THE resources of key French teaching and research bodies are now being pooled at the Sophia Antipolis Foundation in southern France, where fast and multimedia-friendly ATM switching could help to create "the virtual library of the 21st century".
The foundation's president, senator Pierre Laffitte, leads the plan to assemble a digital store ranging from films to theses, which educators can repackage in their own multimedia products. France's distance teaching centre CNED, the main public research body CNRS, several universities and the Cite des Sciences museum are among the partners.
M. Laffitte hopes to extend the collaboration across the Channel. "We hope the Open University will join us," he said. "The beauty of this new resource is that it is self-improving - each time a selection of material is drawn from all these different sources, it becomes a new product, stocked and available to other users."
The system eventually will be installed on similar networks in Paris and in Poitiers, home to the Futuroscope park and CNED headquarters. M. Laffitte is promoting another project, Medsat, which would use the resources for satellite teaching and training around the Mediterranean basin.
Franck Borotra, industry and telecommunications minister, said at a demonstration of the platform: "It is vital that Europe has a strong presence in this field. We have to join forces across the continent to hold our own on the information superhighways."
His ministry is funding broadband projects and many of the parties to M. Laffitte's project are launching their own ATM platforms within that scheme almost simultaneously.
State of disconnection, page 37