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Regents Receive Technology Master Plan for System

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Atlanta — June 14, 2000

The Board of Regents received a final report today on a master plan aimed at strengthening the University System’s technology infrastructure and identifying strategies for its administrative and instructional use. The plan, developed with the assistance of Arthur Andersen LLP, provides strategic direction and specific recommendations for more efficient usage of information technologies to support the System’s immediate and long-term goals and challenges.

A continuation of the Regents’ 1998-99 strategic planning focus on instructional technology, which resulted in the creation of the Georgia GLOBE initiative, the technology master plan:

  • identifies the services best provided by the System;
  • identifies the appropriate technical architecture at the System level;
  • identifies the appropriate organizational structure for the Regents’ Office of Informational and Instructional Technology; and
  • provides master planning templates that USG institutions will use to create customized plans reflecting the unique technology needs of the individual campuses.

“This planning effort is just the first step in what should be considered an on-going process,” said Dr. Beheruz Sethna, interim senior vice chancellor for academic affairs with the Board of Regents, who spearheaded the development of the master plan. “This document is intended to guide the System’s technology planning efforts for the next two to three years. As the System’s needs change over time, the plan will need to be periodically re-evaluated and adjusted to reflect new technologies and changing needs.”

After collecting information and discussing the System’s technology needs with more than 100 representatives of the Regents Central Office, USG institutions and peer university systems, master planners developed 25 recommendations to guide the System’s technology planning efforts. The planners estimate the cost of implementing the initial phase of recommendations in the technology master plan will be $8.6 million, but they emphasize that the cost of some initiatives – such as supporting distance education – has yet to be quantified. These unknowns could increase the total figure significantly in the long run, the planners caution.

Chief among the recommendations is bolstering PeachNet, the computer network that connects the state’s 34 public colleges and universities, as well as several other educational and state agencies. Designed and constructed in the early 1990s, PeachNet is considered a strategic asset integral to the mission of the University System and its institutions. It serves as the primary delivery platform for Georgia Library Learning Online (GALILEO), distance learning technologies and software applications used to manage student records, human resources, financial accounts and library automation. Adjustments in System funding may be needed to enhance PeachNet and other System technology initiatives.

In 1999, PeachNet began to experience significant bandwidth problems that directly affected its reliability. Network outages and other problems stemmed from a dramatic increase in the demand for Internet access, a lack of appropriate funding and the challenge of managing network traffic across the System. This fall, additional demands will be placed on PeachNet when the Regents Central Office rolls out six on-line undergraduate-level courses as part of a program called eCore and five USG institutions begin offering an MBA via the Worldwide Web.

Consequently, nine of the 25 recommendation in the master plan involve strengthening PeachNet, including increasing its backbone capacity, upgrading its connection to the Internet and developing and implementing a long-term networking strategy. The cost of implementing these recommendations is estimated to be $7.7 million, making this the priciest part of the plan in terms of known costs.

The master planners further recommend that the University System employ a proactive approach to planning and budgeting for technology expenditures over the long term by having several members of the Board of Regents serve on a newly created, standing Technology Committee. System officials reason that this will help to educate the Regents on the key role technology plays in executing the University System’s mission and will demonstrate the Regents’ continued commitment to integrating technology into the System’s educational mission.

Another recommendation entails creating a specific budget and plan for the support, upgrade and maintenance of technology used by the Central Office staff. The master plan includes nine recommendations specifying how this can best be accomplished, including dedicating resources to strategic planning and policy making, and improving customer support by creating an independent, deeply skilled help desk to handle inquiries from those who use USG technologies.

System-wide applications were the focus of the report’s remaining four recommendations, including a suggestion to analyze the need to standardize the business applications used across the System to collect data. Another of these recommendations involves developing a strategy for supporting eCore and other distance-learning initiatives.

In the second phase of the technology master planning effort, officials at each USG institution will be asked to develop a plan reflecting the unique technology needs of their campuses. Consultants at Arthur Andersen have developed a template describing objectives, work tasks and deliverables that will lead administrators step-by-step in the creation of a master plan for information and instructional technology customized to their institutions, yet reflective of the System-wide master plan. The templates are designed to be flexible enough to accommodate each of the separate and distinct types of institutions that make up the University System of Georgia.

Action is expected by the Board of Regents on the USG master plan at the August meeting.

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