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CNRI is a not-for-profit organization formed in 1986 to foster research and development for the National Information Infrastructure. Among CNRI's major goals is a program of research to identify and nurture infrastructural technologies and services that will unlock the potential of information and knowledge along with technology itself. CNRI promotes various collaborative activities that create productive synergies among government agencies, universities, and private organizations; undertakes targeted research in technologies for digital objects rights management, and high-speed networking; and supports various educational initiatives in the public interest.

CNRI is committed to furthering the design and implementation of selected infrastructure components so that new computing- and communications-based applications can be used to greater advantage at work, at school, and at home. Experimental development and use of new technologies is often the most effective means for understanding their potential and driving their evolution. CNRI engages in selected system and technology demonstration activities and projects with key institutions where the implications of prototype systems can be studied and refined, and their utility can be determined.

In addition to selective development and deployment of key infrastructural technologies, CNRI initiates and nurtures collaborative and educational activities that are intended to bring together parties with potentially divergent interests to pursue common goals. CNRI organized and manages the Cross-Industry Working Team http://www.xiwt.org/ which includes computer, information, banking, and telecommunications firms among its members. CNRI houses D-Lib http://www.dlib.org/forum/forum.html a program of activities to support research in digital libraries and networked information technologies, and hosts the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Secretariat http://www.cnri.reston.va.us/ietf.html through Foretec Seminars, Inc. http://www.foretec.com/ a subsidiary of CNRI.