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Information Technology at the University of Hawaii
by David Lassner

Welcome back to the 1999-2000 academic year and a revitalized version of InfobITS, the Information Technology Services (ITS) Newsletter for all members of the University of Hawaii (UH) community. For those of you who are new to UH, ITS is the integrated information technology support organization for academic and administrative computing, voice/data/video telecommunications, and distance learning and instructional technologies. For the old-timers among you, ITS represents the merger of the UH Computing Center, the Management Systems Office, the Manoa Telecom Office, and the Office of Information Technology. ITS provides information technology services for UH Manoa as well as for the entire UH System, where we implement systemwide projects and complement the activities of individual campus technology support organizations.

The explosion of the Internet, the emergence of distance learning as a major institutional priority, and projects to replace all our major information systems have taken place over the past several years in an environment of shrinking resources and, of course, Y2K. Our technology support staff throughout the institution have had to focus in order to advance at all, and while there is much more to be done, the University can be proud of much that has been achieved over the past several years.

UH now has a high-speed DS-3 (45Mbps) commodity connection to the Internet which has replaced the previously saturated links that limited our access to this vital information resource. With the support of the National Science Foundation and Department of Defense we share a second DS-3 connection to the mainland connected to Internet 2 and the Next Generation Internet projects in the U.S. and internationally. And plans are in place for substantial increases in our capacity using new undersea fiber optic cables over the next two years that should keep us ahead of demand and on a par with other major universities.

Ethernet connectivity to nearly every desktop in the University has become closer to a reality than a pipe dream, and the use of TCP/IP networking has unified academic and administrative networks. While our free modem pool became saturated and funding did not permit us to keep up with demand, we have negotiated favorable statewide educational dialup rates from a private Internet Service Provider (ISP). In order to support members of the UH community who subscribe to broadband connectivity from their homes we have a direct connection to Oceanic's RoadRunner service and hope to be able to connect to GTE's DSL service as well. The UH Mänoa Student Housing Office is also moving forward with a Resnet service which provides high-speed connectivity in certain dorm rooms.

Our NSF-sponsored HERN project has come to an end, but the TALENT program which grew out of HERN lives on to support the use of instructional technologies by faculty throughout the system. (In addition, the DOE ECELL program is thriving as part of the HERN legacy.) Distance learning offerings continue to increase throughout the UH system, with some 100 courses and 30 credentials offered at a distance via technology each semester to enhance access to higher education opportunities around the State.

UH replaced its mainframe-based Human Resources Information System with PeopleSoft, and we are perhaps the only university in the country to do so relying on our own staff rather than consultants. The next version we roll out in early 2000 will be fully Web-based with Java clients for all users. Our FMIS team is actively working to Web-enable the core system to bring more services to users more conveniently. And our innovative Buzzeo student information system project is starting to gear up again after a year or more hiatus while the company experienced severe financial difficulties.

There is much to be done to update aging technology in our classrooms, labs, and desktops. Networks just installed will need upgrading to permit the latest advances in networked multimedia. Our information systems have a long way to go to support the needs of students, faculty, support staff, and decision-makers with integrated services and information. And perhaps most of all, everyone in the UH community needs and deserves far more technical support than is available now. But progress is being made within the constraints of the current resource limitations. Perhaps remarkably under the circumstances, "The Digital State 1998" report by the Progress & Freedom Foundation ranked Hawaii 2nd among the 50 states in the Higher Education category.

We look forward to working with you all to do even better in the future as we continue our efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of our learning, teaching, research, administration and service throughout the UH system.

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