Differentiators and Innovations

Today, higher education is in a unique and unprecedented position. The challenges we face, will not be met by efficiency alone. It also demands innovation.

Because of the nature of our industry, IT is uniquely positioned to contribute significantly in this regard. The NWU has a proven track record of strategic IT innovation by its IT staff, and for providing disproportionate value when compared to our peers. A number of these innovations are highly visible, but there is an equal number of behind-the-scenes things that are seldom noted.

  • We are one of the first universities in South Africa to provide students with the freedom to use their own e-mail addresses for communication. Our statistics show that students already arrive at universities with their own e-mail, and that the majority of “other” email systems (our on-Campus student e-mail system included) are simply used as expensive forwarding systems to deliver the mail to their chosen inboxes.
  • The NWU is still the only university in South Africa to provide all students and staff with free and uncapped internet access. As an ever increasing amount of resources to support our core mission move online, and with the cost of connectivity falling, this is providing significant value.
  • Few other universities can afford to provide the amount of enterprise storage that we do, especially at the given price point. While other organisations are still grappling with what is known as “the data explosion”, we simply provide the service, be it for administrative, teaching or research needs.
  • Apart from being extraordinarily cost-effective while performing beyond the industry norm, our physical network has an important strategic advantage: we have a single point of whole-network control. This means that we can rapidly assess, deploy, and/or prepare for bandwidth-intensive network applications, while other organisations have to come up with multi-year plans to upgrade their networks.
  • Our SOA architecture allows us to extend, change and integrate enterprise systems at a vastly higher tempo and lower cost than most South-African enterprises. What we see as ordinary, is simply not possible using conventional architectures. As with most things that provide disproportionate value, this gain didn’t materialise without effort. It is the culmination of a strategy that we started implementing in 2004, and through disciplined execution revised our entire architecture over a period of many years to enable this. While we are not the only university any more who adopted the SOA principles, we have, by far, the most complete implementation.

14 August 2015