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Digital transformation an imperative for tertiary education: Huawei

Johannesburg, 12 Jun 2023
Jay Zhou, Managing Director, Huawei Cloud, South Africa.
Jay Zhou, Managing Director, Huawei Cloud, South Africa.

For tertiary education institutions to thrive into the future, digital transformation needs to be the responsibility of not only the IT departments, but also move into the domain of vice-chancellors, according to Jay Zhou, Managing Director of Huawei Cloud, South Africa.

“ICT will play a fundamental role in the tertiary education environment in future, so it should not be only for CIOs and ICT teams, it needs to be a key part of the vice-chancellor's strategy. For those heads of schools who understand the importance of ICT, digital transformation is quite advanced,” he says.

He believes a key first step towards digital transformation in tertiary education is overcoming data silos and building data lakes and data warehouses in the cloud.

Zhou notes that Higher Education Information Technology South Africa (HEITSA), which works to advance the use and support of computing in tertiary education, recently identified the top 10 challenges facing tertiary institutions. These included cyber and data security; digital transformation and the alignment of IT and business; a lack of resources; governance, compliance and risk management; and connectivity and ageing infrastructure.

“With ageing infrastructure, maintenance costs are high and reliability is low. Load-shedding compounds risk and performance issues in ageing data centres. At the first layer of transformation, we can put ageing infrastructure in the cloud, which helps institutions reduce capex and the cost of maintenance, enable better backup and disaster recovery and make their lives easier,” he says.

He says unified data platforms overcome the challenge of siloed departments and data, to make education more innovative. “Huawei wants to be a loyal partner to South African tertiary education institutions going through their digital transformation journeys. We can work with them and enable them to try new ideas, firstly at a POC level, showcasing what Huawei Cloud can offer, and then providing a cost-effective solution,” he says.

Education institutions can build on their cloud foundation to add platform as a service and software as a service (SaaS) solutions. Zhou says: “We have an extensive ecosystem of third-party partners offering advanced solutions, so education institutions don’t have to build solutions themselves. For example, smart campus, CCTV and big data solutions are at the SaaS layer. U-Learning with AI is another transformative solution, with advanced features such as eye movement monitoring to ensure that students writing exams remotely aren’t cheating.”

Zhou says that building on a cloud foundation and consuming everything as a service helps overcome challenges, positioning tertiary education to transform and become more immersive. The secure and trusted Huawei Cloud eliminates information silos between data, devices and partners, enabling institutions to share, collaborate and innovate more easily. Huawei Cloud allows students to learn anytime, anywhere through services such as video on demand (VOD) and live broadcast. Learners can also enjoy new learning experiences provided by AI.

Huawei’s Training Cloud Architecture one-stop training cloud solutions are available for institutions of higher learning, vocational schools and enterprises, enabling them to deploy services quickly at a low price. Its high flexibility, reliability and concurrency features and security measures support cloud computing, big data, internet of things (IOT), data communication and ICT security training.

Huawei notes that digital technologies don’t just transform the teaching and learning experience, but they can also democratise access to education resources and make education systems more resilient to external factors such as the pandemic.

Zhou says: “Education is the key to South Africa’s future, so we support local universities to help them improve ICT skills and digitally transform. The students need more ways to learn and improved research capabilities. Our learning management system is helping start this change. In future, we might see 2D learning on paper becoming immersive 3D teaching and learning.”

“We also try to engage more with local tertiary education institutions, offering their ICT students free cloud technical training and certifications. There is an open invitation to them to add to their students’ knowledge,” he says.

Huawei has helped accelerate the digital transformation of education for over 2 800 colleges, universities and research institutes in over 80 countries, and co-operated with over 2 000 universities across more than 100 countries and regions to build ICT academies, training in excess of 150 000 students annually. Huawei has certified more than 580 000 ICT talents worldwide.

Unisa, for example, had to fast-track its digital transformation strategy during the COVID-19 lockdowns and partnered with Huawei Cloud to support its transformation. Kwena Mokgohloa, Unisa Director of Technical Services, said Huawei was ‘a perfect fit’ to help it roll-out cloud-based services to 400 000 students worldwide. “They are a global organisation that has already invested significantly in SA, had one of the first locally sited data centres and had clearly taken our country seriously from the start. It’s certainly not a traditional customer/service provider relationship,” he said.

ICT training and skills development company Dynamic DNA partnered with Huawei Cloud and its U-Learning solution to roll out a comprehensive new Learning Management System (LMS) that offered a host of advanced new features. Anton Lembede Mathematics, Sciences and Technology Academy (ALA) in KwaZulu-Natal, uses Huawei’s IdeaHub-U-Class solution to modernise teaching and learning in-person, remotely or in a hybrid model.

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