The Icelandic Research and University Network (RHnet) was formally established on January 24, 2001. Its objective is to link together Icelandic universities and research inistitutions by means of an high capacity computer network, and supply services in the field of computer communications, both domestically and internationally.
RHnet is a limited company, founded with the sole aim of enhancing the level of communication within the Icelandic university and research community, and to serve as its gateway to international networks.
The company will, on behalf of the University of Iceland, handle relations with NORDUnet, which is the collective university and research net of the Nordic countries. RHnet operates from Tæknigarður which is a part of the campus at the University of Iceland.
The founders of RHnet are: The University of Iceland, Iceland University of Education, The University of Akureyri, Reykjavík University, Iceland Academy of the Arts, Hvanneyri Agricultural University, Bifröst School of Business, Hólar College, The State Horticultural School, The National University Hospital, The Nordic Volcanological Institute, The Icelandic Technological Institute, The Construction Research Institute, The Agricultural Research Institute, National Energy Authority, Marine Research Institute and The Icelandic Fisheries Laboratories.
RHnet is based on the principle of exclusive service to the institutions linked to it. Thus RHnet is only open to acknowledged Icelandic institutions of research and higher education. No distinction is made between basic and applied science provided that the institute in question enjoys official recognition. The criterion for institutes of higher education is that of offering a university degree in at least one subject. Other institutions may be connected to the net, provided these are cooperating with a university or research institution and the connection is collectively beneficial. RHnet on the other hand does not connect individuals.
Most countries in Europe and North America have for the past decade or two operated National Research and Educational Networks. The main characteristics of such networks is the predominant handling of traffic related to research in a broad sense, in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering, the humanities and medicine. Specific research projects often demand extended access to unmeasured bandwidth. These nets are likewise often used for experiments in net-design, which as a rule are not supported by commercially operated nets.
RHnet links up with other research networks of the European countries through NORDUnet, which connects the respective networks of the Nordic countries. NORDUnet in turn links up with GÉANT, the European research network. RHnet was connected to NORDUnet in October 2000 by means of a dedicated 45 Mbit/sec. connection. This was then upgraded in January 2003 to 155 Mbit/sec. Experiments in distance learning in nursing are already being conducted jointly by the University of Iceland and the University of Iowa in the US, over the new network using IP-technology with promising results, both in terms of real time images and sound.
At the domestic level, research networks encourage interplay between rural and urban areas and stimulate research activity, by reducing travel costs for teachers and specialists and enabling students to pursue their studies at the optimal locations, either in the countryside or near the urban centres. This also applies to those engaged in remote learning in different continents. Computer and net technology makes possible to view and evaluate data from different sources instantaneously and with far more accuracy than before. Remote- or teleresearch of all kinds are rapidly growing and visual data, even three-dimensional, will increasingly be transmitted between regions and continents. An illuminating question is for example, when a astronomical telescope on the Canaries can be remotely controlled from Iceland, transmitting back images every bit as good as experinenced by an in situ observer. Telemedicine is already conducted over the Net and rapid advances are expected in that field. The same can be said of medieval studies, especially regarding digital processing of manuscripts, which is currently being carried out in co-operation between the Arnemagnesian institutes in Denmark and Iceland.
The following sit on the board of RHnet: Chairman Þórður Kristinsson from the University of Iceland (UoI), Vice-Chairman Sæþór L. Jónsson of UoI, Ebba Þóra Hvannberg of UoI, Gísli Einarsson of the National University Hospital, Ingimar Þór Friðriksson of the University of Reykjavík. Alternate members are: Jón Torfi Jónasson, Anna Soffía Hauksdóttir and Helgi Þorbergsson all from UoI, Steingrímur Jónsson from the University of Akureyri and Smári S. Sigurðsson of the Icelandic Technological Institute.
RHnet Board, from the left Ingimar Þór Friðriksson, Gísli Einarsson, Ebba Þóra Hvannberg, Þórður Kristinsson and Sæþór L. Jónsson