In September, the pan-European OpenWebSearch.EU project was launched, bringing together 14 renowned European research and supercomputing centres to create an open European web search infrastructure. The Czech Republic is represented in the project by IT4Innovations National Supercomputing Center, which is part of VSB – Technical University of Ostrava.

Web search has become an essential technology and commodity, driving not only future innovations but forming a backbone for our digital economy. Regrettably, currently, few non-European gatekeepers control Web searches, which creates biased, one-sided information access centred around economic success rather than the needs of citizens or European values and jurisdiction. This one-sided ecosystem puts pressure on many small Web contributors from science, economy, art, culture, media, and society, requiring them to optimize their content for a few such gatekeepers. A system greatly benefiting the gatekeepers thereby creates a vicious cycle, which leads to locked-in effects and a closed search engine market.

The OpenWebSearch.EU project is now launched with 14 renowned European research and supercomputing centres that have set themselves the goal of creating an open European web search infrastructure. The OpenWebSearch.EU project will contribute to Europe's digital sovereignty while promoting an open market for web search applications. The European Commission has approved €8.5 million in funding for the project under the Horizon Europe Programme. The Czech Republic is represented by IT4Innovations National Supercomputing Center.

Over the next three years, researchers will build the core of a European Open Web Index (OWI) as the basis for a new web search in Europe. In addition, the project will lay the foundations for an open and scalable European Open Web Search and Analysis Infrastructure (OWSAI), based on European values, principles, legislation, and standards.

The project has its origins in concerns about imbalances in the search engine market. Although web search is the backbone of our digital economy, it is dominated and constrained by a few gatekeepers such as Google, Microsoft, Baidu, and Yandex. Information as a public commodity with free, unbiased, and transparent access is thus no longer under public control. This imbalance threatens democracy and limits the innovation potential of the European research environment and economy.

The solid multi-disciplinary OpenWebSearch.EU consortium of 14 European partners believes that "an open web search infrastructure will not only contribute to Europe's sovereignty in web navigation and search but will also benefit us all as citizens. Based on our own preferences, we will finally have a real choice again when choosing search engines," says Michael Granitzer of the University of Passau and the Open Search Foundation, the Coordinator of the project.

Jan Martinovič, Head of Advanced Data Analysis and Simulations, says about the involvement of IT4Innovations: "In our supercomputing centre, we will focus mainly on activities related to providing infrastructure for computing, processing, and storage of data for the project, including distributed data infrastructure between the associated data centres. Here we will use our expertise in data processing and analysis to contribute to the individual research objectives of the project. Our contribution is important for this project as it helps to build the basic infrastructure for building an independent European search engine."

"In the project, we will benefit not only from our experience with the operation of distributed data storages based on iRODS technology and services provided by EUDAT, the European Data Infrastructure but also from the long-term cooperation with some of the project partners. We will be involved in building the distributed index management platform itself, which represents a significant opportunity for us to further deepen our experience in managing complex computational data processing tasks," adds Martin Golasowski, senior researcher at IT4Innovations.

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  The OpenWebSearch.EU project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon Europe project under grant agreement No. 101070014.