A section of the audiensce st the CKLN assembly (A. Miller/BGIS)

Having a National Research and Educational Network (NREN) infrastructure such as C@ribNET could promote collaboration between isolated researchers and foster a stronger research environment.?? And, according to Education Minister, Ronald Jones, the University of the West Indies (UWI) should benefit from this.??

He made these comments yesterday, while speaking to a number of regional educators and leaders gathered to attend a two-day inaugural assembly of the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN) NREN, ahead of the launch of C@ribNET, a regional knowledge and research network.

"UWI should be both the bedrock and clearinghouse for collaborative research across the Caribbean. In reality, while the generation of research has increased over the last decade across UWI, joint research efforts remain the exception. It is rare to have a large quantity of researchers in any particular field doing large-scale collaboration to produce significant quantities of research papers with world standard outputs. Where some equipment and applications are too costly for single institutions to

possess, C@ribNET can facilitate the sharing of such resources more efficiently. Many NRENs are already recognised as pools of independent expertise that are assets to their countries. We can create these assets for the region," Minister Jones stressed.

Acknowledging that the UWI Open Campus was a "champion", in the use of information and communication technology (ICT) he noted that new ideas and variants of the online format that could be introduced to the region.???? "CKLN must be our window to the best in practice on the global landscape. This meeting is a milestone, not a destination, so I want to congratulate you and at the same time inspire you to continue your work in fulfilling the breadth of your mandate. The smart phone is the next learning frontier and we are all positioned to take advantage of it as you put together the fabric of individual networks to form C@ribNET," he opined.

Pro Vice Chancellor of Planning and Development at the University, Andrew Downes, estimated that the NREN could also enhance UWI’s ability to utilise ICT to increase its presence in the global arena.??

"In the area of research and information we want to promote research across space and this is certainly where C@ribnet will be critical in developing research partnerships for key institutions in the region – to disseminate research findings so that people can see what it is that we do, and how we would be able to use the research findings generated… One of the main challenges we face as a University is how to

commercialise our research findings.?? We want to be able to leverage ICT to find areas of commercialisation for our research," Professor Downes said.

Covering 17 countries, with four campuses, including the recently established Open Campus, UWI has a student population of 48,000 and produces 9,000 graduates a year.??

The CKLN project began in July 2004 to enhance the global competitiveness of the Caribbean by upgrading and diversifying the skills, knowledge and human resources in the region through greater collaboration and connectivity. It has been supporting the development of NRENs at the national level and the establishment of the C@ribNET to bridge the global knowledge digital divide.


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