for the generation of educational content itself, to meet the needs of learning over the network of the São Paulo academic community.

The idea is to build a common tool, using open software, bringing about a convergence of different efforts in research, with the objective of specifying, developing and distributing a single set of tools for e-learning based on open software, with a view to the production, maintenance and management of contents for education and learning. “Another important aspect is the production of education content to support teaching itself, both in the presence of the students and at a distance”, stresses Wilson Ruggiero, from USP, the coordinator of the project.