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Eduroam is a boon and is coming soon

Eduroam – one world one connectivity

When we speak of innovations, one question arises in our mind, what does this term ‘innovation’ really means? Is it too broad to describe?  Is it a taboo?

Innovation is nothing but developing a new thing or increasing the usability of previous ones.  It is realisation from conception to completion of a conceived notion or idea. It does not have to be a ‘rocket science’ necessarily and it can be as simple as inventing a safety pin.

When we talk of development and the developed countries, then we notice a vast concentration of discoveries and inventions.  No doubt development in the field of science and technology have fuelled their economic growth and hence the same applies to and is needed in the developing countries. When we talk of developing nations like India, China, South Africa amongst many, we find immense manpower waiting to be harnessed and capitalized. Even a small impetus can drive the people of these economies, considering that Indians are everywhere in west, we cannot doubt on what can be done in these countries.

Invention and innovation has been intravenous in our genes since yore. Starting from 2000 BC, when most part of the world was still nomad, need not to mention the Indus Valley Civilization which prospered in India. And even today we owe many simple inventions to them ranging from farming, buttons, ink and even medicines.

Shifting our focus to Modern India now.  When the  entire world became mobile on tablet devices then we invented a low cost tablet known as Aakash to bridge the gap between the rich and poor who can use these devices. Need not  mention other innovations which originated in Rural India like organic farming!

Well it’s a different topic, and if truth be told, low cost tablet is a relative term and as such it is up to the buyer as to what he/she feels low cost. For some an iPAD can be a low cost device and for some even the new Aakash tablet available at Rs. 4499 can be expensive.

When we see African continent, we find even more interesting innovations by the aboriginals because they use locally available products to solve a problem which results in  interesting innovations like the TUTU van, orange sweet potato etc.

Talking about the economic aspects of these innovations and inventions, according to estimates by World Bank and other private firms, these innovations can produce an annual GDP (Gross Domestic Product) output of more than $50Bn, big enough to eradicate the poverty and hunger problems of these countries. Combined with the available natural resources in these countries, the prospect is immense!

The need of the hour is the free flow of available knowledge and instruments so that these innovations can reach the masses globally and become affordable.

Any one who wishes to learn and is filled with insatiable thirst for technological  know-how and fastened with geeky knapsack deserves to be given a chance to have the highest quality education. Hence the initiative of introducing Aakash tablet by National Mission on Education through ICT (NMEICT) deserves applause. The Aakash tablet almost got a hero’s status among the tablets during late 2011, where Ubislate (Datawind) supplied these tablets to students and public at large.  It was hard to believe that a modern device with relatively new technology was slated to be handed over to schools and colleges to aid the teaching process and the common man too can have such a tablet computer at affordable rates of Rs. 2500 to Rs. 2999. This led to lot of hype and started the race that we see today pushing the various indigenous home grown companies to fight for a slice of low cost tablet market.

In coming years, the Aakash tablet launched by Ministry of human Resource Development (MHRD) is likely to become an ubiquitous tool in the hands of students with its research team aiming at developing useful Open Source (OS) applications and contents for different versions of the tablet ranging from animations to scientific computing so as to encompass the entire educational spectrum covering schools, colleges, and professional studies.

Using ICT (Information and communications Technology) to scale up participation is an effective methodology to impart education and catalyze the learning process that would empower the use of internet and ICT and propagate its awareness and penetration at large.

Lets take a moment and reintroduce ourselves and brighten our paths with the often forgotten concept of “Doing More With Less”! The real question is how do you define what is ‘more’ or how do you define what is ‘less’? A ten rupee note may be ‘less’ for me but ‘more’ for a beggar living across the street. I may not be happy and content with even one Crores of rupees but the beggar, being a small businessman, is sufficed even with a ragged 20 bucks. With this spiritual school of thought, let us examine the concept of doing more with less from business prospective also. How can our industries and education community do more with less via the means of technology??Now that business is booming again for most Indian companies, R&D groups and R&E community, I’d say it’s time to re-visit our IT infrastructure and ensure that it’s in line with current business objectives and education trends. There are certain elements in an IT infrastructure that must be added if not already there,  or optimized if you already have them.  Remember you cant do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and be in business tomorrow.

The rapid growth of technology has offered new possibilities to enterprises and education community.  Smartphones or our very Aakash tablet creates enormous opportunities for businesses to engage with customers. For SMBs, which have a smaller customer base with big chains, it’s all about keeping connected and actively engaged.  Mobile computing solutions,  calling and chatting services like Skype, Whatsapp,  social media marketing tools like Facebook, Twitter,  Cloud-driven storage, back-up & disaster recovery solutions,  video-enabled applications all are child’s play with today’s sleek tablets computers that eliminate/reduce all the fuss and the waiting for all sorts of “approvals” to bring in new technologies.

Hence it is evident that “Tinkering”, “Discovery”, “Experimentation” are strong forms of learning and the only way of marching forward on techie path. But what will you do with all these features in a tablet or smartphone that has no internet? No connectivity? In todays world , you cannot afford being isolated. This is where “eduroam” comes into play. With eduroam you can do “More” improve productivity & efficiency of a tablet, a smart device or any Wi-Fi enabled device with “Less” or no operational cost at all.

Ordinary people are indeed capable of extraordinary inventions. India faces key developmental challenges in critical areas: healthcare, food, nutrition, agriculture, education, energy, water, financial inclusion, livelihoods. Globally and in India such challenges are addressed in two ways – Philanthropy and government grants / subsidies! Best brains in the world aim to solve the problems of the poor, recognising the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) and not merely  attracted  to  solve the problems of the affluent. Hence eduroam is one such boon to research and education (R&E) community.  Despite many constraints like lack of education or severe cash crunch, some technologists and science godfathers have succeeded since yore in using technology cost-effectively to build ingenious products. One such gift is eduroam service.

Today, networking & collaboration is integral part of every business, education & society. Technologies already support connected communities, anytime & anywhere. IT and Telecom are inextricably intertwined providing the underpinnings for waves of new discovery, disruptive technologies and novel innovations.  eduroam was launched on 5th September 2013 in India by by Shri Kapil Sibal, Hon’ble Minister of Communications and Information Technology, in presence of Shri. J. Satyanarayana, Secretary, DeitY; Dr. Ajay Kumar, Joint Secretary, and Prof. Dinesh Singh, Vice Chancellor, Delhi University. As the name suggests, eduroam is shortened for education roaming that can benefit us all limitlessly.

We are so used to all the electronic and computer aided programs that we hardly think of thanking James Watt and Graham Bell for playing the vital role in the life that is led by millions across the globe. Their contribution in science led to invention of the most comprehensive mode of communication called the “Internet”,  the borderless cyberspace,  a tool that has all the ingredients to bind the globe into a small community, a well connected and a close-knit family.

The IT skills in India are one of the most unmatchable attainments in the world in terms of quality and quantity. But here the challenge is not in solving the problem, rather to determine the problem itself. Our  concern should be about  penetration of internet in the society and it’s adoption demographics.

We should not forget that the essence of communication is in the very DNA of each and every person on this earth to communicate with each other without going into frivolous parameters decided by the Society.  Hence the importance of open, accessible, and relevant communications is undeniable for fostering National development, social fulfilment and human dignity. The more communicated and well connected a society , the more opportunities it shall generate.  This is were eduroam plays a pivotal role.

eduroam offers  hassle free Wi-Fi access for institutional faculties, be it to students, researchers or staff when they are on the go, allowing participating institutions to obtain Internet connectivity across campus and when visiting other participating institutions by simply opening their Wi-Fi  enabled devices. The users are authenticated via their National Research & Education Network (NREN) that is a glued together by TERENA – The Trans-European Research and Education Networking. In short, eduroam is instrumental in providing seamless, secure and reliable connectivity for travellers on the go.

Say, if the world (or a place) is without eduroam, and a visitor/user arrives who needs to access the wireless connectivity for his device then he/she will have to talk to IT staff to get credentials in system and hence a username will be created and a password will be set for him/her. User waits for account to activate, signs into wireless network. Now when its time to go back  to his/her native place, the user will have to notify the IT staff to delete account and terminate access. Now what will happen if the same user returns  to same place after somedays that happen to be a holiday for the IT staff ?? it’s an interesting pickle and a thick soup and you can scratch your heads for that wirless network access and still he’d be stuck with a deadend. But with eduroam, user can just open his/her laptop, his/her user id and password will be authenticated via home system and he/she can be online in no time.

Often, infrastructure leads applications; and at times application demands lead infrastructure and Services. Thanks to the combination of emerging trends in high speed networks, computing, collaboration tools, internet,  sciences and applications that eduroam services can be implemented in bioinformatics, weather & climate prediction, education, research, healthcare,  financial inclusion, service delivery, materials and medical sciences, many sempiternal applications and the list is endless!! I  appreciate and intend not to brag or exaggerate, but indeed advantages of eduroam includes what not today !!

eduroam is a secure worldwide federated roaming service developed for the international research and education community that provides secure network access operated by service providers (SP) or “visited institutions” that is authenticated by a  user with credentials issued by  his/her  identity provider (IdP) or  “Home Institutions” via cohesive set of roaming operators (RO) or roaming confederations (RC).

The motivation for technical changes have led to eduroam especially when  these changes  are and can be feasible, using state-of-the-art software, today. With hundreds of thousands of wireless access-points sharing a common SSID, eduroam acts as one large, world-wide, wireless hotspot.

eduroam facilitates travelers from academic institutions by allowing them to gain network access with minimal configuration and eliminates the need for the visited institution to grant them the access explicitly.  This immensely  benefits and eliminates headache of visiting faculty, academics traveling for conferences and collaborative work, study abroad students and even empowers regional academic exchange.

By joining eduroam the participating institution extends its network to the visitors  without adding any additional maintenance responsibilities to its IT staff.  Moreover, by extending the network, you help to guarantee access to your own students and faculty while they are abroad.

It is a worldwide federation of RADIUS servers that facilitates network access for roaming academic affiliates using IEEE 802.1x as the vehicle. It has very high security standards. All data that moves across an eduroam network is encrypted end-to-end using technology called 802.1x. Someone with special snooping tools would see nothing more than a jumble.

We can now hence count few of the many benefits of eduroam  like worldwide network access to  all participating organisations , no need to get a guest account set up at every organisation visited, same username and password regardless of location, free at point of use. To sum it up, yeah, all users would get wireless network access using the same credentials as at their home institution, when they are in partners’ institutions around the world. eduroam consists of a hierarchical system of RADIUS servers , used to transport the authentication requests of users from the visiting institution to

their home institution, and the authentication response back. eduroam services can also be provided by a public WiFi provider. eduroam uses open standards to enable cross platform uniform access. Users do not have to pay for using eduroam. The service is provided at the local level by the participating institutions (universities, research institutes etc.). At the national level it is organised by National Roaming Operators, which are in many cases the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) of their countries. At the global level, the organisation of the eduroam service is under  the auspices of TERENA, which is also the holder of the eduroam trademark. With eduroam, by simply opening you laptop or activating your smartphone/tablet or any other portable device that is  Wi-Fi enabled, you can easily get connected to the whole darn world in no time.

If you are a visitor from a university, college or other institution supporting eduroam and have configured your laptop as instructed by your local computing or information service then it should automatically connect to our wireless network as soon as you open a browser. The advantages of eduroam are that you do not need to obtain a  ticket from visiting authorities. Use of eduroam service would hence enable a pervasive internet usage and accelerate more inter dependent economies.  This again brings us back to the fact that just by having a solution does not mean that we will succeed. We should understand the problem, with the local flavour so that we can accordingly dish out a tailor made solution.

The eduroam initiative started in 2002 when during the preparations for the creation of TERENA’s task force TF-Mobility a SURFnet staff member shared the idea of combining a RADIUS-based infrastructure with IEEE 802.1X technology to provide roaming network access across research and education networks.

eduroam is a consortium that began in Europe in 2003 and has spread to academic institutions in 60 plus countries worldwide that includes India now.  India is the seventh largest and second most populous Country in the world. Today India is one of the most exciting emerging markets in the world. Skilled, managerial and technical manpower that matches the best available in the world, and, a middle class whose size exceeds the population of the USA or the European Union, gives India a distinct cutting edge in global competition.

No doubt, Europe is mature with large-scale WiFi roaming infrastructure and has more than 90% institutions on eduroam since it began there. US being a recent entrant has about 30%. Australia and many countries in Asia have an average of 40-50% coverage. India with a large density of academic and research institutions would be able to create a virtual nationwide campus with such a service. Eduroam has are already been deployed across length and breadth of the country in renowned institutions and organizations like Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedbad,  SRM University in Chennai, Indian Statistical Institute in Bangalore, Ambedkar University in Delhi, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology in  Delhi,  Central University of Punjab in Punjab, Variable Energy Cyclotron Center in Kolkata, ERNET India in Delhi, Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, Amal Jyothi College of Engineering in Kerala, Indian Institute of Technology in  Gandhinagar.  The collective undertakings of these and various other reputed institutions across the globe are based on shared goals and aspirations so as to advance sustainable development.  Therefore, eduroam seeks to enhance connectivity with a view to promoting sub-regional competitiveness & a greater sense of community.

With launch of eduraom services in India, opportunities for collaboration between international research and education community has been identified that would enable students, researchers and staff from participating institutions globally.

Eduroam can also affect rural development and rural communication. Rural communication is an interactive process in which information, knowledge and skills, relevant for development should be exchanged between farmers and advisory services either personally or through media such as radio, print and IT.

Versatile technologies are being created with passion all over the world, largely by scientists, engineers & researchers for cut throat competition of being the ”most advanced”, “ the first time ever”, “ the fastest of all”. The focus on “what is needed”, “indigence of the hour” is rather lost and missed. More than 2.5 Bn. people (about 40 percent of the world’s population) live in the rural and remote areas of developing countries where access to telecommunications is still very limited. Entire world, say, ITU, All Governments, UN give high priority to communications and connectivity for rural and remote areas.  Valletta Action Plan (1998), Istanbul Action Plan (2002), WSIS Plan of Action (2003) all have confirmed the need to promote basic telecommunication, broadcasting and the Internet that act as tools for development in these less fortunate areas. However, the rural communication still evades its success! Let us ponder why and let us attempt to demystify it. We witnessed tremendous growth of teledensity in urban areas. Thanks to mobile technology  that has shamefully widened the digital gap between rural and urban areas.

To put these rural people and untouched/ ignored parts of society  in a position to have the necessary information for informed decision-making and the relevant skills to improve their livelihoods it is necessary to realise the pressing requirement to bring them into the mainstream and knit them with us in closely enlaced family  by enhancing community mobilization. Hence deployment of eduroam in such areas with , a well developed IT infrastructure and expert IT skills is where we can get most out of it especially in regions  mobile phones or smart devices with internet facility are a muse and never heard or seen of. If live and springy, advantages and benefits of rural com catalysed with eduroam will be beyond count and immense.

National Knowledge Network (NKN)  plays a major role in bringing high speed connectivity to the education and research institutions where eduroam would supplement it by distributing and making this high speed connectivity available anywhere and every where to the academicians and researchers in their campuses and in other eduroam – enabled campuses, thus, increasing the reach and benefit of NKN to a larger landscape. Thus eduroam will bring with it the advantages of hassle free Wi-Fi access for  all wifi enabled devices, thereby  revolutionizing the communication within campuses and ultimately converse to one virtual global campus.

In the long run, the eduroam service would not only help utilize the enormous bandwidth available over NKN, but would also result in saving foreign expenditure that is incurred on communication by Academicians and Researchers travelling abroad when they use a commercial operator.

One important point I would like to mention is that eduroam doesn’t cost anything. If you have a wifi infrastructure in place, which comprises of a user database server, where your users’ ID and password are stored along with a RADIUS server for authentication and logging , you just need to configure your existing wireless LAN with additional eduroam SSID in your setup and use your existing authentication mechanism.  In case you do not have a wifi campus setup, I hope you will set one up for reaching more devices on your campus and facilitating users since the cost involved is almost negligible with eduroam services riding on the same infrastructure.

India is deeply committed to the free and unbridled growth and development of the Internet, and is determined on its own and persuade others, to exploit this tremendous opportunity.  Internet, perhaps is the nearest approximation to the utopian world of freedom, envisioned by one of our greatest poets, Dr Rabindranath Tagore. He said and I quote: “Where the mind is without fear, Where the head is held high, Where knowledge is free, Where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls….”

eduroam would act as bridge for  Campus networking that is very much needed to exploit the full potential of the National Knowledge Network.

eduroam offers hassle free Wi-Fi access for participating institutional faculties, students, researchers or staff when they are on the go, provides a simple and automatic guest provisioning system and value-added services to the institutions . eduroam promises to expand the reach of the internet and ease of accessibility, thus contributing to the propagation of Internet with fusion of human brain and technical advancements.

Besides being in a place of learning, one needs a centre for overall development of one’s intellectual, creative, technical and literary self!! There is no science-led development without the attainment of a certain threshold in science and technological capacity and capability. Hence the initiative of ERNET India to deploy eduroam services in India deserves appreciation and applause. ERNET  India, Education and Research Network, enabler for Academic & Research Institutions, has been delegated to host and manage the eduroam services in India as part of the Global Consortium. ERNET would act as the Indian eduroam operator and will be central point for connecting all the universities/institutes with access to the Indian eduroam national federation service.

To improve the lives of the people emerging out of a vanquishable shell, use of ICT exploitation of Internet and related infrastructure not only facilitates the masses but catalyzes the reform of laws, policies & regulations to enable those uses through the conduct of relevant research, training and advocacy with emphasis on building in-situ expertise and thus propagating awareness and dawning importance.

With the prodding rise of Internet, ICT and IT, given the increased importance of Asia (especially India) as the engine of growth for the next millennium, it is need of the hour to knit the world into close family and bring people closer and hence endeavours in this regard will be significant.

ICT deals with a wide spectrum of issues under its umbrella  – from trade & development to peace & security, from promotion & protection of democratic values & human rights to conservation & preservation of our natural environment, from food & energy security to human security & humanitarian issues.   IT enhances technical cooperation and capacity building by sharing   experience & best practices of the trailblazers in various areas such as agriculture, health , water, management, tourism & of course  education.

eduroam is hence the voice of modernization, ensuring better understanding among interfaith people across the globe. It addresses global challenges and promotes IT  & ICT. eduroam hence shall  broaden the horizons,  expand the reach,  heighten the penetration of internet and its access  and hence offers endless applications living up to the requirements of the user community.

Finally, it is important to understand that” Internet” is “not a ONE TIME INVENTION” rather a tool that needs to constantly evolve time and again to cater different ad-hoc tastes of people and occasionally a re-invention to change how we communicate and how we think. That’s why the Internet and services like eduroam has to be taken as the biggest Invention than anything else on this planet, simply because it touches the lives of people and it is empowering people across globe.

I’d like to conclude in words of Alvin Toffler , “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” The task is not just an issue of Resources and Technologies, nor of hardware and software. It is also a matter of wise priorities, good policies, intelligent leadership, transparent decision, and population involvement.

I m sure , at some point of time, we all must have stopped to muse a while, and would have  thought  to ourselves  whether artificial intelligence (AI) and machines would ever out rule the independent thinking and creativity of humans, and emerge as the planet’s dominant species? We all have anticipations and apprehensions whether we all be driving flying cars? Will robots be our friends? Can climate change be stopped?  Lets keep pondering and keep our fingers crossed!! Till then, lets get connected to eduroam !!


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This entry was posted on January 6, 2014 by in Internet, IT, Telecom and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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