Bandwidth Management in Universities in Zimbabwe: Towards a Responsible User Base through Effective Policy Implementation

By Chitanana, Lockias | International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Bandwidth Management in Universities in Zimbabwe: Towards a Responsible User Base through Effective Policy Implementation


Chitanana, Lockias, International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology


ABSTRACT

This research was undertaken to investigate the issue of how to maximise or make efficient use of bandwidth. In particular, the research sought to find out about what universities in Zimbabwe are doing to manage their bandwidth. It was, therefore, appropriate to survey a sample of five universities and to catalogue their experiences. Results show that most universities in our sample did not have an official Acceptance Use Policy (AUP) to assist with bandwidth management. Successful provision of managed network bandwidth within a university is likely to involve the application of many tools encompassing a number of different techniques. These products are often expensive and are rarely available for loan. Fortunately, a cost-effective solution exists for all universities that can be deployed regardless of the campus' existing network configuration or installed devices. The authors recommend that using Quality of Service (QoS) and Bandwidth management will enable network administrators to control network traffic flow so that appropriate users and applications get priority during the allocation of network resources. Also, universities must contain in their IT policies a meaningful AUP which will help universities to develop and refine usage and access as well as plan for network resource allocation.

Keywords: Bandwidth Management, Acceptable Use Policy, Policy implementation

BACKGROUND TO THE PROBLEM

Universities in Zimbabwe are under pressure to provide their students and lecturers with reliable Internet access. As Internet connectivity is increasingly becoming a strategic resource for university education, a robust campus network with good connectivity to the Internet is no longer a luxury to a university, in actual fact, it is now a basic necessity. Internet connectivity is critical for any university to participate effectively in the global knowledge society. The use of the Internet can enhance the efficiency and capacity of universities in Zimbabwe to provide quality education and the conduct of high calibre research work. Internet connectivity provides a gateway to vast amounts of information from the information highway and thus provides support and enhances research efforts by both students and lecturers. Many universities in Zimbabwe have set aside a significant fraction of their budgets towards increasing their bandwidth and upgrading their networks. (Chita nana, Makaza and Madzima 2008). Despite considerable investment in bandwidth, many of these universities are still finding themselves not having reliable, usable Internet access for their students and staff.

The demand for bandwidth within universities is constantly rising and the overall bandwidth usage continues its upward trend. This demand is caused by, among other things, increased student enrolment, the increased use of electronic resources for teaching and learning, and the spread of desktop applications that can use practically any amount of bandwidth given to them. A definite trend is continuing towards multimedia websites, which contain bandwidth-hungry images, video, animations, and interactive content. Students use the Internet in many different ways, some of which are inappropriate or do not make the best use of the available bandwidth. Not all of these activities could be described as having much academic worth and indeed some may be viewed as undesirable by any standards. Bandwidth is often consumed by low priority, bandwidth hungry uses for non-educational purposes. However, restricting this altogether may not be the solution since this leads to frustration on the part of the user.

As the popularity and usage of heavy bandwidth consuming applications grows and the number of network users multiplies, the need for a concerted and co-ordinated effort to monitor bandwidth utilisation and implementation of effective bandwidth management strategies becomes increasingly important to ensure excellent service provision. …

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