On Sept 13, 2011 I wrote about government’s plan to wire up all the schools in the country to the internet. The plan that has been in the doldrums since the sputtering Smart School project was more or less forgotten. Fast forward four years, the 1BestariNet contract was concluded last June and it was extended to December 2014 on interim basis. The Auditor General made a study of the project and it was tabled in parliament. We had a few sleepless nights preparing our answers to the findings of the Audit.
The main bone of contention is the user experience in accessing the internet. Schools expect the system to enable them to access the net from anywhere in the school compound at anytime. On the ground, users are complaining that they are not getting the connectivity that they thought they are supposed to get. The lines are either down, erratic, or too slow especially to the schools that are connected with Very Small Aperture Techonology (VSAT). The schools are supposed to get 4G connectivity with minimum 2Mbps, except for VSAT schools.
We must remember connectivity and accesibility is as good as the money you are willing to pay. Meaning, everything is tied to the Service Level Agreement (SLA) that you subscribed. You want a fast and efficient service you must pay for it. The Government can only pay as much especially when the number of users involved are humongous. Something like 10,000 schools, 450,000 teachers, 5 milion students, and 4.5 million parents are the potential users. As it is the Ministry is paying to the tunes of millions ringgit to pay for the connectivity, despite getting the cheapest rate available. So, the best solution is to manage the the bandwidth usage in an orderly manner so that everybody in the schools had to chance to access the internet for teaching learning purposes. The onus is on the school managers to schedule the access to the internet so that all users have equal opportunity. It is akin to traffic rushing home during peak hours where five rows of cars all trying to squeeze into a-two lane route. All would be jammed up. If a traffic policemen is available to regulate the entry into the two-lane route in an orderly manner, traffic would be smooth and everyone would be able to get home, albeit in a smaller number at one time. Of course we had the option of building a bigger highway with more lanes which definitely costs us more money. Likewise, we had the option of buying bigger bandwidth for faster speed and pay through our nose. That aside there is the issue of size of the application being accessed. You may be able to get internet connection but as you key in the address of your choice site you had to wait for ages for it to load. That maybe due to the size of the application is big and not properly optimized.