Volume 11, Number 13 March 5, 2004

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Agreement signed with IBM to boost student mobile computing

President Peter MacKinnon signs the University’s agreement with IBM
President Peter MacKinnon signs the University’s agreement with IBM Feb. 11 as Associate Vice-President for Information & Communications Technology Rick Bunt, left, and IBM Account Manager Brian Cowan watch.

The U of S has entered into a five-year “technology alliance” with IBM aimed at making the University a leader in student mobile computing.

The agreement, signed Feb. 11, will mean developments in a number of areas including more wireless network computing and increasing support for students’ own devices like laptops, notebooks, palmtops and PDAs (personal digital assistants).

It runs from Jan. 1, 2004 to Dec. 31, 2008.

Rick Bunt, U of S Associate Vice-President of Information & Communications Technology, says the agreement leverages the fairly high volume of purchasing the U of S already does with IBM and will provide the University with preferential pricing and also with greater access to IBM expertise.

“Improving the student computing environment has been a high priority for us. We’ve already begun a number of initiatives like wireless networking, new computer labs and a student-centred web portal (PAWS) – and now we’ll do more,” Bunt says. (See related story, Page 6.)

“This will provide better ways for us to support those students who bring their own devices to campus.”

IBM General Manager for the Education Industry John Kutcy says “Both students and faculty will benefit from this agreement as the university continues to make improvements to its technology infrastructure.”

Over the past two years IBM, the world’s biggest information technology company, has worked closely with the U of S on a number of projects, such as the campus-wide USR-net, the Learning Commons, the Bioinformatics Research Laboratory in computer science, and several college-based student computer labs.

Bunt says the campus community currently spends close to $3 million per year with IBM. This agreement recognizes that and provides incentives for increasing it, and it will add additional value to what IBM is offering to the U of S. He stresses it is not an exclusive agreement and will not preclude campus units from buying computer hardware or software from other suppliers.

IBM Account Manager Brian Cowan says the company has similar alliance agreements with about 11 other Canadian universities. He says the U of S is well-known for its approach to “e-learning”, with an “ubiquitous computing philosophy”.

Beyond simply selling products to the U of S, IBM hopes to work with the University to develop leading-edge applications for student mobile computing. It would then hope to be able to profile the U of S as a showcase of best-practices, Cowan says.

The agreement includes the possibility of expanding e-learning initiatives, sharing research in e-learning and mobile computing and offering professional development to faculty.

The aim is to integrate the technology into teaching and learning, so students can access networks, databases and the web whenever they want and from wherever they are.

Bunt says, “I want people to recognize us as a leader, with best practices in student mobile computing.”

The new alliance will be announced formally at a ceremony in the Main Library’s Learning Commons at 3:00 p.m. on March 17, with a reception to follow. It is open to everyone.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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