Abu Dhabi: A Dh60 million network for research and education now connects 28 universities, colleges and schools in a UAE with a speed up to 1,000 times faster than the commercial internet.

The network, known as 'Ankabut' (Spider), will facilitate research by providing access to databases and supercomputers and also offer rich multimedia teaching content through high-definition video conferencing, inter-library access, grid computer and e-learning.

The five-year project was announced yesterday at the third UAE Information and Communication Technology Research Forum 2009 at Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, which financed 25 per cent of Ankabut. The rest was financed by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority's ICT fund.

Dr. Arif Al Hammadi, Khalifa University's interim president, said that currently the network will only include Khalifa University, Zayed University, Higher Colleges of Technology, UAE University, Institutes of Applied Technology and the Ministry of Education.

"After the initial five-year period is over, we plan to connect all universities and schools across the UAE," he said.

Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mub-arak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, who was present at the forum, described the Ankabut initiative as an important step to building the UAE's national capacity in education and research. "Today we are advancing the research and education capacity of the UAE. The new network will expand the boundaries of teaching, learning and research," he said.

Profile: Khalifa University

- Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research was inaugurated on February 13, 2007, by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

- It is an Abu Dhabi Government initiative and is owned solely by the emirate.

- The main campus is located in Abu Dhabi, while it operates with another campus in Sharjah, and offers several engineering courses.