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The Silk Project


The ancient Silk Road was not only a trade route but also an all-important road for the transfer of information and knowledge between major regions of the world. The project that is presented in this web site brings highly cost effective, global Internet connectivity to Afghanistan, the Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) through state-of-the-art satellite and fibre technology, thus creating a virtual Silk information highway. Consequently, the project has been called the 'Virtual Silk Highway', in short: the 'SILK Project'. The aim of the SILK Project is to increase significantly the exchange of information with, and between, academic and educational institutions in these regions.

The project originated as a NATO funded network infrastructure project. The Silk project plan was approved in November 2001. The project has since evolved into a broad initiative aiming at sustainable National Research and Education Network organisations in three Southern Caucasus and five Central Asian countries. In Afghanistan, such a National organisation has still to be developed. Next to the NATO Science Division and the scholarly communities in each of the nine countries, partners such as CISCO, DESY, GEANT, the SOROS Foundation, UNDP, the State Department of the USA, World Bank, University College London and the University of Groningen are coordinating efforts to accomplish this goal.

The Silk project is being managed by the Silk ExCo: a co-ordinating body that consists of representatives of the various parties that are involved in the implementation of the project. The activities of the Silk ExCo are ratified and longer term activities formulated by the Silk Board that is responsible for the longer term sustainability of the infrastructure that is installed.
The web site below is a meeting place of the various initiatives that are involved in what is commonly known as the Silk project. While budget figures are given below, these are not the same as those of a conventional project in which UCL is involved. Prof Kirstein is Chair of the Silk Exco and of the Silk Board. The main costs of the project are the provision of communications to the regions involved; this is paid directly by NATO. The main budgets coming directly to UCL are through the companion projects like SPONGE and OCCASION (funded by the EC). Nevertheless, there are relationships between the Silk Project and other activities in which UCL is involved like OCCASION, 6DEPLOY, 6DISS etc. Their budgets are not included in the figures below. Other bodies have made small contributions to specific aspects of the project like paying for meetings, workshops and smaller equipment donations.

Funding Source:



  • AzRENA (Azerbaijan)
  • ARENA (Armenia)
  • DESY (Germany)
  • RUG (Netherlands)
  • KazRENA (Kazakhstan)
  • UCL (UK)
  • GRENA (Georgia)
  • KRENA (Kyrgyzstan)
  • TARENA (Tajikistan)
  • TURENA (Turkmenistan)
  • UZSciNET (Uzbekistan)


P.T. Kirstein


September 2001 - June 2010


Total 10,000,000€
NATO 8,000,000€
DESY 1,500,000€
Cisco 500,000€
UCL 110,000€


see The Silk Project for further details.