As Japan's only general academic research institution for informatics, the National Institute of Informatics (NII) promotes everything from fundamental research with a long-term perspective to practical research aimed at addressing social issues. At the same time, as an inter-university research institute, NII provides advanced academic information infrastructure, academic content, and services that are vital for the research and educational activities of the academic community as a whole.
NII engages in research and operations in tandem, and this fiscal year marked an important milestone for us. In April 2016, the Science Information Network (SINET), which connects universities and research institutes nationwide, was upgraded to SINET5, a 100 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) network throughout Japan, and between Japan and the United States.
Operation of SINET as a network supporting Japan's academic infrastructure began in 1992. In 2007, it was upgraded to SINET3 with a world-leading communication speed of 40 Gbps. In 2011, the reliability of the network was improved with the launch of SINET4, and the network's robustness was demonstrated when it withstood the Great East Japan Earthquake in the same year. However, over this time period, academic networks in Europe and the US have been widely upgraded to 100 Gbps, and SINET has paled in comparison. This makes the construction of a world-class, powerful network that connects all areas of Japan with a speed of 100 Gbps all the more significant for Japan's academic community.
Today, with the phrase "big data" in frequent use, environments easily capable of exchanging vast amounts of data are vital at the forefront of science. In big science, which involves dealing with large volumes of experimental data and requires enormous computing resources for the analysis of these data, international collaborations that exchange data across national and regional borders have become commonplace. The migration to SINET5 was strongly supported and endorsed by the Japan Association of National Universities (JANU), the Japan Association of Public Universities (JAPU), and the Federation of Japanese Private Colleges and Universities Associations (FJPCUA), and the Science Council of Japan (SCJ) also gave its recommendation. This upgrading of SINET to 100 Gbps is the result of support received from many people, for which we at NII are sincerely grateful.
Migration to SINET5 will also contribute greatly to the adoption of cloud computing by universities. Traffic flowing off-site will increase rapidly with the adoption of cloud computing, but this will be supported by the 100 Gbps SINET5. The consolidation of university computing resources resulting from introducing cloud computing could lead to large cost savings, and it is hoped that these cost savings will help to accelerate open science. New academic uses are anticipated, such as the distribution of teaching materials in medicine using 8K videos.
To promote the use of cloud computing as this new academic infrastructure, NII has started initiatives that support the introduction of cloud computing. GakuNin Cloud, launched last fiscal year, matches the needs of universities and research institutions with cloud services. We plan to develop GakuNin Cloud as a gateway connecting universities and research institutions with the Cloud.
NII established a new research center called the Center for Cloud Research and Development in FY2015. In the United States, not only are cloud resources being acquired from cloud vendors but projects conducting research on the Cloud itself are also starting at universities. Cloud research can be said to have entered a new stage. At NII too, we want to promote a totally different kind of next-generation cloud research. Also, the Research Center for Cybersecurity was established this fiscal year. NII has a strong sense of duty to protect the security of academic networks, and so provides technical support and information concerning cybersecurity to universities and research institutions. NII also intends to become involved in the development of security personnel in the future.
Taking advantage of migration to SINET5, we will make increased efforts to implement various services that go beyond the level of simple network connections, in the spirit of "thinking together, creating together" with diverse academic institutions. We are also putting effort into industry-academia collaborative initiatives. In February 2016, NII established the Research Center for Financial Smart Data. The field of finance is not one that information-related research institutes have actively engaged in previously. However, we are attempting to process and analyze finance-related big data and convert it into useful information: "financial smart data". We have gained the opportunity to grapple with complex economic and social phenomena. This is the first research center at NII whose operation and research is funded entirely by the private sector. The Cognitive Innovation Center was also newly established to promote innovation that will revolutionize Japanese society and industry. NII intends to work to develop diverse solutions with businesses in the new stage of artificial intelligence (AI) made possible by deep learning.
NII is one of very few organizations worldwide that, in addition to services such as SINET, conducts both fundamental informatics research and practical research that is aimed at implementation in society and can contribute to societal development. Recently in the field of information technology, there has been a tendency to emphasize only a "by IT" approach, but we would like to balance this with an "of IT" approach and strengthen our agile research system.
The role of IT is highlighted in the Japanese government's Fifth Science and Technology Basic Plan. As well as steadily advancing fundamental research, NII intends to tackle solution-oriented IT that will help to realize "Society 5.0".
Finally, education is another field that is important to NII. We wish to implement "full use of IT and IT education" in Japan, and address measures that will lead to more students learning the fundamentals of IT. We are delighted that the introduction of education on computer programming from elementary school age, as in the United Kingdom, is starting to be discussed in Japan. One could say that the ultimate targets of IT are education and the understanding of human life.
Please take a look at NII's efforts regarding research and operations, and let us know what you think. We thank you for your continued support.
Director General, National Institute of Informatics