Last night I attended a debate on the future of JANET, our academic network, and in particular what funding model will be appropriate for the future. Currently the majority of the service is funded by JISC as a top slice, with a small proportion paid directly from universities based on their income. Will this model be sustainable in the future, or should we move to a more contribution based model, where we pay for what we need?
Of course, the discussion focused on the current financial climate - we know the government is going to make serious cuts to our budgets, and we also know that they don't like IT. Vince Cable said so in his letter to VCs, suggesting that IT projects should be prioritised for cuts. What we need to do is demonstrate the value of the services we provide, using evidence of our successes - we have plenty, and I think JANET is one of them. It demonstrates economies of scale, efficiency in procurement and the delivery of a consistent and reliable service, as well as the added value in services such as EDUROAM - the roaming wireless network.
Shared services always gets a mention, and we are going to have to work together much more. One of my colleagues currently in HE but who used to be in the not for profit sector gave a great example of a shared service which a number of charitable organisations got together to produce - Justgiving.com. Those of us in HE are going to use different mindsets to come up with similar innovative solutions to reducing costs and improving efficiencies.
JANET is a critical service to all of us - as a knowledge network (©ptinson) and as a business network which we rely on to run many of our services. As we outsource, put services into the Cloud or develop shared services, it becomes even more strategically important and we need to protect it. Personally I think the only way to do this is to maintain the central top slice.
A good debate and discussion, some good contacts made, and a very pleasant walk back via Tower Bridge which is very atmospheric at night. Although the Tower of London looks very menacing.
Finally - is it my imagination, or has mobile coverage got worse? I'm writing this on the train coming back from London, and my Vodaphone modem on the laptop stays connected but has no signal for about 80% of the time, while the 3G coverage from O2 on my iPhone is virtually non-existent. I probably get about 15 mins signal in the two hour journey. Makes keeping in touch very difficult.
EDIT: Since I wrote this I've noticed tha Peter Tinson has written an excellent post about mobile networks (or the lack of them), and innovation