Not that long ago, the internet was a computer science research project…
Two remarkable digital-era pioneers are being recognized today on the eve of their last board meeting with Cybera, which operates Alberta's Research and Education Network.
Brian Unger, founding president of the organization, is stepping down after 19 years on the board. For six of those years he was also CEO, where he led the development of Alberta's networking and computing infrastructure. As a computing science professor in the early days of the internet, Unger recognized the specialized needs of researchers working with this new technology.
He was one of the founders of the Western Universities Research Consortium (WURCnet), which became Netera Alliance, and later Cybera. The organization was tasked with developing Alberta's high-end research networks, enabling access to supercomputers provided by the High Performance Computing Consortia (HPCC), and later by WestGrid, which he also co-founded. Unger was the founding president of the Alberta Informatics Circle of Research Excellence (iCORE) from 1999-2005. During this period, iCORE invested $43 million in 17 ICT research chairs, supporting over 500 faculty, graduate students and staff.
Through these interrelated projects, he evolved Alberta from a province of remote pockets of academia to a region known for its collaborative, data-intensive research. Unger received the IWAY 'Public Leadership' Award for outstanding contributions to Canada's information society in 2004, and was named a 'Canada Pioneer of Computing' at the 2005 IBM CASON conference in Toronto.
Over the same period, Seamus O'Shea was leading the IT strategies at the University of Lethbridge, where he was Vice-President and Provost. As chair of Cybera's Board of Directors over the past five years, he has worked to grow the organization to become a regionally and internationally recognized leader in networking and cloud computing.
O'Shea's work in the early 1990s made the University of Lethbridge one of the first post-secondary institutions to make broadband widely accessible, giving every desk on campus access to the internet. He also served as Chair of iCORE from 2006-2010 and, more recently, was co-chair of the team that designed and implemented ApplyAlberta, the province's online post-secondary application system.
"Very few researchers actually know the story of these IT pioneers, and how their everyday tools are the result of decades of commitment. Brian and Seamus have helped build the foundations of e-infrastructure in Alberta, which is among the best in the world," says President and CEO Robin Winsor. "Through their vision and pathfinding work, they have led the research, computing and networking landscape in this province. In the process, they have ensured that Alberta researchers have the tools and networks to succeed internationally."
Their pioneering and enduring work in Alberta's digital landscape will be celebrated at a private event this evening in Calgary.