Introduction

Over the last few years there has been an explosion in the importance of research and development in the specific sub-areas of Computer Networks and Multimedia and the interaction of these two areas in the form of high-speed multimedia networks. Distributed multimedia systems and networking are expected to form the cornerstone of an imminent revolution in information technology and to become a dominant factor in any country's success in the 21st century. These developments have recently acquired enormous general significance following the realization that they have the potential to revolutionize the way our society is structured, changing most of the major aspects of our life thus culminating into a new kind of society - the Information Society.

The project aims to develop and bring together studies from the areas of high-speed computer networks, distributed and multimedia systems and digital libraries to provide a solid foundation for the technological building of electronic roads that can be used for cultural and historical exploitation both in space and time.

The resulting systems will integrate in a principal way digital libraries of various information media such as video, graphics, text and sound. These will be available to the user in an interactive manner thus enabling the user to explore the available information according to his/her own preferences. Effective access to these systems will be secured via high speed multimedia networks set up within the project. Access will be made available both locally and internationally in the wider Euro-Mediterranean region. Particular emphasis will be put on the pedagogical aspects of the systems and their wider social and political implications! The usefulness and validity of these systems will be tested through specific applications in education both within the formal school context and involving the general public. The first prototypes of the project are electronic roads for the occupied part of Cyprus with the particular aim to preserve in a vivid way the history and cultural heritage of these areas. These systems are also aimed to constitute a suitable educational resource for the schools of Cyprus and the Greek Diaspora. This research projects is funded by the University of Cyprus and supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus, the Press and Information Office, the Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, and the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority. The team which works on the project has extended the aims of the project in order to cover the Euro-Mediterranean region with partners from Egypt, Jordan, Greece, and Spain. This initiative will receive funding from the EU via and INCO project.