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New panel scoped to support massive school network upgrade

New panel scoped to support massive school network upgrade

Government takes over the burden of managing classroom internet services

Chris Hipkins, minister of education.

Chris Hipkins, minister of education.

Credit: Stuart Yeates

N4L, the government owned provider of network services to schools, is preparing to appoint a panel of IT support companies to assist with its massive, four-year network upgrade project.

In addition to rolling out new active equipment to the network, such as switches and access points to over 2400 schools, N4L (the Network for Learning) is aiming to appoint a panel to help replace the old gear and provide additional services such as cabling and electrical works.

N4L's tender, which closes on 29 January, says it does not require suppliers who can deliver national coverage. It is seeking to ensure coverage through a range of individual panel members that will focus their services on particular regions.

"Ideally, N4L will have more than one supplier available to complete installations and deliver ICT services to any particular school."

Yesterday, minister of education Chris Hipkins announced that classroom internet would also get a boost through a new support programme, Te Mana Tūhono, the power of connectivity.

Under Te Mana Tūhono, the N4L helpdesk will be extended to operate inside schools. This will enable N4L to resolve issues impacting the performance of a school’s internal IT networks, the local area network.

It will also create one point of contact for schools if they need network assistance.

“Internet connections in schools can be vulnerable because of their location or difficulties finding the right IT support," Hipkins said.

Schools often have difficulty finding the expertise they need to maintain reliable, high speed connections.

Te Mana Tūhono was designed with the vision of removing the burden on schools to monitor, maintain and manage the internet inside their classrooms, said Kim Shannon, head of education infrastructure services. 

Around 200 schools will get their equipment replaced before the end of June 2020. 

These will be schools with limited access to IT support, and with aging network hardware that is coming out of extended warranty.

"At the moment our wireless infrastructure doesn't support us accessing what it has to offer," said Craig McDonald-Brown, principal of Awakeri School, 12km southwest of Whakatane. 

"It’s really disruptive to our learning when it stops working, and is frustrating to both teachers and students.

“We are really looking forward to N4L supporting us with establishing and maintaining a strong online connection. It means we'll be able to spend more time focusing on our students’ learning without having to worry about managing and maintaining the technology."


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