Update from the ICT Department – June ’24

By Karl Ferreira – Chief ICT Manager 

Quarter 2 of 2024 has been revolutionary for the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Department and has changed the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) forever… but it is possible that no one – unless directly affected – will ever notice. Here a huge shout out must to Tusk Trust who made all of this possible via its Keystone grant to the College.

The existing network was created more than eight (8) years ago and was perfectly capable of supporting the College’s then capacity. 

Fast-forward to the present day. The College has experienced significant growth, with more students, staff, and Bushwise personnel than ever before. Not to mention that everybody has between two and five devices that need to connect to WI-FI at any given time. Put in another way, the network was initially designed as a VW Polo, able to accommodate four (4) people. The problem is that now ten (10) people are trying to fit in this Polo.  

This necessitated the ICT Department taking a proactive approach and upgrading the existing network infrastructure. Instead of plastering a leaking dam wall, ICT took the initiative to break down the wall and rebuild it. Thus, after six (6) months of planning, the department executed the “SAWC ICT Backbone Infrastructure Upgrade Project” at the end of May.  

This began by removing the entire existing network, including Wi-Fi access points, Network Switches, and Fibre Cabling, and redesigning it into four (4) segregated networks.  

With the new network infrastructure, all new equipment was procured, provisioned, and tested. We’ve eliminated all connectivity “Dead spots” and standardised all equipment under one product brand. This allows ICT greater monitoring and troubleshooting abilities as it can all be viewed under “one pane of glass.” The new equipment also uses the latest Wi-Fi technology, which can cover further distances and transmit data much quicker.  

As mentioned, the network has been segregated into four (4) separate networks. This strategic move is not just about increasing the security around the College’s confidential information but also about ensuring a seamless user experience for our staff and guests as they move throughout the grounds. 

You may still be asking, “But why will no one ever notice?” This is because the project was planned and executed so that during the ten-day execution period, there was only a twenty-five-minute downtime, which was after hours.  

The ICT team, along with consultants, worked tirelessly to complete this upgrade without interfering with the day-to-day activities of staff and students.  

I am overjoyed to announce that the project has now been completed, and all milestones were met along the way. One can walk from the west part of the campus (near the Hangar and Bushwise tents) all the way to the East side without losing connectivity. The students in green and yellow accommodation blocks can now enjoy the Wi-Fi from the comfort of their own rooms and rely on something other than central points in public areas to get access. Staff who previously were throttled because of the lack of connectivity (IP addresses available on the network) will never experience such a bottleneck ever again.  

Thanks must go to our Operations team – Thokozani Nkuna and Thulani Machavi – for assisting with earthworks and creating new electrical points. Professor Alan Gardiner signed off on the environmental earthworks, which allowed us to dig the necessary trenches.  

A special thanks (from me) goes out to my team of dedicated technicians, Condrie Collen Mkansi and Tebogo Malapane, who were tireless in their pursuit of perfection, who arrived at the campus before the Spurfowl morning calls and left long after the evenings had set in. Additionally, during this time, they did not shirk or postpone any of their other ICT support tasks along the way and still maintained a high level of stakeholder engagement. Without these two (2) special employees, this project would never have been possible.  

In closing, the College can now handle its current capacity but is also future proof for any further capacity increases over the next decade, with many provisions also installed to allow future expansions into more technology that was once only a pipedream. Together, we have facilitated staff, students, and guests not to go without connectivity and allow them to carry out their duties unimpeded by technology constraints in a harsh, remote location where nature looks to unsettle any man-made entities.  

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