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Digital Agenda

GARR-X Progress and the Digital Agenda

02The GARR-X Progress action plan intends to contribute to addressing the challenges and priorities highlighted in the Italian and European Digital Agendas. The project’s actions can be analytically mapped onto the main strategic objectives identified in the Italian Digital Agenda.

 Infrastructures and Cybersecurity

Key priorities identified for this strategic objective are: removing the digital divide, developing clouds for Public Administrations and defining and implementing a detailed strategy for Cybersecurity.

Removing digital divide

The first priority can be regarded as one of the project’s starting points: the key objective for GARR-X Progress is to close the existing gap in the availability of network and – more generally – ICT Infrastructures in the Regions of Convergence, in particular for the benefit of the community of research, education (universities and high schools), cultural heritage (organizations controlled by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, libraries), innovative entrepreneurship (research spin-offs, Science Parks, High-tech Districts and Clusters, and enterprises with a high innovation potential, especially those already collaborating with universities and research organizations), Local Public Administrations (municipalities, regional governments, provinces, and the public health system, etc) and Smart communities.

Cloud for Public Administrations

The project plans to build an e-Infrastructure integrating network and cloud, allowing connected organizations to offer of computing and storage resources in IaaS mode. The infrastructure will exploit resources from the project (or GARR) as well as those offered by public and private Third Parties, which will be vetted against a set of technical specifications, service levels, price and access policies (e.g. Interoperability with other platforms, guarantees in terms of service continuity and data availability, security, ect).

The offer of a mediation service for qualified Cloud resources can address key questions, such as the geographical location of stored data, and offer guarantees concerning data availability, confidentiality, and security. The infrastructure will be intrinsically scalable and capable of integrating heterogeneous components offered by different resource providers, while ensuring high standards in terms of service quality, transparency in data management policies, and cost-effectiveness, thus making the proposed model “future-proof”. Moreover, this infrastructure will offer its members (or other qualified third parties) the opportunity to experiment SaaS models for their software and services.

Cybersecurity

Access to the GARR community includes a number of services, such as GARR-CERT, dedicated to cybersecurity, and IDEM, for the management of Digital Identity. Through these services, the project will offer qualified support on this major issue, with special attention to newly-connected users, many of which have specific needs with respect to security and privacy (e.g. schools, enterprises).

Building upon more than 20 years of experience in addressing security risks in a multidomain environment, and a well-established worldwide collaboration network, GARR-CERT offers support in preventing and managing security incidents at a national and international level, training, broadcasting of alerts and news on major recognised risks.
Its activity is expected to bring a tangible contribution in advancing the beneficiary regions towards the Cybersecurity objectives identified in the Digital Agenda, i.e. improvement of tools for detecting and handling security risks, training, and the strengthening of international cooperation on security issues.

 e-Government and Open Data

The third strategic objective identified by the Italian Digital Agenda is the development and exploitation of Open Data and e-Government. On one hand, the strategy is to ensure an easy access to public utility data and the re-use of data collected by public organizations, and on the other to make the public administration more efficient and improve citizens’ participation through ICT.

Open data

The project will bring a substantial contribution to the creation and exploitation of open data infrastructures, by enhancing the availability of the e-Infrastructures needed to ensure easy data sharing, and allowing connected organizations to:  

  • a) Expose their databases and their scientific results openly or through the protection of the federated identity system, depending on the data’s nature and level of confidentiality.
  • b) Re-use the data available in large databases and public repositories, created in different contexts at the national and international level.

Some examples of Open Data applications include:

  • Civil protection (sensor networks for the study and real-time monitoring of geological phenomena, such as earthquakes and volcanism, developed, for example, by INGV);
  • Conservation and curation of cultural heritage monuments for touristic and education purposes, (e.g. through GIS systems integrating data from different sources, such as land registry, archaeological departments, studies and surveys carried out by universities and research organisations, multimedia simulations augmented reality information for tourists, etc);
  • Digitisation of documents, microfilms, pictures, movies, etc., collected by national state archives and other public institutions, and their online exhibition for documentation, research, and education purposes;
  • Creation of databases on biodiversity and on soil characteristics (such as the map of Italian soils project implemented by CRA), to be used both for public benefit (e.g. environmental protection) and in the economic sector (e.g. the protection of typical products and cultivars).

Digital procedures for buying goods and services

The Digital Agenda emphasizes the importance, for simplification and transparency, of promoting the use of digital procedures for acquiring goods and services by Public Administrations. The project does not contribute directly to defining such procedures, however it offers some elements for translating them into practice.

Digital transmission of documents and digital data publication

Thanks to the deployment of an ultrabroadband network and the creation of personal and group storage services, and the uptake of the filesender service for the transmission of large files in a secure mode, GARR-X Progress will promote dematerialization processes within universities, schools, and research organisations, as well as in Public Administrations located on the territory. At the same time, an extensive dissemination and training plan on e-Infrastructure- related topics will help promote a digital culture.

Encourage public administrations to reuse software to save costs

The project will offer the perfect environment for the harmonisation and experimentation of solutions, especially with reference to IRCCSs (Istituti di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, i.e. key reference institutes for medical research and healthcare). GARR has a longstanding cooperation with these institutes, dating back to 2005, when the first agreement for the provision of advanced connectivity and ICT services to this community was signed with the Ministry of Health. Most IRCCSs located in the 4 Regions of Convergence also collaborate with Regional Governments, thus any the experimental activities carried out in this context can be easily extended to other Public Health facilities connected with the regional government.

eHealth and Electronic Medical Records

The project will offer the perfect environment for the harmonisation and experimentation of solutions, especially with reference to IRCCSs (Istituti di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, i.e. key reference institutes for medical research and healthcare). GARR has a longstanding cooperation with these institutes, dating back to 2005, when the first agreement for the provision of advanced connectivity and ICT services to this community was signed with the Ministry of Health. Most IRCCSs located in the 4 Regions of Convergence also collaborate with Regional Governments, thus any the experimental activities carried out in this context can be easily extended to other Public Health facilities connected with the regional government.

Digital Administration Act: simplification and high availability

The participation of Universities to IDEM and eduroam was one of the recommendations issued by the task force of the ICT4university government programme, which had as an objective the improvement of processes within universities via the tailored application of ICT. Thanks to the project, the universities that have not yet adopted this resolution will be included, and this service will be extended to other players as well, in particular schools.
With the service portfolio offered in GARR-X Progress, support to high availability will be achieved through a combination of the Virtual Server and Big Data Storage services.

 Digital Competences

The fourth strategic objective identified in the Italian Digital Agenda includes two issues: the removal of the “cultural” digital divide, and the creation of a modern school, capable of exploiting the potential of ICTs. Both points are at the core of the GARR-X Progress action plan. In particular, the plan for the schools aims to define a pilot action and to establish sustainable models, easily extensible in the future to any school level, thus taking a first step towards creating a Nationwide e-Infrastructure dedicated to schools.

Extending the action of the “digital School” national plan: broadband for classroom learning

As an integrating part of its activity, the project will interconnect 262 school complexes, following an innovative aggregation model based on dark fibre, which will allow to bring symmetric ultrabroadband connectivity (100Mbit/s or higher) to single schools.
This solution will minimise access costs, while optimising the distance to be covered with new access infrastructure, and exploiting a two-level aggregation model (single links are first aggregated and hence carried, through an overprovisioned link, to backbone PoPs), allows for great flexibility in the management of resources, also in terms of future capacity upgrades beyond the initial 100Mbit/s.
The project also foresees the development of wireless LANs within the schools, to better exploit the services offered

Extending the action of the “digital School” national plan: cloud for teaching and learning

Through access to GARR-X Progress, schools will be given access to “research grade” cloud resources in a secure mode, by exploiting the potential of Digital Identity offered by IDEM. Available resources include personal and group storage as well as computing resources offered through simple web interfaces, virtual collaboration and learning environments (made available within the “knowledge platform” to be implemented by the project) and a webconferencing service. In this view, schools are not merely regarded as an end-user – however advanced- of contents and services offered via the cloud, but are also encouraged to enter the infrastructure as service providers.
The bi-directionality and symmetry of access links, and the offer of advanced services and of a development environment with an easy-to-use web interface are intended to create the enabling conditions for students and teachers to experiment with the network in a creative way, and to let the most innovative applications and projects stand out and be re-used by others.

Extending the action of the “digital School” national plan: teachers’ training through blended e-learning

The project’s infrastructure will establish the conditions to organise blended learning and eLearning courses, also thanks to the provision of a Knowledge platform which will integrate a Learning Management System, a webconferencing system, a set of collaborative tools (wiki, forum, chat, social tools) and multimedia resources. In addition, the Project training plan will directly contribute to the creation of competences on networks and ICT, security and digital identity among school managers and teachers.

Promoting standardisation of goods and services to be acquired, by favouring public e-procurement

The aggregation model proposed for schools included in GARR-X Progress could be extended to a much larger number of schools, as well as to other institutions such as local and central public administrations, in the form of an “optical unbundling”, to be implemented through the creation of aggregation points at the Telcos’ stations, where the fibre links of single user sites could be aggregated and carried on a fiber-optics link (uplink) to GARR network PoPs. The provision of fiber-optics links to the concentration points could be regulated and offered through CONSIP with modalities similar to MEPA (Mercato Elettronico per Pubblica Amministrazione, i.e. the electronic market for Public Administrations) and MEPI (Mercato elettronico della Pubblica Istruzione, its equivalent for schools).  

 Research and Innovation

The lines of action identified by the Italian Digital agenda focus on High-tech districts and clusters, with the objective of creating highly-specialised centres of excellence in ICT, also by attracting talents from abroad, by promoting research activities of interest for the industry, by matching demand with offer, and by facilitating technological transfer, also through research spin-offs. The project action plan will have an impact on these points in a direct and indirect way, firstly by supporting not only theoretical research, but also all players, such as high-tech Districts and Clusters, and Public-Private Partnerships, which can have an impact in terms of applied research and approach to market.

Besides the offer of e-Infrastructures towards these players and commercial companies (university and research spin-offs, innovative start-ups and SMEs, etc) that they collect, the project has set out a plan for the support of innovative entrepreneurship which includes among other things:

  • Access in PaaS mode to an integrated environment including, in a single framework, an application deployment environment, a marketplace for collecting and offering the applications, and demonstrators that allow users to evaluate them in an intuitive way.
  • Dedicated support to the development of applications interoperable with federated identity standards, thus allowing application developers preferential access to this wide potential market.
  • Access to a distributed testbed infrastructure, for experimental and applied research on Future Internet and Virtualisation. Building upon the pioneering experience of the FEDERICA project, this service will offer public and private researchers the opportunity to execute tests and trials – even disruptive ones – in realistic conditions but without impacting the production infrastructure
  • o An appropriate internationalisation action, aimed at exploiting and transferring the results of applied research carried out by the districts, clusters, research spin-offs, and innovative enterprises at an international level, an essential aspect in a market that is increasingly global and that could benefit from the proponent’s international experience and long-standing relations.

 Smart Cities and Communities

The last strategic objective identified in the Italian Digital Agenda refers to the creation of the so-called “Smart City”. The “Smart City” model is defined as an urban centre equipped with a pervasive e-Infrastructure, closely linked to the territory and capable of interconnecting people and things and enabling e-Government, e-Health, e-Participation, e-Culture and much more. This concept is bound to inform, all efforts of urban planning (or re-planning) in cities throughout Italy and Europe for the next few years. The project’s action can have a very positive impact on the creation of “Smart City” initiatives, thus contributing to transform a territory that, due to infrastructural gaps and the prevalence of traditional industrial sectors with a low propensity to innovation, ranks very low in comparison with the rest of the Country, into a laboratory for innovation.  

Inclusion and participation

Despite the fact that the project is not primarily intended for private citizens, it will nevertheless contribute to the achievement of this objective, by creating the founding conditions for a true inclusion in relation to ICTs, by:

  • Stimulating the offer of broadband and ultrabroadband connectivity at affordable prices (see Strategic objective I below, “quality and cost of services”);
  • Promoting the adoption and exploitation of intuitive systems to access the network and resources (Identity Federations);
  • Carrying out an activity of dissemination and training, also at the level of decision makers in public and private organisations, to facilitate the adoption of the new e-Infrastructures on a large scale.

In addition, the project will support the creation and expansion of wireless community networks implemented by private citizens, and their aggregation and transport, especially where the operators’ offer is scarce.

Knowledge and monitoring of the territory

The promotion of metropolitan area networks, either traditional or wireless, can foster the creation of networks for sensor data collection in a Smart City perspective. Data collected through sensor networks can be used in research and public service contexts in a wide range of application domains of broad societal interest. Some examples include:

  • cataloguing, monitoring, conservation, restoration and curation for education and touristic purposes of cultural heritage monuments;
  • o sensor network control and environmental data collection for monitoring applications in the domains of agriculture, environmental protection, (e.g. levels of pollution) civil protection (e.g. for events such as earthquakes and floods).

Cost and quality of services

The project can have a positive impact on cost and quality of services at several levels:

o Network: the creation of new infrastructure and the increase in demand that can be hypothesized as a result of the adoption and uptake of the new services will help stimulate the local connectivity market, with the opportunity of more favourable investment rates on infrastructure, now seen as more profitable.

  • Local operators: the creation of NAPs and the support offered to public and private WISPs will strengthen the local connectivity offer in terms of coverage, effectiveness and additional services; at the same time, it will stimulate competition, with beneficial effects on prices;
  • IaaS resources: the qualification and intermediation mechanism will allow better control on the quality of offered services, while creating economies of scale, by acting as a collective buyer on behalf of the reference community or one of its segments;
  • o Application offer: the project support to the development of new applications and services will stimulate the growth of both offer and competition.

Entrepreneurship and social innovation

The creation of new infrastructure at the local level and the stimulus to the creation of local geographical networks, especially wireless ones, will foster the development of geolocalised applications and services with high innovation content, which will find in the “Innovation Hub” offered by the project a technologically advanced development and testing environment, but also a marketplace from where developers can propose their application to a wide community in Italy and worldwide.

Identity, culture and competences

The project includes detailed communication and training plans focussing on ICT topics. In particular, the training plan intends to create advanced competences which are not just theoretical. Generally speaking, the learning-by-doing approach will be preferred whenever possible, both at the level of the end user (e.g. through the encouragement to try the demonstrators), students (offering to this end dedicated resources on the Knowledge Platform), and the most advanced users (in particular, by using the network and virtualisation testbed as a learning tool).

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