Home Global-ICTGlobal-ICT 2003 Access to Knowledge

Access to Knowledge

by david.nunes
Professor David P Mellor, OBEIssue:Global-ICT 2003
Article no.:23
Topic:Access to Knowledge
Author:Professor David P Mellor, OBE
Organisation:United Kingdom Telecommunications Academy
PDF size:80KB

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Article abstract

Finding well-trained management personnel is a challenge that the least developed countries face in moving from monopolistic telecommunications organisations to privatised operations equipped to face competition. The ITU Telecommunications Development Bureau (ITU-D) has worked to develop the ‘Global Telecommunications University’ (GTU) to ensure open access to the knowledge needed by the developing economies. Working with the ITU-D, the UKTA has made available classroom and on-line Master of Communications Management and Master of Laws in Telecommunications and Information Technology degree programmes.

Full Article

Since the first World Telecommunications Development Conference in Buenos Aries in 1994 the International Telecommunications Union – Telecommunications Development Bureau (ITU-D) has worked hard to develop the†Global Telecommunications Universit? (GTU) to ensure true open access to the vital knowledge needed by liberalised economies of the world. Both the United States of America and United Kingdom have risen to this challenge and contributed both financial and human resources to enable the ITU – Global Telecommunications University (ITU-GTU) to become the reality it is today. Many of the least developed countries still face the challenge of moving from monopolistic telecommunications organisations to fully privatised operations equipped to face competition. With no competition, the monopolistic post and telecommunications companies could work at their own pace with little concern for costs and manpower balance. Moreover, the managerial, operational and legal resources required were minimum. Today, to survive in a competitive market, highly trained people are needed, but hard to find in the least developed countries. Sound, high-level, educational programmes are needed to train those who will manage and direct the telecommunications companies in these countries. . Addressing the Challenge So, what have the UK and ITU been able to achieve over the past ten years? In 1994, the UK operators, manufacturers and government got together and created a not-for-profit training organisation with the intention of sharing the vast knowledge available in the United Kingdom with developing countries. Today the UKTA is an extremely lean organisation but the quality of its offerings by mobile and fixed line operators, manufacturers and universities is of an exceptional quality. Each year, the members of the UKTA contribute a whole range of programmes to the developing countries. In the interest of delivering volume and value to the developing world, one of the members of the UKTA (Cable & Wireless) has developed an on-line virtual academy which co-ordinates a comprehensive range of relevant study programmes with universities in England, Scotland, Canada, Barbados and Trinidad. The ITU-D has created a Global Regulators Exchange to enable regulatory bodies around the World to share information, experiences and innovative ideas. Moreover, with The Information for Development Program (Infodev) and the ITU, they have compiled a detailed ‘Telecommunication Regulation Handbook. Changes of Access The vast amounts of quality information available via the Internet have been fundamental to transforming the ITU-GTU into a reality. In 1993, I personally, at the request of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, specified a Master of Science in Operational Telecommunications program. This was provided by Coventry University to the UKTA and ITU for use in developing countries. Over 200 people, for the most part from the least developed countries (LDCs), received fully funded scholarships that enabled them to participate in the programme before it was replaced at the end of last year. In 1999, at the Geneva Telecomm Exhibition, Hamadoun Toure, the ITU-D’s Director, and I announced the launch of a (MCM) Degree that our teams had jointly specified. This programme became the UK’s second contribution to the ITU-GTU. This initiative expanded the Global Telecommunications University so that it now also covers operational and management issues. In 2000, we determined that many of our master’s degree students preferred having access to the Internet to access to libraries. With this valuable information in mind, the UK investigated whether or not it was feasible to use on-line learning rather than traditional class room methods in order to increase the number of scholarships that could be offered. It should be emphasised though, that although some cultures adapt readily to on-line methodologies those in other parts of the world might find it difficult to accept. By coincidence, at the time, the UKTA explored on-line options; they discovered that a team of ten Universities that use WebCT (a leading provider of integrated e-learning systems for higher education.) as their platform were carrying out similar investigations. Coventry was one of the institutions involved in these studies. On-line Learning Speed of Internet access – it tends to be slower in developing countries – is one of the key differences we discovered between developed and least developed economies. Therefore, it is essential that authors of on-line programmes avoid memory heavy, long, slow, transfers of content and focus on relevant text excerpts. Web addresses where additional reading can be found should be provided; the student, then, can refer to these at leisure. With support from BDT (ITU-D) we have identified the relevant issues to be addressed by an on-line management programme and now offer an e-MCM – an Internet version of the Master of Communications Management – via the Internet. The programme takes up to five years to complete, but the student can study at home and avoid the upheaval of leaving family and work behind. Recognising that on-line learning can create work and domestic pressures, the programme has been divided into an e-CCM post graduate certificate, an e-DCM post graduate diploma and as the MCM which requires a 20,000 word dissertation, which can be written at home or in the UK during a 3 month tutor supported scholarship. The programme is designed with natural break points to enable students to take a year out at strategic points in the programme. The monopoly operations that typically ran, and in some cases still do, the telecommunications of the world’s developing nations required relatively small legal teams. Today, many such countries have liberalised their telecommunications operations and opened the sector up to competition. The complexities of the competitive scenario often require operators to build larger legal teams with relevant expertise. With this in mind, the UK has made available a number of scholarships each year to study for a ‘Master of Laws in Telecommunications and Information Technology’ (e-LLM). With vast amounts of case law accessible via the Internet, this topic can be readily studied by practising lawyers at the same time as they undertake their daily cases. Many regulatory bodies from the LDC’s have received scholarships from the UKTA and ITU to follow this programme. Recognising that not all cultures have the support infrastructure to study on-line, the British Missions Overseas have provided a number of scholarships for students to follow this programme in the classroom. The Future This year, the ITU has been able – thanks to Cable & Wireless – to offer a number of scholarships for Regulatory personnel to follow an on-line ‘Master of Regulation and Policy’ degree which has been developed by the University of the West Indies (UWI). This programme would not have been possible without the support of BDT (ITU-D) and in particular Susan Schorr of the ITU Sector Reform Unit. Using the experience gained from 20 years of true competition in the UK, we have been able to identify practical and academic expertise to support the UWI. This has created an opportunity for a university from a developing economy to play a key role in providing access to students from the developing regions to the knowledge initiative. By January 2004, the ITU-GTU will offer management, technical, legal and regulatory degrees, in both classroom and on-line versions, for the benefit of students from the LDCs. This is a true credit to the vision of the ITU’s Hamadoun Toure and his team, who have partnered extremely effectively with many members of the private sector. The question of access to knowledge is an ongoing issue and one, which we in the UK are constantly revising. I mentioned earlier that we had delivered a good many of the MSc in Operational Telecommunications degrees since 1995. In 2002, we concluded that with the advent of convergence this programme needed to be totally revised. Since then, we have already delivered the first 10 modules of the course of the study programme for our ‘MSc in Operational Communications’. This programme specifically addresses the introduction of information and communications technologies. Moreover, it examines in-depth the impact of new European legislation including, specifically, the UK Communications Bill. It is the intention that by 2005 this programme is made available on-line as an offering by the ITU-GTU. This paper has focussed very much on access to knowledge through programmes using the English language, but the ITU-GTU is already facilitating partnerships between the UK and ‘Bas Pascal Universidad’ in Argentina to facilitate delivery of the e-MCM in Spanish. Through Centre of Excellence projects, we have already identified French and Chinese speaking partners to extend access to an even larger audience as time progresses. It is anticipated that next generation wireless products will increase access to knowledge for those less fortunate at an affordable cost and reasonable access speed. Conclusion The vision of the ITU, exemplified by its creation of a third sector to specifically address the needs of the developing and least developed countries of the world, has been extremely pro-active in the search for ways to provide access to knowledge. The Internet has facilitated new methods of study that have encouraged many of those, in Africa in particular, who have sought to develop themselves. Currently, most newspapers and periodicals are available on-line and many authors make their materials available at subsidised rates to the LDC’s. Moreover, many hard copy books have supporting web pages where updates may be read and printed by those who have purchased a copy. The Telecommunications Regulation Handbook ISBN 0-9697178-7-3 is an excellent example of a free publication, which can be found electronically at: http//: www.infodev.org/projects/314regulationhandbook. The ITU-GTU is an excellent example of a public-private partnership and, on behalf of the Board of the UKTA, I congratulate its director on this most successful initiative.

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