Presenters: Michael Ahern and Craig Hickson, University of Lancaster
Michael is starting by talking about UCLan – one of the first pervasive wireless infrastructures in HE. However, this was a move apparently resisted by the IT team at the time.
To encourage use, iPAQs were given to art and fashion students, complimented by a ‘virtual base room’, with course focused around the new technology.
Also iPAQs for senior managers, to use electronic diaries. Despite a slow take up by ‘senior’ colleagues (age and status), there are some that are now wedded to them – although also a fair number that are expensive paperweights. One thing I’d say here is that I (like the speaker) have never really got to grips properly with handhelds. I tend to have fads (I’ve had a Psion and a Palm), but never really used them. However, my laptop (12″ powerbook since you ask) is brilliant – would much prefer to have it with me than a handheld – I guess that this is about personal preference.
Having got wireless, UCLan decided to look at forming partnerships with commercial partners to provide a city wide (Preston) facility – Social, Educational etc. However – they didn’t want to make money (in fact, the business plan was to lose money). This has been a significant challenge in getting partners! Eventually team up with TeleGeneration and Preston City Council. This would provide free access to UCLan staff and students anywhere in Preston, and a ‘pay for’ service for others.
At this point, they had to tackle the challenge of selling it to the potential users.
They found that retail locations were initially suspicious – they couldn’t believe there was no catch. They eventually launched with 20 locations.
After the network had been running successfully for a few months – they decided for a big launch as “UK’s first wireless city” – which got picked up extensively.
What I really like about this initiative is that the University has engaged with the local community to provide something that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. It leads me to wonder what we should be doing for our local community?