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HEC Waqar Mahmood: Accelerating Digitalization and Creating New Value in Education

DUBAI, UAE, Nov. 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The 7th Ultra-Broadband Forum (UBBF 2021) commenced today in Dubai. The theme of this year’s conference is “Extend Connectivity, Drive Growth.” Waqar Mahmood, CTO of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan, spoke about HEC’s active explorations during the digital transformation of the education industry in his keynote speech “Accelerating Digitalization and Creating New Value in Education.”

Waqar Mahmood, CTO of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan, spoke about HEC's active explorations during the digital transformation of the education industry in his keynote speech "Accelerating Digitalization and Creating New Value in Education"  at the 7th Ultra-Broadband Forum (UBBF 2021) in Dubai.

Waqar Mahmood first outlined HEC’s objectives and strategies. He pointed out that the existing higher education information system faces three challenges during the education informatization reform: accelerating teaching resource sharing, addressing information silos in education applications, and providing high-quality services to achieve efficient operations.

He then stated that the deep integration between teaching activities and information technologies has become an irreversible trend in the education industry. At present, ICT technologies have penetrated seven major fields of higher education in Pakistan: Smart University, Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN), Education Cloud, Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS), Knowledge Incubation Center, EduTV and Education Consulting Service, and Capability Building Center. The education information system must have a new network architecture to improve the teaching, management, and service capabilities of higher education institutions. According to Waqar Mahmood, in order to provide a more stable ICT connectivity foundation for all-round school campus digitalization, we need an IP network foundation with the cloud-network convergence architecture, as well as an education backbone network that connects multiple clouds and networks to implement data integration and application convergence.

Waqar Mahmood also explained how a large number of higher education services — such as smart classroom, online learning, and smart campus — need to be connected to multiple clouds so that teaching resources can be efficiently shared. He went on to point out that challenges and requirements raised by education services on networks include multi-cloud collaboration, low latency, high reliability, high bandwidth and network access anytime and anywhere.

To comply with the digital transformation strategy, Pakistan’s HEC has continuously promoted the phased upgrade of smart classrooms in universities and colleges. To date, 50 universities have been covered in the first phase, and a future-oriented fully connected, fully intelligent, and multi-purpose education network with a cloud-network convergence architecture has been constructed.

On the campus side, wireline, Wi-Fi, IoT, and 5G mobile networks are streamlined, enabling teachers and students to access campus resources and the Internet anytime, anywhere.

On the WAN side, a nationwide education and research network — PERN — is built in Pakistan. The IP backbone network uses 100GE networking. By now, the network has covered 63 cities, connected to the national data center, and connected to more than 350 universities and colleges. It is estimated that by 2025, more than 50% of the more than 3000 universities will be connected to the PERN to provide multiple cloud services such as LMS and CIMS.

As the intelligence level at higher education institutions continuously improves, innovative technologies need to be introduced to provide better experience assurance capabilities for teaching, management, and services, so as to support high-quality teaching. To this end, the network hard slicing technology is introduced to PERN. It allows the network to carry multiple services — such as e-classroom, campus security, and remote desktop — while also isolating them, providing private network-level bandwidth assurance. At the protocol layer, SRv6 is introduced to enable higher education services to be quickly provisioned end to end without the need for cross-domain configuration, helping universities and colleges quickly and efficiently migrate services to clouds.

Education is the foundation for long-lasting development. Waqar Mahmood concluded his speech by saying that the rapid development of ICT technologies provides solid assurance for fair access to educational resources and high-quality education development. He added that based on the cloud-network convergence architecture, they will continue working with Huawei to promote the evolution of traditional teaching methods towards intelligent and modern education that properly leverages leading digital education concepts and innovative technologies.

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