The first personality from the region of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) to be inducted into the prestigious Internet Hall of Fame is Jan Gruntorád, founder and until this July Director of CESNET Association. In the early 1990s, he was leading the small team that connected Czechoslovakia to the Internet. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony has taken place today by video conference.
The Internet Hall of Fame is a project of a key international Internet organization, the Internet Society, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Since 2012, the award has been presented to personalities who have made outstanding contribution to the Internet’s global growth, reach, security, and scale. For example, Vint Cerf, the “father of the Internet,” entered the Hall of Fame in 2012, Richard Stallman, a promoter of free use of the Internet, was inducted in 2013, and Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the website, is also a member of the Hall of Fame, along with other notable names.
The selection procedure is based on the nominations received by an international advisory board composed of renowned experts. The Internet Hall of Fame opens irregularly and always to only a few individuals. This year there were 21 personalities from 11 countries. The current list of members now includes 135 personalities, only 25 of whom are from Europe.
“I consider the appointment to this selected company to be the greatest honour I could receive within the global Internet community and I appreciate it immensely,” says Jan Gruntorád.
Jan Gruntorád is one of the pioneers of the Internet in our country. He first became acquainted with Internet before the fall of the Iron Curtain during his four-month internship at the Danish University of Technology in 1987. Three years later, he led the team that implemented the first connection of the mainframe computer located in the Czech Technical University building in Dejvice, Prague, to the Internet. Then, on February 13, 1992, he organized the official launch of Internet services in Czechoslovakia. Shortly afterwards, he began building the nationwide academic network CESNET, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. He participated in the establishment of independent organizations necessary for the functioning of the Internet in the Czech Republic, such as the administrator of the national domain CZ.NIC or the neutral peering network node NIX.CZ. He was the first Chairman of the Board of NIX.CZ for six years.
Internationally, Jan Gruntorád was significantly involved in the establishment of the CEENet, an association of national networks from Central and Eastern Europe, and was its head from 1998 to 2003. He promoted the introduction and improvement of Internet services in the research and development environment not only in our region but also in the republics of the former Soviet Union. He served as a NATO consultant for the Caucasus region responsible for expanding the IP network for the R&D community in Azerbaijan. From 1996 to 1999 he was active on the Board of Directors of EBONE, a pan-European Internet provider based in Copenhagen. From 2003 to 2009 he was a member of the Board of Directors of DANTE, which was transformed into the GÉANT Association, operating a pan-European academic network.
Jan Gruntorád’s affiliation to the top of the field is also confirmed by his frequent contacts with prominent figures of the Internet history and present. For example, one of the creators of the Internet, Vint Cerf, with whom he has been cooperating for a long time, called Jan Gruntorád “the father of the Internet in the Czech Republic”.
The induction into the Internet Hall of Fame is so far the most prestigious, but not the only significant honor Jan Gruntorád has received. In 2016, for example, he received the prestigious Vietsch Foundation Medal. This is awarded annually to world personalities who have made lasting contributions to the research and development of advanced Internet technologies for the support of science, research and higher education.
Although Jan Gruntorád said goodbye to the position of CESNET Director this summer after 25 years, he remains an integral part of the association. He continues to contribute to the development of the national e-infrastructure for science, research, development and education, which provides users from the research community and universities with access to cutting-edge technologies and services and enables them to participate in today’s most demanding international research projects.