UP invests big in new ICT infrastructure

The University of the Philippines is undertaking a massive computerization project that will modernize its ICT infrastructure and address the decades-old problem of long queues during enrolment and other administrative bottlenecks created by a manual paper-based system.

UP President Alfredo E. Pascual said the project, dubbed e-UP, is the only way to modernize the country's premier state university and enable current and future administrations to manage UP more effectively and efficiently.

"As the national university, we bear significant responsibility to take the leadership in higher education and national development. With e-UP we will be able to reach out to other public universities or colleges and we should be able to provide technical assistance to the national and local government, as well as take care of students' needs from the time they take the UP College Admissions Test (UPCAT) to the time they get their transcript after graduation," Pascual said in a press briefing during the launch of the project.

UP is now conducting an IT audit of all its facilities and IT infrastructure in its 14 campuses nationwide and forming e-UP teams that will take charge of implementing the automation project.

e-UP is expected to roll out procurement, financial management, human resources and student and academic information systems in the next seven months. It will also be developing a video conferencing facility for inter-campus meetings, Internet-based and audio broadcasting, and a UP webmail powered by Google.

UP Vice President for Development  Evira A. Zamora, UP Vice President for Development, said  in seven-months' time or until September this year, the new functionalities will have been deployed in the entire UP system, albeit with still room for improvement and testing.

"There will be significant changes this year. Among our targets include: process standardization across constituent universities, online transaction for students, faculty, staff and alumni, data center consolidation, extensive sharing of information, reducing paper work and transaction processing time," she explained in a detailed presentation.

Pascual disclosed that UP has allocated P300 million to P400 million for the project from its budget, and will be relying on corporate and individual donors to complement the government's minimal funding capability.

Orlando Vea, a UP alumnus and Chief Wireless Officer of Smart Communications Inc., said the network is ready to work hand in hand with the university and share its technical expertise to the e-UP project, starting off with installing a carrier and industrial grade wiFi that will be connected  to a fiber optic network.

"If in the future you need data center services, we can assist in providing the server requirement whether it is in the cloud or on-premise. We also had other plans for the university, including developing Android and Technopreneur courses," he said. "As you know, talk is now very noisy about LTE, the next generation technology for mobile. We can discuss to make UP one of the first LTE deployments in the country."

Other supporters of UP had pledged financial support to the project, including Air21, a local logistics company that delivered the official ballots and CF cards in the country's first automated elections in May 2010. Its president and CEO Bert Lina committed P21 million each year for the next 21 years to the e-UP project.

"I am very happy that we are getting support from our alumni and even friends who are very close to UP," Pascual said.

While he said he is open to the idea of cloud services to save on cost, he is eyeing corporate donations more as a way to pull off the ambitious project and complement UP's meager budget.

The e-UP project is part UP’s strategic plan from 2011 to 2017 and his admnistration's thrust is to restore pride in the state university.

"Seven of the 15 presidents of the counter, 34 of its 57 national artists, and 36 of its 37 national scientists were all from UP," Pascual said with pride.

The UP he envisions is one that will be able to reach out to other state colleges and universities and will be able to employ advances in modern pedagogy and methods of learning.

"If our professors can deliver their presentations and lectures via the Web and broadcast to other campuses, it  will multiply UP's capability to be of service to the country," he said.