Information Communications Technology In the University of Ghana

MUMUNI DAKUBU, ICT DIRECTOR UNIVERSITY OF GHANA

 

1. Mission Statement

The development objective of the University of Ghana’s Information Communication Technology Strategy is to ensure we design and operate a reliable, cost effective data communication systems and related services in support of all campus instruction, research, library, administration (MIS), distance education and student service programmes

 

2. Objectives

Information and communications technology (ICT) involves the use of diverse set of

technological tools and resources, to create, disseminate, store, and manage information and to communicate. The computers, software, networks, satellite links and related systems that allow us to access, create, analyze, exchange/communicate and use data, information and knowledge, all together form what we describe as ICT.

In the past we have used one or the other of these tools and therefore not been able to harness the full potential of ICT to strengthen conventional education and distance education. This is the time therefore to use ICT more cohesively in Higher Education.

We are therefore focusing on the expansion and modernization of the University’s ICT Infrastructure so that it will serve as the nerve center for the optimum performance of all sectors of the University. More specifically, the use of ICT in the following are being emphasized:

 

3. Historical Account of the development of ICT in the University:-

The University of Ghana started its journey into ICT in 1994/95, when with the help of AAAS it started its e-mail services using the FIDONET System. In May 1996, The USAID commissioned Dr. George Sadowsky of NYU, to visit the University of Ghana to assess the Internet needs and capabilities and other related issues like the telecommunications infrastructure at the University of Ghana and present a report. (The Sadowsky Report) Following the Sadowsky Report, the University of Ghana, wrote to UASID and requested a package of support to help it have full Internet connectivity.The USAID following the long tradition, that the University of Ghana (UG) has been an important partner in USAID’s development activities in both Ghana and elsewhere in West Africa, agreed to further strengthen this partnership in the area of Information Technology. It therefore willingly agreed to give financial assistance to help University of Ghana acquire full Internet connectivity. The USAID offered to provide University of Ghana:-

 

This wonderful connectivity then, was limited to a small section of the University through only dial-up via the national Telecom System and a small Cyber Café on campus because the University then did not have a viable network linking the various Faculties and Schools. The University covers a large area (see map) and it was not easy for the University to finance a network construction through its own resources at the time.

In 1998/99 the Danish Government through DANIDA gave the University a generous grant totaling about $450,000.00 which enabled it to establish a fibre optic backbone and connect the University library by fibre to the backbone. Soon, more Faculties developed LANs and linked these to the backbone. By early 2001, when it become clear that our Internet connectivity at 64kbps could not adequately support the Campus Area Network that had emerged, we were again helped by DANIDA to upgrade our system from the 64kps radio connection to a VSAT connection at 128/512kbps

 

4. WHAT IS IN PLACE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA NOW

4.1 A University communication network which is an Intranet is now in place, constructed through an initial DANIDA funding. It has four major nodes situated at the following places:

(These three nodes and linked by fibre to constitute the backbone for the University’s

network.)

 

4.2 Currently the following local area networks are linked to the backbone:-

At node N1,

 

At node N2

(With this connection, access is now readily available to the LANs in the following units using switches:-Computer science department, ISSER, RIPS, UNU, Mathematics department and Statistics department.)

 

At node N3, the connections are to the following:

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At node N4 which is housed at Central Administration of the University, the LAN there is connected to the backbone by a Radio. This gives access to the network to the following offices of the Administration:

 

4.3 All other units within the University that do not have direct online connections have the capability of dialing into the network through some 14 modems that are currently

connected at the node N2. All such dialing facilities are through the University’s PBX

units through which there are currently about 800 extensions. There is also provision at

node N2 for dialing into the network through the PSTN system.

 

5. Usage of the Network as envisioned:

 

5.1 Teaching and Learning :- Not much has been done in this area. On a scale of usage of 1 to 10, I rate the usage as 4. Faculty have used this to prepare material for teaching and to exchange material with faculty in other Universities. Faculty have not been able to use this to set up interactive usage involving students because student access has been limited and also faculty are not adequately prepared to produce courses that can be taught online. The University is aware of this and is making attempts to set up a Learning Resource Centre (LRC) which will equip faculty with the know how of preparing for such courses materials. A good progress has been made in this direction.

 

5.2 Distance Learning:- We have used the AVU Structure to bring about some use of ICT

for distance learning but not on the scale that has much influence on the University

curriculum. We are preparing ourselves and building our networks to allow us to use

material from other Universities in the Western World through online courses. An example

is the new initiative, called MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), which reflects MIT's

institutional commitment to disseminate knowledge across the globe. We will have to

develop some online courses ourselves when we have finished structuring our LRC We

think distance education holds the key to many of problems in education and we are

looking it at closely. Indeed the Ghana Government has set up a committee to work on

the setting up of distance education in the country making use of the idea of open Colleges

and Community Colleges. The future of distance learning is great and any tertiary

education that ignores it does so at its peril. The choice is not, to or not to, but rather

what form.

5.3 Research:- On scale of 1 to 10 on usage, I rate this at 5. The usage has been in

collaborative research, exchange and review of documents before publication, submission

of papers for publications registration for conferences etc. etc. There is the need to

develop International links where faculty can log on to more powerful computers

elsewhere and use them. This may have to wait for good and reliable bandwidth

connections and is mainly applicable to the Physical Scientists (Physicists and

mathematicians and some Chemists.) The Biochemists are been encouraged to make use

the vast amount information/data available on gnome sequencing. Gradually some of the

intellectual isolation of the mid 1980s is disappearing.

5.4 Library Services:- This is one area where there has been a great usage but still a lot more

needs to done. I will score the library usage 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.

The University Libraries in Ghana have been the main focus of IT development on most of

our campuses. The University libraries initiated email services which later gained momentum in

the development ICT activities culminating with the Internet. For example, the Balme library,

University of Ghana has been and continues to be the pivot of the Ghana Inter-Library Lending

and Document Delivery network (GILLDNET).

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GILLDNET is a consortium of university libraries providing Inter-Library and Document Delivery

services to the university communities by the use of Internet. Currently, the network with the

University of Ghana as the Hub, consists of the following links to this Hub:-

! VHF link to the University College of Education Winneba,

! HF connection to Tamale,

! Fibre Optics connection to University of Science & Technology and University of

Cape Coast.

There are now a considerable number of journals available online for the academic community

under the GILLDNET project. Some of the online subscriptions are:-

! Blackwell-Synergy Access,

! EBSCO publications,

! IDEAL library,

! INGENTA (Social Science and Humanities)

! SILVER Platter (Pascal, Francis and Silver Linker.

In addition to this, there are also a number of full-text articles and journals available.

Library automation has started in all the Tertiary Institutions Libraries with the exception of UDS

and the Polytechnics Libraries. The libraries are currently using Integrated Technical Software

(ITS) cataloguing software from The Library Corporation for their retrospective conversion. ITS

for Windows is a critically acclaimed, user friendly, cataloguing workstation software that

combines: cut and paste, MARC format and authority verification, and powerful edit and print

features and more.

ITS for Windows is format integration ready and conforms to current MARC standards. ITS

employs open systems architecture, so it can be the front end to any integrated library system

(ILS) that supports standard protocols, or can feed batch updates via standard media or local

network connection.

The annual subscription fee is $1500 for server and $500 per additional workstation. The

subscription breakdown for each university is as follows:-

• Balme Library, University of Ghana - 5

• UST Library, Kumasi - 3

• UCEW Library, Winneba - 3

• UCC Library, Cape Coast - 3

• UDS Library, Tamale - nil

• Polytechnics (10 of them) - nil

There are other modules for Web-Based Online Cataloguing, Inter-Library Loan, Online Public

Access and Circulation. The issues to be considered are system integration, Union catalogue,

licensing fees, training, technical support, online theses and integration of library records to

central administration databases.

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The libraries have also setup computer laboratories for Internet and Online access to the databases

mentioned above. These laboratories are opened to the university community. The Balme library

for example has two laboratories; one for postgraduate students and faculty and the other for

undergraduate students. The library is about 75% networked. The UST library also has a

computer laboratory equipped with about 50 computers; about 20 computers are connected to the

Internet. The University of Cape Coast library has a small laboratory with about 10 computers

that are used for Internet and Online database services. University College of Education library is

providing online services on a few computers to both students and staff through the use of the

dedicated VHF connection to Balme Library. The UDS also has an HF connection and the

Polytechnics have none.

The library is the nerve centre of any Academic institution and therefore we are paying special

attention to it while at the same time bearing in mind the costs and ease of accessibility.

5.5 Management Information Systems (MIS):- On a scale of 1 to 10 I rate the usage of this

as 6.

The use ICT for Administration and management falls broadly under the ambit of Management

Information Systems (MIS). We use ICT here as a tool to enhance the work of the Administrators

in efficiency, speed, and accuracy in the handling of data (information ) on human resources

management. The areas in which ICT can be used or applied include:

• personnel

• student administration

• financial systems

• communications

• office automation

• information base for keeping the campus community informed.

The Universities of Ghana are currently using an Integrated Tertiary Software, (ITS) which is a

management information software developed by a company in South Africa for their MIS.

However the Universities in Ghana have not been able to harness the full potential of this

software for their MIS.

5.6 Linking to all the Universities in Ghana, to make it possible to share common

resources:- The linking has been done. It is very weak. I score it 2 on the scale of 1 to 10

The link is suppose to evolve into a Virtual Private Network for the Universities but it has

been plagued with many problems and has not worked efficiently. The Volta River

Authority (VRA) has always owned a corporate telecommunications network as part of its

power system. As the power system grew, the communications network expanded. The

construction of the Takoradi Thermal Power Plant (TTPP) in 1995 resulted in increased

demand for more communications facilities. The technology of choice to upgrade the VRA

telecommunications network was what they call the “ Optical Ground Wire (OPGW). The

OPGW is a composite cable construction in which the fibre unit containing the optical

fibres is integrated or embedded into the earthwire. The installation of the OPGW meant

that the VRA had capacity far in excess of what it could use. This is clearly a good spin-off.

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The excess capacity was therefore commercialized and the result is the VoltaCom.

This commercialization has led to the installation and commissioning of over 600 Km of OPGW

spanning the following locations:

Prestea-Tarkwa-Takoradi/Aboadze-Cape Coast-Winneba -Accra-Tema-Akuse-Akosombo-

Tafo/Koforidua-Nkwakaw-Konongo-Kumasi. The Map in figure 1.1 shows the precise locations

with the green link. It was expected that the link from Prestea to Kumasi via Obuasi will be ready

by December 2001, this has not happened

Connections to cities are achieved using Point-to-Point Radios with 15 km reach

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FIGURE 1.1 (VOLTACOM)

VOLTACOM WAN SOLUTIONS FOR CORPORATE BODIES

IN GHANA

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6. Outstanding issue to be tackled and are being tackled:- There are basically five

outstanding issues that we are presently engaged in tackling. They are as follows:-

! Bandwidth and ISP fees

! Management issues like human resource development to support network

! Content development

! Student access

! Sustainability (How do we maintain pay for the growing network?)

! Viability of the Research and Education Network (REN) that we have formed.

On July 17 2002, I organized a one-day workshop for Deans, Directors, Heads of Departments

and all the other University executives to discuss these issues, hopefully we will get answers to

them all very soon.

There is no going back. No University without a viable ICT programme can survive this

Globalization era