Creating IT blueprints
Surrounded by myriad of wires, blinking LEDs, and the sound of oft whirring servers fill the room at St Joseph's Teachers College where Takahisa Nawata, JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) Volunteer along with Chadwick Russell formulate strategies for process improvements.
"I have been assigned to St Joseph's Teachers College to support and advice on upgrading and improving system, operation and network management," Nawata said.
In an educational environment, which is increasing gravitating towards blended learning, seamless Wi-Fi connectivity is the backbone of any school's operations - from learning processes, course delivery, and doing assignments - the invisible radio frequency band has become as necessary as oxygen to breathe.
"Network has become essential," Nawata said. "If the Internet stops working, it leads to serious problems; staff and students cannot access the database and use their e-mails."
For St Joseph's Teachers' College strong and seamless Information Technology solutions are critical to ensure that the 500 students, teacher and staff, who are connected to the network, using their laptops and PCs connected to server and Internet, remain connected at all times.
The institution currently houses three computer labs, which are serviced by wired and wireless Internet network, which also spans across the school.
And outages happen.
"In Jamaica, what I have noticed is that the Internet sometimes stops working," Nawata said.
Nawata, who worked for IBM as system engineer for about 30 years in Japan with specialisation in system engineering and project management, is working with the school's system administrator Russell to address glitches, increase Wi-Fi access points, strengthen the firewall and create blueprint for laying LAN cables.
It is that ever-so-necessary marriage of technology in education.
"One of the things I came across was the inconsistency of the systems - the equipment needed to be compatible and upgraded," informed Russell, adding that he is learning from Nawata's expertise and best practises that he is bringing on board.
Russell, who has working at St Joseph's Teachers' College since 2015, is the sole system administrator, and at times, he informed, there are more hours needed in the work day than he currently has.
"He is very busy," said Nawata, adding the current system administrator is stretched and putting systems for seamless operation become more important.
Since he has been at the institution, Nawata said, he has been able to expand and repair the network - provide connectivity between class rooms, conference room, and some buildings such as auditorium.
"I installed the router, access point and firewall etc," he said, and also fixed the access to Internet.
"It is necessary to build automatic failover network, which is integrated into the network design," he said "The current network is connected to two Internet providers, when one services goes down network will be automatically switched to the back-up, and the users can continue using Internet without any stoppage."
Nawata said that his aim is, as he builds fast and stable network systems, to upgrade the computers in the labs, which will benefit the institution. For this, he is developing a network diagram - a blueprint document - that will allow greater efficiency. Additionally, he informed, he is setting up an e-learning system.
Early days, he said, there are more projects to be planned and implemented.
Nawata is also working on the ground - from helping Russell manage the email helpdesk, troubleshooting computing issues, to giving tips on developing effective presentations to the students to the best of his abilities.
"It is very difficult at times as I cannot speak good English," he said ... and speaking Patois, that's totally ruled out.
But, he says, he is developing modules for the students and staff to teach computer skills.
"If students require and want to learn, I want to teach Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint," Nawata said, adding that a number of students come to him as they struggle with Excel.
Russell agrees, adding that such training materials will help the institution a lot. "These resources are valuable and critical," he said. "Once these are put in place, we can ensure that whoever is managing the system has no problems in understanding the processes."
Together Nawata and Russell are working on creating IT policy, lay down standards and create benchmarks that can be followed by them and other professionals after them.
Nawata hopes he can achieve most of the tasks that he is set out to do before his tenure ends.
"I want to leave a legacy," Nawata said. "And I would love that whatever I put in place becomes a trend for others to follow."