E-Readiness 2013 - Critical Issues
This section identifies some of the critical issues, around 10 of the 17 e-readiness indicators, which need to be addressed for accession to higher stages and makes recommendations to be implemented by the senior leadership of the universities.
Critical issues for Network Access category of indicators
Table 8-1 in the report shows critical issues for three of the four categories of network access indicators. The Internet availability indicator did not have any critical issues since it had accessioned from stage 1.6 to stage 2.9 because of the corresponding increase in Internet bandwidth per 1,000 students.
The telephony infrastructure indicator staging dropped from stage 2.1 to stage 1.1 in the five years. This is probably due to the large number of new universities that have not yet invested in telephony infrastructure. The lack of telephony infrastructure reduces the effectiveness of staff and faculty due to lack of effective internal communications and is a critical issue. It also means that staff and faculty were not being prepared for web conferencing or video conferencing that are effective in reducing costs of communication and collaboration among staff and faculty.
We therefore recommend that all universities invest in telephony infrastructure as well as the associated video and web conferencing infrastructure that uses the same backbone infrastructure as the campus networks.
The key actions in this area require the support of chief finance officers. However, it is the ICT directors who should demonstrate the institutional efficiencies and capacities possible with investments in telephony and video conferencing infrastructure.
The Internet affordability indicator was at stage 1.4 in 2013 down from stage 1.9 in 2008. This drop was mainly due to the increase in student enrolment without a corresponding increase in Internet budgets. This was especially important for institutions outside urban areas where the average Internet bandwidth costs were up to 50% above the urban areas. This was an area that required the intervention of the Vice Chancellors. However, it was the ICT directors who needed to demonstrate the value of ICT in learning, teaching and administration using concrete data and case studies.
The network speed and stability indicator remained almost unchanged in the five years at stage 2.5 despite the tenfold increase in Internet bandwidth per 1,000 students. As noted earlier, this suggests that the campus networks were not well designed, needed to be upgraded to cope with large numbers and Internet bandwidth, or were not well managed. Anecdotal data suggested that there were few experienced network administrators or network engineers at most university campuses.
Accession strategies for this critical indicator requires investments in campus network infrastructure (including wireless networks to support student-owned laptops and smartphones), service management, as well as a critical mass of network and systems administrators.
Although ICT directors play a critical role in building the ICT human capacity, setting up an effective service management operation and developing new cyber security and bring your own device (BYOD) policies, it was the chief finance officers and Vice Chancellors who needed to make the necessary investment decisions to upgrade the networks. In general, campus networks need to be upgraded every five years. These critical issues therefore need to be addressed along with the institutional ICT strategy critical issues as described in the next sub-section.
|E-readiness Indicator||Critical Issue||Recommended Accession strategies||Action by|
|Telephony infrastructure||The telephony infrastructure indicator dropped to stage 1.1 from stage 2.1 in 2008
The critical issue is that lack of telephony diminishes the quality of working environment and efficiency of staff.
Lack of telephony infrastructure means faculty and staff are also not being prepared for IP-based video and web-conferencing services.
|Implement voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) telephony system to ride on the backbone campus networks for all campuses.
Explore the possibility of a shared telephony gateway for all universities with KENET as a service bGoKer and/or provider of services.
Implement video and web conferencing to supplement telephony infrastructure especially for universities with multiple campuses.
|VC/ DVC AA /ICT director|
|Internet affordability||Universities were spending < 0.5% of total expenditure on Internet bandwidth. Consequently, universities dropped from stage 1.9 to 1.1.||Universities should aim to increase Internet expenditure to at least 1% of the total recurrent expenditure.
Enforce the Government of Kenya mandated guidelines of allocating up to 10% of the recurrent expenditure to ICT, including salaries for public institutions. This figure was under 2.4% for most universities.
|VC/ CFO /ICT director|
|Campus Network Speed and Stability||Campus networks are perceived to be unstable and provide slow Internet speeds in comparison to cyber cafés or 3G mobile Internet.
A significant percentage of students (24%) access computers and Internet
About 24% computers at cyber cafés. A large proportion of student own smartphones and laptops (53%) and will want to use them in university campuses
|Universities must upgrade, redesign and in some cases replace the old campus networks to ensure they are stable and fast.
Campus networks must be redesigned to accommodate the large number of student and faculty-owned devices. This will include automated on-boarding of user-owned devices.
Annual campus network investments must be increased significantly to accommodate new services and increased number of user-owned devices.
Increase Internet bandwidth and implement appropriate bandwidth management policies.
Universities must set up campus-based helpdesks to support the users.
Develop and implement a BYOD policy.
|VC/ICT director/ Registrar|
Institutional ICT strategy
The institutional ICT strategy category of e-readiness indicators includes ICT financing, ICT human capacity, and ICT strategy implementation. Figure 8-1 shows that ICT financing had only accessioned from stage 1.6 in 2008 to stage 2.0 in 2013. The ICT human capacity indicator dropped slightly from stage 3 in 2008 to stage 2.9.
Although it may seem like the critical issues are only in the area of ICT financing, the poor performance in the network speed and stability indicator suggests the lack of the necessary technical ICT human capacity. The critical issues that affect accession in ICT financing and ICT Human Capacity indicators are shown in Table 8-2.
|E-readiness Indicator||Critical Issue||Recommended Accession strategies||Action by|
|ICT financing||Expenditure per 1,000 students was only $7,339. This was mainly because student enrolment increased by over 100% between 2008 and 2013. This is inadequate given the large number of student-owned devices on campus.||All universities should aim to spend at least $21,000 per 1,000 students per year, which translates to only 10 Mb/s per 1,000 students.
Allocate adequate ICT capital recurrent budgets to enhance network environment, upgrade and expansion of campus ICT infrastructure, ICT staff salaries and training.
Explore innovative ways of funding ICT capital and recurrent expenditure, for example, by providing low-cost on and off campus Internet access charges in collaboration with the NREN.
|VC/CFO/ ICT director|
|Internet affordability||Shortage of critical mass of qualified network engineers to design and operate campus network. (Campus networks are perceived to be unstable and slow by over 50% of the students).
Bandwidth management policies are not yet implemented especially for many universities providing relatively low Internet bandwidth because of lack of ICT staff.
|Recruit and develop high-end ICT professionals and network engineers required to design and maintain the complex campus backbone and wireless networks and services.
Provide continuous capacity building for network and systems administrators supporting campus network and services.
Develop and enforce appropriate bandwidth services to give priority to academic services for students and faculty.
|ICT director /CFO|
The critical issue for ICT financing is also related to the ICT affordability indicator. Institutions were only spending on average 0.5% of their total expenditure on Internet bandwidth which needed to be increased to about 1%. It appears that universities were not allocating adequate funding for the Internet budget to cope with the large number of students. An increase of the average expenditure to $25,000 per 1,000 students would move the indicator from stage 2 to stage 3. However, it appears the problem was how ICT was funded. It was not clear from the study whether it was from tuition or from student lab fees. It was also not clear where funding for other ICT capital projects required to upgrade the campus infrastructure would come from.
ICT directors therefore need to identify new sources of funding to increase the annual expenditure per 1,000 students or the total expenditure allocated to Internet bandwidth by submitting funding proposals to the government, donor agencies and the private sector. It is also important for ICT directors to start charging for services provided to different schools and departments of the universities. Moreover, the student laboratory fees should be used exclusively for recurrent ICT costs and not considered as another source of revenue for the universities.
ICT Human Capacity
Despite attaining a relatively high stage at 2.9, ICT human capacity is an area that needs urgent attention. While the universities did not appear to have an ICT staff retention problem, the actual technical capacity of the ICT staff was not measured. The fact that 60% of the students considered the campus network unstable suggested low ICT technical capacity, as most of the universities did not have the necessary staff complement with the requisite qualifications to manage large and complex campus networks.
The recommended accession strategies could therefore include external audit of the technical capacity of the ICT staff. This could be done in collaboration with KENET or other external ICT consultants. A staff development program would then be developed and funded to develop the advanced technical capacity required. This would include developing capacity in project management, service management, and ERP operation and administration. This also requires full-time and competent ICT directors; who would not only develop the capacity of the staff and create a conducive working environment, but also influence the senior leadership to invest in high-end ICT professionals.
The networked campus indicators of network environment and e-campus were at stage 3.2 and 2.8 respectively. Thus, it appears there were no critical issues associated with these indicators. However, the data used to stage these indicators suggests that there were some critical issues around each of the two indicators as shown in Table 8-3 of the report.
The networked environment data shows that only 10 of the 30 universities had disaster recovery plans and most did not have off-site backup sites. Only 56.7% of the student labs were on UPS and this contributed to the perception that campus networks were unstable. These critical issues could be addressed by additional investments in setting up disaster recovery centers and also providing clean power and UPS power at the campuses.
In general, enhancing the network environment with clean power is not always an ICT function but needs to be driven by the Vice Chancellor and the chief finance officers. However, it was the responsibility of the ICT directors to demonstrate that the network environment indicator was critical for supporting ICT academic and administrative operations and supporting teaching, learning and research activities.
Data for the e-campus staging indicates that most of the university websites were only informational and did not support interactions with users or transactions. Most were not updated daily and could not be considered a portal for the university students. Thus, the universities were not yet ready to support online transactions and the interactions were mainly via email.
To address these critical issues, the senior leadership must first understand that institutional websites and web portals were essential for efficient operations of the universities and for attracting new students and faculty. Awareness raising could be done through workshops as part of ICT capacity building for the senior leadership of universities. This should be a priority in to improve the stages of the sub-indicators of e-campus.
Once the senior leadership have fully appreciated the strategic value of their institutions' websites, the Internet and social media for the future of a university, competent ICT directors with experience in ERP roll out, project management and communication, should be recruited to drive the automation projects. All new ERPs should be web-enabled and the learning management systems should be capable of supporting the large number of students in the universities.
Thus, accession to stage 4 in these two indicators will require the support of the entire senior leadership led by the Vice Chancellor and competent and full-time ICT directors to drive the changes. Table 8-3 summarizes the critical issues and recommended actions.