Sri Lanka’s National Research and Education Network (NREN), LEARN, is hosting one of the region’s most prominent tech and academic events this August – APAN56. The Asian-Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) meeting brings together researchers, educators, network engineers, and policymakers to explore innovative initiatives to advance research and education in Asia Pacific. “This rendition of the APAN meeting, APAN56, will be hosted in Sri Lanka, and we intend to do things a little differently,” share Consultant CEO of LEARN Professor Roshan Ragel and Consultant CTO of LEARN and Local Organizing Committee Chair of APAN56, Dr. Asitha Bandaranayake. “In addition to the general meeting that has been taking place over the past 27 years, we have added new pillars to the event that we believe will add value to all the participants like never before.”
The Overview of an APAN Meeting
APAN is a non-profit organisation that connects the research and education networks of its member economies and other research networks across the world. Since its inception in the late 1990s, the organisation has worked towards promoting and facilitating network-enabled research and education activities related to network technologies, services, and applications among its members. Today, much of its membership consists of NRENs representing economies in Asia and Oceania.
Twice a year, APAN organises a series of meetings. Dubbed the APAN Meetings, this is where its members and other interested participants come together in working groups, BoFs, committees, workshops, plenary sessions, and other meetings. Collectively across these sessions, participants will review progress, demonstrate technical advances, and make plans for future activities. Across these activities, two distinct components drive the significance and impact of these meetings.
Firstly, the working groups provide a space for researchers, academics, network engineers, and policymakers to engage in discussions about technical advances. These working groups cover various topics, including telemedicine, cybersecurity, agriculture, and more, fostering innovative solutions to pressing challenges. Secondly, the meetings facilitate crucial discussions among NRENs, such as knowledge sharing among engineers and governing collaborative efforts – for instance, the Asi@Connect Project. Thus the APAN Meetings offer a distinctive collaborative platform for its attendees to address shared regional challenges.
The latest APAN Meeting (APAN56) will be hosted by LEARN and take place from the 21st to the 25th of August 2023 in Colombo. Alongside the usual biannual meeting, APAN56 will also include a Research Conference and a Datathon as key pillars of the event for the first time in its history. With about 100 sessions taking place across the five days, APAN56 welcomes the presence of the Heads of all regional NRENs, working group members, presenters, NREN engineers and researchers, APAN fellows, academics, students, and community industry sponsors.
What to Expect at the APAN56 Meeting
The APAN56 Meeting will host the usual sessions between working groups and the discussions between its member NRENs representatives. Alongside these, it will also feature the traditions of opening and closing plenary sessions. The opening plenary at APAN56 features a keynotes on the topic of Emerging NRENs by Senior Enterprise Architect Research & Education at NTT Germany, Rene Buch. The closing plenary will focus on Rebuilding Sri Lanka through Agriculture, Innovation, and Technology and feature keynotes by the Chairman of the National Science Foundation Sri Lanka, Snr. Prof. Ranjith Senaratne and Vice Chancellor of Wayamba University of Sri Lanka, Snr. Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe Mudalige.
Beyond the keynotes and working group discussions, the APAN meetings also play a pivotal role in hosting crucial governance meetings for the Asi@Connect Project. These meetings include the Asi@Connect Steering Committee Meeting, the Asi@Connect Seminar and Forum, the Asi@Connect CEO Meeting, and finally, the Asi@Connect Governors Meeting. Together, these governance meetings underpin the spirit of collaboration and synergy that defines the APAN Meetings as it brings together key leaders of NRENs across the APAC region.
Further, APAN56 will also host the APAN Fellowship Program. The key objective of the program is to promote global participation through participation in APAN meetings. Acceptance into the program is offered on a competitive basis. For many students and early-career young researchers, it serves as a gateway to being a part of the wider APAN community. Prof. Ragel goes on to state that APAN56 will be hosting 20+ fellows. APAN56 will also feature an Industry Forum. This exclusive event is designed to bring together industry leaders in a dynamic environment where they can showcase technological advancements alongside networking opportunities.
In addition to existing sessions, LEARN is also hosting a Leaders Forum at the APAN56 Meeting. This exclusive forum is a new addition that aims to bring together key leaders of NRENs within the APAN community. The primary focus of the Leaders Forum is to facilitate an environment where these leaders can learn and exchange insights on how to enhance the strategic management of their respective NRENs. In doing so, the Leaders Forum aims to empower these key stakeholders with valuable insights and strategies to improve the effectiveness of their NRENs to serve their academic communities better.
APAN56 Conference: Deepening the Connection of Researchers & NRENs
The APAN56 Conference is the latest addition to the APAN Meetings, introduced by LEARN. With the theme “AI and HPC: Better together,” the conference aims to explore the synergies between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and High-Performance Computing (HPC). It will feature two keynote speeches open to all participants. The first keynote will be delivered by a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) Dr. Ryousei Takano, while the second will be presented by the Senior Director, Chief Solution Architect, and Global Head of the NVIDIA AI Technology Center, Prof. Simon See.
One significant aspect of the conference is its collaboration with Springer, a renowned academic paper publisher, to provide a platform for high-quality, peer-reviewed research at APAN. This partnership enhances the conference’s potential to attract experts in current technology trends. As a result of these collective efforts, the Conference adds a new dimension to the APAN Meetings. One where cutting-edge research and innovative advances in trending research fields can be prominently recognised and shared. In adding this research conference to the APAN meeting, LEARN envisions it becoming a more open platform that fosters closer collaboration between NRENs and the wider research community. Thus, the Conference is poised to be a vital event that enriches the APAN56 Meeting and drives impactful developments in network-enabled research and education activities on a regional scale.
APAN56 Datathon: Nurturing Sri Lankan Talent
The APAN Datathon is another recent addition to the APAN Meetings, introduced by LEARN. The Datathon represents a collaborative effort involving several universities in Sri Lanka aimed at providing an international platform for local undergraduates. The Datathon’s purpose is to give students real-world data and challenge them to solve practical problems using the latest technologies while enhancing their creativity, team-building, and entrepreneurship skills. Dr. Bandaranayake goes on to explain that by bringing the Datathon to APAN Meetings, “We aim to offer a prominent international opportunity for Sri Lankan talent to showcase their innovative solutions and capabilities to the wider APAN community and partners from both the US and Europe.”
Collaborating with APAN: LEARN’s vision for the research community
The APAN Meetings serve as a significant event for the Asia-Pacific community of experts, researchers, and stakeholders. The impact of its working groups serves as a crucible for intellectual exchange and breakthroughs. Similarly, it brings together NRENs for critical discussions, fostering a spirit of unity and cooperation. By facilitating interactions between researchers and NRENs, the APAN Meetings create a collaborative environment for exchanging ideas, best practices, and insights, ultimately driving advancements in research and connectivity across the region.
As the event draws closer, the APAN56 Meeting hosted by LEARN has introduced exciting new additions that aim to revolutionise the event’s impact and outreach. Among these additions, the APAN Conference brings the spotlight on the convergence of AI and HPC, fostering groundbreaking research and knowledge sharing. Additionally, the APAN Datathon provides a platform for Sri Lankan undergraduates to showcase their talents and innovative solutions while promoting collaboration and skill development.
As LEARN continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of network-enabled research and education activities, these additions to the APAN Meetings align with its vision of promoting collaboration, knowledge exchange, and innovation. Describing this vision, Dr. Bandaranayake shared, “Despite Sri Lanka’s economic hardships, LEARN still holds a significant position as one of the oldest and most respected NRENs in the Asia-Pacific region. By hosting the APAN56 Meeting, we are seeking to strengthen relationships among regional NRENs, researchers, and stakeholders. Thereby fostering robust collaboration and enabling collective progress that benefits everyone.”