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IT Infrastructure Installation a Success on the Africa University Campus

Keeping up with technology is imperative for Africa University to provide the best education and training to students.  An assessment in 2016 recommended that Africa University (AU) revamp key elements of its Information Technology (IT) infrastructure.

Africa University is overhauling its IT infrastructure to increase wireless coverage, manage bandwidth, and maximize network efficiency.

Support of AU comes from the Africa University Fund apportionment, and generous donations from individuals, conferences and churches.

During four weeks in May, AU and the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) staff worked on the AU campus in Mutare, Zimbabwe while at the same time AU celebrated its 25th Anniversary. 

This first phase of the IT enhancement project, dubbed "Gate2Cross":

  • expanded the fiber optic connection to the entrance gate and faculty housing area
  • added new wireless access points throughout the campus
  • improved network availability by adding UPS (uninterrupted power supply) units and lightning arresters on all switches
  • increased the network backbone from 1Gbps to 10Gbps
  • included a redesign of the data center, making it entirely virtualized

The work was carried out by a team that brought together expertise from AU and two agencies of The United Methodist Church—GCFA and General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). The team has improved the IT experience of students and faculty and helped AU to manage an important asset.

The new servers, chasses, and brocades.

In February 2017, the university more than doubled the bandwidth available on campus. The increased bandwidth, which costs $15,000 per month, moved AU to the mid-range in IT provision among universities in its market. Given the demands of 21st century academic life, AU needed to do more.

"We are far from the ideal situation. Bandwidth is prohibitively expensive, so we're implementing strategies to meet the expectations of the students and faculty…for activities like logging in to lectures remotely, streaming video or interacting in real time as part of the learning process," said Richard Fotsin, the director of ICT.

"Changing the network configuration, upgrading our equipment, and eliminating wi-fi dead zones has resulted in a much better user experience," Fotsin said.

The team will continue to explore other aspects of bandwidth management such as on-site caching. Installing a caching device, for example, could substantially improve bandwidth efficiency.

Upcoming phases of the IT overhaul will focus on classroom and instructional technology, media, video conferencing capacity, and other infrastructure for upscaling e-learning/online delivery of Africa University programs. Providing users with the necessary tools for innovation in teaching and research is part of the vision.

The university's plan for building projects over the next two years is equally ambitious. It lists three new dormitories, a sports and wellness complex, an addition to the cafeteria, a multi-purpose hall, and two faculty houses, in order of priority.

Andra M. Stevens, Director, Communications, Africa University Development Office and Sharon Dean, Chief Officer of Communications and Marketing, General Council on Finance and Administration

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Africa University Fund transforms Africa by educating and empowering students from across the continent through Africa University, the first fully accredited, United Methodist-related educational institution on the continent. The Africa University Fund supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Africa University Fund at 100 percent.

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