Again, another article for Teachers Day. The facilities that are being proposed in schools, does not seem to be able to provide a quantum leap. While other countries are going into Gigabytes, we are still in 10Mbps speed expectations.
WE can begin to leave SchoolNet behind us as a new tender to wire up schools with Internet broadband access is out.
This new project, known as 1Bestarinet, is supposed to wire up 9,924 schools in the country. The birth of 1Bestarinet dates back to the national key economic area telecoms lab days.
The tender bid was out on May 5 and a must-attend briefing was held on May 10. The closing date for the tender is May 31 this gives potential bidders three weeks to work on their proposals.
Some of those who want to be considered view the three weeks as too short for such a huge project that spans 10 years and can cost anything up to RM300,000 per year.
“Unless you had prior knowledge of this tender, it would be impossible for some parties to submit a tender as it covers a lot of areas and three weeks is just not enough,” one said.
Nearly a dozen companies have collected the tender documents. They include players such as Celcom Axiata, Jaring, HighTech Padu, Maxis Bhd, REDTone International, Time dotCom, Telekom Malaysia and YTL Communications.
This tender is called by the Ministry of Education and it is clearly stipulated that it is open to local companies and preference will be given to bumiputra tender bids that are registered with the Finance Ministry under some codes stipulated.
To recap, SchoolNet was born in 2004 to wire up schools using wireless or fibre technology. Several companies won the bids to provide Internet access to the schools and while the effort was put in, there is really not much to gloat about. The effort is fruitless if it does not achieve its objective and we can blame the lack of specifications to lack of integration, unpreparedness of teachers and find all the flaws but a key component that did not make it shine was the access speed and capacity.
Then comes 1Bestarinet.
There are two major components access and learning management system (LMS) module. Many did not expect the LMS to be included but it is there and details need to be furnished with the tender bid.
For urban areas the access speed is 2Mbps to 10Mbps, and for rural and remote schools 1Mbps to 4Mbps. All sorts of technologies can be used, be it fibre or wireless technology including Vsat.
The interesting part is that even before the tender came out some parties have been burning the midnight oil to get prepared. One company managed to get a LMS module in place and it is dangling its carrot to work with others. Two others the ones with the biggest fibre networks are likely to put in a joint bid and have been on it for a while now.
But those who only got wind of it days before the tender opened, they will be scrambling to meet the deadline.
The contention is on timing why only three weeks when it is such a big project? Three weeks happens to be the minimum time required for a tender to remain opened.
One of the flaws of SchoolNet was scalability. That apparently is also the issue with 1Bestarinet even though some claim that those making a submission should consider cloud computing as an option.
While the 1Bestarinet project is great, did it take into consideration themurid‘s perspective?
We are talking about a group of people who will be tomorrow’s leaders and they are the ones living in the era of social media, super fast Internet speed, smartphones, TouTube and so on, and for all that they need big capacity and super speed.
So 2Mbps or even 10Mbps is really not enough in a classroom of 30 to 40 students, the networks are going to be congested in no time. So should we pour money into networks that are only good for a year, two or three?
What we need to look at is the bare minimum of 1Gbps; there should be no compromises on speed and capacity. Taking U-turns can be a costly affair and it can delay us from reaching our destination.
Perhaps we ought to review our offering, make the change and give more time to those who are interested in the tender bid so that we can attract the best. While at it we should not consider players that don’t keep their promises.
Deputy news editor B.K. Sidhu wishes all teachers a Happy Teacher’s Day and thanks them for taking care of our children.