Networking In Latin America and the Caribbean and the OAS/RedHUCyT Project


Hahn, Saul


Computer networking in Latin America and the Caribbean has had an impressive growth during the past two years. According to recent ISOC statistics, some of these regional networks have had the highest rates of growth worldwide. About half of the new full Internet connections in the region were established during 1994. The OAS has had a very active role in these developments. In 1991, the Organization of American States (OAS) approved the initiative “Hemisphere-Wide Inter-University Scientific and Technological Information Network” (RedHUCyT, an acronym in Spanish). It allocated financial resources as seed money to start the project. In the following years, special funds were provided by the United States and other governments.

RedHUCyT’s main objective is to connect the member States of the OAS to Internet, by integrating an electronic network for the exchange of specialized information among different academic and scientific institutions. The OAS’ effort is focused on designing and supporting regional coordination mechanisms for the organization, start-up, and operation of electronic information exchange networks. RedHUCyT’s approach to the development of electronic networks in the member States is to help local initiatives for the inception or expansion of networks in their countries.

The project provides high-tech equipment, technical support, and specialized training. It also sponsors technical workshops and seminars in the region to prepare technical projects, improve skills, share technical knowledge, and train network managers. Within this context, RedHUCyT has sponsored and co-organized several seminars and workshops in Latin America and the Caribbean, promoting knowledge and experience of electronic communication networks. RedHUCyT has sponsored several projects in the Hemisphere in coordination with local institutions and other international agencies. In 1994, RedHUCyT helped in the connection of Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Jamaica to Internet. Bolivia and Honduras are expected within the network soon. Close relationship has been established with the National Science Foundation (ICM Project) and joint collaboration has already been started between OAS/RedHUCyT and the Inter-American Development Bank and other agencies.

CARIBBEAN REGION: In the Caribbean region, with the collaboration of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), a project to establish an electronic information network linking the universities of the Caribbean, known as the Caribbean Academic, Scientific and Technological Network (CUNet), was formally launched in September 1991. Currently, within the CUNet framework, there are more than 20 nodes in the subregion connecting, via dial-up, over 1,000 users. New (UUCP) nodes were established in Guyana and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Support was given for the setting up of the Jamaican Electronic Network (JAMNet), allowing Jamaica to be fully connected to Internet. With a 64Kbps satellite link to NSFNet and through an FDDI ring, 400 hosts at the University of the West Indies (UWI) have full connectivity to Internet.

CENTRAL AMERICA: In Central America, resources have been allocated for the establishment of a backbone of interconnected institutions with Costa Rica as a hub, and other direct satellite links. The National Research Network of Costa Rica (CRNet) is connected to the Internet through a 64Kbps (soon to be expanded to 128Kbps) satellite link to the NSFNet in Florida, U.S. The first stage of the project was carried out during 1992-1993 and consisted on broadening the existing communications facilities in Costa Rica. The second stage is the connection of other Central American countries. Microwave links are used between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. RedHUCyT provided equipment and technical assistance for the setting up of the Nicaraguan Academic Network (RAIN). The connection of Panama to Internet (PANet), also through CRNet, linking three major universities was also established in June 1994. Honduras is in its implementation stage and projects are being developed for El Salvador and Guatemala.

MEXICO AND SOUTH AMERICA: Equipment, technical assistance, and training have also been provided to member States, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Satellite earth stations were installed in Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. Several training seminars and workshops were sponsored in some of these countries during 1994. For example, REUNA 94 in Santiago, Chile, a major event with over 400 participants, and the 4th Latin American and Caribbean Networking Forum in Buenos Aires. Also, the sub-project INFOCyT was launched with the purpose of integrating a regional scientific and technological data base through Internet. The Peruvian Scientific Network (RCP) is implementing a home-page in a Web server with information provided by all project participants.

SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS: From December 9-11, 1994, the Summit of the Americas was held in Miami, Florida. Thirty four Heads of State gathered in this city and signed a Plan of Action which specifically included a chapter for Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure. In this chapter, the governments of the Americas recognize that a country’s information infrastructure is an essential component of political, economic, social and cultural development. The Governments assumed several key responsibilities including the effort to encourage major universities, libraries, hospitals and government agencies to have access to these networks, building on the work of the OAS/RedHUCyT.



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