My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How UWI can save money in a recession

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How UWI can save money in a recession



I would like to use the kind services of this medium to, as it were, cast a Light on the University of the West Indies and the administration and its Students, who appear, despite their Degree, to still be un-Enlightened!

Students who, despite being aware that we are now in the midst of a recovery from the effects of the recession in the United States of America, still is plodding unwarily on as if none such event had occurred and all was as before as evidenced form their reaction and comments as stated in the article “'Not Credible'”, published Sunday March 28, 2010 by Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter, Gleaner Writer, The Sunday Gleaner

For albeit new and returning Students are now facing an increase in their tuition to alleviate the shortfall in the UWI’s Budget resulting in the Government of Jamaica having this grand educational institution support more of the cost of privilege of tertiary education, UWI is still visibly spending on edifices and unnecessary services and still not capitalizing on areas of revenue that are yet to be fully exploited.

This is by investing in technology that will future proof the University of the West Indies by making its operations more efficient and cost effective via a Social Partnership with the Private and Public Sector, both Local Corporate and FDI (Foreign Direct Investors) to fund the overall cost of tuition at the University of the West Indies and other Universities.

One of these unexploited revenue opportunities for the University to increase its revenues from Students is car parking. Currently on Campus, Students who are privileged enough to have their parents loan them a motor vehicle or those who have their own, can park on Campus completely for free.

Curiously, lecturers’ parking spots, albeit reserved and erroneous usage by unwary Students punishable by clamping and a JA$5000 fine (possibly increased along with tuition?), are paid for by the lecturers, as evident from their salary deductions noticeable on their pay stubs as well as the ‘M’ sticker affixed to the windscreen of their various modes of transport, as varied as the Faculties on Campus.

In the tuition fee breakdown, which can be viewed on the University of the West Indies website, it does not indicate where Students are paying for their parking spaces, or should one assume that this “parking fee” is bundle somewhere under one of the payments in the “Miscellaneous Fees and Charges Section” or an unseen addend to the Tuition (highly possible, as UWI has never explained the mathematics, despite however simple it may be, of how they calculate each year’s Tuition increase)?

If it is, as the case may certainly be, that I am getting blind in my old age, then it would be good that the University indicate where this charge is to Students for parking, otherwise it would mean that I am yet again correct.

It would seem that Students are living the life, driving and getting free parking with motor vehicles that may not necessarily belong to them, and thus the University of the West Indies can charge them a fee (how does JA$3000 per month sound?) to have the right and the privilege akin to that of a lecturer – not to mention the sticker – that would allow them to park on Campus any at all.

Many of these Students already flaunt Campus Security by parking in Lecturer’s parking spaces, but get billed later around exam time, forcing them to pay or be unable to sit exams. A similar deterrent strategy can also be employed to force compliance i.e. Students registering the vehicle they use to travel to the Campus, collect a sticker, preferably in bright yellow marked “S” for Students and be made to pay a monthly fee of JA$3000 (or higher) per month to park on Campus – with the usual clamping fee for parking in reserved spaces.

Thus payment becomes my next carrion victim. I am glad that the University of the West Indies has made strides and has now made it mandatory to have all Students use the NCB KeyCard Cash facility Campus wide, as this makes all transactions by Students with UWI cashless.

What troubles me is there are still transactions that are still being done via cash, despite the best efforts of the University, as overdue books payments at the Pure and Applied Sciences and Main Library, payments for broken chemistry lab equipment, payments for rental of lockers, and purchases from the various vendors allowed to operate on the University Campus are still being done in cash.

Efforts need to be made to not only have these sources of revenue cashless, as it will get Students more used to the eventual transition in Jamaica as the Government moves to close the money loop by making all financial transactions and business transactions cashless – and therefore more easily taxable.

I wish to also impart the fact that a time is coming worldwide when learning a language will be a must in order to get a job. Thus, I am hereby recommending to the Administration of the University of the West Indies that every UWI Students will be made to learn at least one foreign language (preferably Spanish) which will count towards their degree in much the same way FD10A and FD13A passes are a current must for graduation.

Getting employment at companies as well as pre-selection by companies that are run by multinationals should be tied to the successful completion and demonstration of fluency in the language chosen. These measures, once implemented, should improve the overall quality of Students coming out of the UWI so that they are not only employable outside of Jamaica in non-English speaking markets but also can work as translators, a job skill in itself which can earn the graduate additional revenue and may even be spun off into an alternate career path.

The usage of computers and the internet also needs to be more streamlined, with Students access to downloading, video and audio streaming websites and social networking websites and instant messaging applications capable of VoIP (Voice over IP) being blocked, as these site are responsible for clogging the network with traffic and exposing the delicate University ecosystem to viruses, previous attacks having crippled the Universities Network, especially as more and more Students have personal laptops and netbooks.

Additionally, Students accessing the networks on Campus should be given a download/upload cap per month of 3Gb in addition to logon times of one (1) hour per session, which should decrease to half (1/2) and hour once the person has exceeded this download cap for the month, so as to prevent persons from being able to abuse their access to the Campus Internet.

More use needs to be made of Open Source applications e.g. Ubuntu Operating system, Open Office, OURVLE, etc. to replace those applications for which the University needs a license to put on multiple computers, thereby lowering the University’s IT costs in the long run.

Students should only have the ability to use the IM and chat applications on OURVLE and access to websites pre-screened by the Guild of Students deemed important to learning and not able to allow Students to engage in downloading, video and audio streaming, social networking and instant messaging applications capable of VoIP (Voice over IP).

Computers also need to be put on a regular maintenance schedule, with computers campus wide being regularly defragged, virus scanned, software and files being backed up and files taking up space on hard drives being removed by teams of Students employed by the University on weekends.

If Students wish to download what the University of the West Indies does not allow, they need to purchase a 3G modem from Telecoms Providers LIME or CLARO or a Digicel WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) modem (when it becomes available), or better yet, a Netbook or Laptop from the aforementioned Telecoms Providers with the modem already embedded in the Laptop – and see how it feels to have to pay for your internet access, as most wireless internet access is capped.

Campus security, long being the bane of endless Students Union Elections, needs to be once and for all improved by the usage of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags being incorporated into the Student ID currently being used on Campus as well as the placement of IR (Infra Red) cameras all over the University and the improvement of lighting on every square inch of the Campus.

RFID would allow Campus security to track Students as they move across the Campus via RFID readers strategically placed at entry points to buildings all over campus, interconnected via the Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11f). RFID does not require the Students to visibly wear their Student ID and would help security to verify the location of Students in case of problems on campus.

Cameras would assist the Campus Security by altering the behavior of Students, who, more likely than not, often avoid being caught on camera and thus would refrain from activities deemed against Campus rules.

Lighting would also have the same effect, as lighting on the University of the West Indies is poor, allowing robberies and rapes to easily take place in regions of the Campus that have no lighting.

Improvements in only these three (3) aspects would allow for the physical security on campus to be reduced, making it possible to reduce the cost of security as electronic security systems are cheaper than armed guards and patrols.

The environment, especially actions that are seen as Green and good for its overall health, is now the big thing, and the University also needs to engage in an expanded Campus wide recycling program, recycling wastewater, Styrofoam, PET bottles, glass, paper, metal, etc. in a bid to earn revenue which can be given back to the Students to support not only activities on the various Halls of Residence.

This would drastically reducing the money Students have to fork out to pay for Hall shirts and other Hall related paraphernalia but also the off Campus Students as well with bursaries for Students who are having difficulty financing their way through University, as it was originally their waste that the UWI recycled for cash, with no special requirements, as everyone generates garbage on Campus that is recyclable.

All that needs to be done is to demonstrate genuine need and apply for the “mad money” that the University earned from the sale of the recyclable material, as most Students, are literally throwing away millions of dollars in recyclable garbage every month.

Books, especially those sold in the edifice known as the Campus Bookshop, which Students only visit to purchase pens, pencils, paper, notebooks and Digicel credit (all of which are cheaper off campus) should have long ago become obsolete on Campus, with books being instead being replaced by allowing Students to rent or buy Amazon Kindle, Sony eReader or the new Apple iPad eReader devices.

The University simply needs to approach Amazon CEO Bezos, Sony Ericsson or Apple and a Telecoms Provider to have the servers set up to allow for the eReader service of Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Apple to be accessible in Jamaica.

This would allow Students to purchase books via a facility set up by the University on the eReader company’s website, once it can be ascertained by the University of the West Indies that these software versions of the books are available on eReader company’s website for purchase.

As the books go straight to the device, copyright of the authors of the work are protected, as Students cannot remove the books as they are stored on the device. Best of all, it makes carrying books convenient.

To wit, transactions within the Administration should have already gone paperless via the implementation of appropriate software e.g. PeopleSoft, currently being used at LIME or SAP, currently being used by CLARO and begin the process of scanning documents into a database and backing them up on an offline Datacenter e.g. Digicel’s new Datacenter as is currently being done by the NCU (Northern Caribbean University)

With assistance from the Physics Department, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica and the various generator contractors available island wide, the University of the West Indies can have their backup generator facility on Campus upgraded, so as to have all their generators operational whenever power goes away and switch the entire Campus to the usage of solar power and wind power for air conditioning, lighting and general power usage.

The installations would be mounted on the rooftops of the Campus buildings and the entire University would only revert to JPS Co electricity usage at night, thereby cutting the bill in half. Also, phone calls can also be routed over the Campus Intranet via VoIP for both on Campus and off Campus calling, with the installation of a soft switch PBX (Public Branch Exchange) Server by Avaya, similar to the system at ScotiaBank (Bank of Nova Scotia) significantly reducing the cost of Telecoms services used on Campus, as the University’s phone bill must be enormous.

Though the cost of these systems may seem huge, the correct partnerships with the private sector and FDI (Foreign Direct Investors) interested in investing in the University of the West Indies Infrastructure in exchange for research being done on their behalf for products and services that can be made profitable, will yield the funding and the public interest that would make this major initiative to save energy a success.

Digging wells on the campus, an idea proposed long ago to the University of the West Indies, must be revived, especially in the light of the recent water shortages on campus.

More of the degree programs being pursued on campus can be jointly hosted, such as the new Engineering Degree program on campus, which can be jointly hosted with that at the University of Technology, specifically in the area of Electronics and Telecoms Engineering. This is as RJR and CVM Communications Group are slated to go HDTV as per my blog article entitled “LIME TV and Broadcasting - Hunt for Red October”.

As such, their transmission network can be loaned, along with unused microwave antennae, radio equipment that are still functional but no longer used by the Telecoms Providers to allow UWI and UTECH Engineering Students to jointly build out their own network to do in the field testing to make them more well rounded Electronics and Telecoms Engineers.

Students must realize that these are very unique times and must seek to, via their various on campus student Unions, make linkages with the Private and Public Sector, both Local Corporate and FDI (Foreign Direct Investors) in order to secure funding both for University and as an after effect, the quality of their education, as this is how it is done in other foreign countries.

Tax dollars should not be wasted on giving the privileged few who are part of the 25% who achieve University matriculation status to benefit from taxpayer’s money, when most of these taxpayers themselves cannot afford to even go to University, much less have a roof over their heads when their own.

Taxpayer’ money should be funding and reforming the Secondary and Primary education system, as Tertiary Students are adults and as such more than capable of making their way through the world, either by seeking out foreign scholarships or taking advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities that abound.

Especially with the recent trending down of interest rate spreads and the upbeat mood among the business community who show a willingness to invest, so long as young tertiary level students have bright ideas to give their companies and organizations to maximize their profits and see them into a growth period during the Recession.

These measures can all be implemented under a Social Partnership between the University of the West Indies and the Private and Public Sector, both Local Corporate and FDI (Foreign Direct Investors) and result in not only a safer Campus, but one which will be able to operate at a higher level of efficiency and at lower costs.

This is with assistance from various partnerships with the Private and Public Sector, both Local Corporate and FDI (Foreign Direct Investors), as the Government of Jamaica should in no way have sympathy for University Student, most of who waste their time at the University.

The Government of Jamaica can also play its part by forcing the Private and Public Sector, both Local Corporate and FDI (Foreign Direct Investors) to invest in Tertiary Education via the provision of not only employment at the companies as part of their Undergraduate Degree Program.

It would also provide an avenue for funding research programs for Postgraduate Masters and PhD students, especially in the Pure and Applied Sciences, which has the highest concentration of PhD candidates and graduates as stated in the article “Record number of UWI PhD graduates in 2009 - Figures attributed to more stringent measures at the University”, published Friday January 29 2010 by Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner

This would be in exchange for tax breaks and tax holidays, as is the case in more developed Western Economies and Far East Economies such as the United States of America, Britain and Japan.

In addition, the links forged via the partnerships required to fund most of these ideas would enable UWI to finally step into the 21st century, but this time including the Students, and not just the lecturers and their research, as showpieces for the Universities overall success.
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