By Dayo Adesulu
As part of the developmental efforts of Professor Tolu Odugbemi, the Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos the Wireless Metropolitan Area Network (WiMAN) which will cover the three campuses of the university- the main campus at Akoka, the College of Medicine at Idi-Araba, and the Yaba Campus at the Old School of Radiography has been officially launched.
Odugbemi said his dream from inception in office was to make ICT project a focus of his administration, adding that internet and intranet services will be a priority of his administration and efforts will be made to expand the existing capacity and distribution to provide access to staff as well as students in hostels and academic area via secure means.
He said that when fully completed, the three campuses of the University will be enveloped with a wireless cloud which will provide secure and authenticated access to the network from any location or point on those campuses â€“ be it in studentsâ€™ hostel, at an eatery or under a tree at the Sports Centre.
According to the VC,Â WiMAN project which is being delivered at a cost of over N300 million up-front investment through private financeÂ is a joint initiative with AMB Multiserve Limited primary to provide the university with a CISCO-based wireless communication network across its three campuses through a Public Private Partnership (PPP).
The project is multifaceted, comprehensive and innovative, and will address the tremendous need to provide fast and reliable broadband internet connectivity to staff and students to enable them develop world standard educational facilities, increase mobility and productivity whilst managing more effectively the limited resources of the University.
This project will also serve as a backup facility for the main universityâ€™s network thereby assuring reliability and availability of access always.
There is however a challenge faced by institutions of higher learning which University of Lagos is not insulated from. This pertains to how to provide latest cutting edge technology to support the learning, research and administration in the face of severe budgetary constraints. Besides, supporting administrative and faculty requirements, institutions must introduce information and communication technology in order to enhance the learning experience and attract the best students.
Professor Odugbemi noted however that, the project was conceived to create robust end-to-end information and communication network with limited upfront investment from the university that meets the current and future needs of all users whilst providing internally generated revenue for the university.
According to him, there are deliverable benefits students and the university community stand toÂ derive which include campus-wide connectivity via a number of WiFi hot spots through which authorized access to the internet as well as the university corporate network will be provided to the University community. It also upgrades and replaces the existing, obsolete information technology infrastructure and networking equipment.
Besides, it enhances provision of 300 computer terminals located at designated Network Resource Centres at the three campuses for use by students and faculty members. Moreover, it enables enterprise-wide IP telephony solution via which voice calls may be made on the backbone of the IT network at no additional costs to members of the University community.
Others include income stream to the University, equivalent to a percentage of surplus of revenue arising from the commercial operation of the network after deductions have been made for costs of operations adding that it leads to development of value added services and additional benefits for members of the University community, integrated with existing banking and other products offered by financial partners such as scratch card, ATM cards to mention few examples.
Also, Soji Romeo, MD/CEO of AMB MULTISERVE LTD while explaining the methodology of the Wireless Metropolitan Area Network (WiMAN) said that AMB has put together a consortium of professional institutions and firms, each contributing its own unique expertise and resources to implement and deliver on this vision.
The network, which the consortium is building, provides coverage across the three campuses of the university. AMB will then run and operate the network for a period of seven years as a self-sustaining and commercial operation, but at rates that are affordable to the students and members of the university community and which is guaranteed to be cheaper than any comparable service available on campus. Thereafter, the entire infrastructure and administrative structures will be transferred to the university.
In addition, the project is providing the university with 7 ICT Resource Centres (5 in Akoka and one each in Idi-Araba and Yaba) which will be equipped with 300 desktop computers, all with network and internet connectivity and which will be available for use by all eligible students of the university entirely for free. This means that students will have free access to the internet from the Centres, whereas those who own personal laptops and PCs and prefer the convenience of access from any location may subscribe to the service. According to Romeo,Â AMB has taken the following actions in the process of establishing the project:
â€¢AMB worked with CISCO to design the technical solution which introduces new levels of mobile communication that will help the University of Lagos securely extend its existing network into both indoor and outdoor areas where hardwiring would be expensive or difficult
â€¢AMB has arranged for the funds to implement this project from private financial institutions, in the process requiring nil upfront financial investment from the university. That is not to discountenance the contribution from the university in terms of time and accommodation.
â€¢AMB has appointed Cyberspace Ltd, a CISCO certified technical partner to build and implement a modern, robust and effective network for the university based on the CISCO design and equipment
â€¢Establish a project management office in conjunction with the Universityâ€™s Centre for Information Technology and Systems (CITS), to administer the resultant network services on a self-sustaining and commercially viable basis; and finally
â€¢Enable the transfer of the ownership of the network infrastructure (as well as all administrative structures) to the university at the end of the agreed term of 7 years.