Thursday, March 29, 2018

Reflections on the opening of the TAFE NSW Digital Hub in Armidale

Northern Tablelands MP and Minister responsible for TAFE NSW Adam Marshall, left, TAFE NSW Digital General Manager Megan Aitken and Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray at the opening of the new building for the NSW TAFE Digital Headquarters

While in Armidale for the opening of the new permanent exhibition of the Hinton Collection at the New England Regional Art Museum, I took the opportunity to visit the TAFE campus both to refresh memories and to look at  the almost completed NSW TAFE (Technical and Further Education) Digital HQ building.

It was a warm Saturday morning, a sunny break in in an often rainy weekend. The walk was partially one of those sacred sites tours, a walk along the Creeklands from the the city looking at what had changed, trying to fit the landscape into my past memories. As we walked across the little suspension bridge outside the old swimming pool entrance towards the TAFE, I rocked the bridge to see if it would still swing. It did!

On Monday 26 March, the new building was officially opened. The Armidale Express carried the story. I will leave aside the puffery associated with official releases and focus on a few key issues.

The new centre is central to the plans to restructure the delivery of TAFE courses across NSW, increasing the use of on-line platforms. I have some reservations about elements of those plans, but the centre fits within TAFE NSW's strategic objectives.

I don't think that the centre could have been established in Armidale without the NBN. I have become increasingly disillusioned with former independent New England MP Tony Windsor because of what I see as an increasing rigidity, bias, in his views and responses on issues. However, his role in bringing the NBN to Armidale needs to be recognised. Without him, the new centre would not have been possible. We also need to recognise the work of Adam Marshall, the state member for the Northern Tablelands. He, too, was critical to the move.

As Mr Marshall noted in his press release, at 51 staff the number of jobs involved is not large by the standards of bigger centres. However, it makes an important addition to Armidale. As important as the number of jobs is, the variety in the jobs is more important. More important still is the way that those jobs mesh with Armidale's existing strengths.

Unlike the move of the APVMA (the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority) to Armidale, the creation of the TAFE Digital Hub appears to have attracted little political controversy. That's partly a matter of size, more the absence of vested interest and political responses that bedevil the APVMA move. It's interesting that TAFE appears to have experienced no significant recruitment problems, whereas those are a central issue in the APVMA move.

I have a part completed post updating the APVMA move.  At this point, I simply note that it is hard to get people to move to Armidale, hard to recruit new people to Armidale, when you are told by senior Labor Party figures that the decision to Armidale will be reversed, that you either do not have to move or if you do come to Armidale, you will be forced to return to Canberra.

Postscript Monday 2 April 2018

The brief discussion on this post, more comments would be welcome, reminded me of an earlier post about our attempts to create a network between Armidale schools based on the new new computing and communications technologies: Dreams past: Collective Wisdom, education & the NBN.

On a different site, Robyn Archer pointed to this rather wonderful interview with Arthur C Clarke from 1974. Both Robyn and I are still waiting for the foreshadowed shift to the country!


Anonymous said...

I've no idea what network connectivity they currently have to the main TAFE campus but there is optical fibre between TAFE and UNE, and TAFE has previously run a 1 gigabit service to AARNet for a specific project via that fibre. The fibre is capable of 10 gigabit/s (10,000 Mbit/s) compared to an NBN connection of 100 Mbit/s. Gordon.

Duncan F said...

UNE put in their own connection for their students with 1300 odd WiFi points around the campus. I hardly think they will share much with TAFE.

Gordon a.k.a. Anonymous, stop your whining. This is the first decent use of high-speed internet in Armidale. Everyone made a lot of noise and nothing has eventuated. We lost our early adopter advantage. NBN is all over the place so anyone can operate any e-comm/online business from any location now.

The only business I know of using NBN well is WhiteHack.

This is NOT the governments fault, its the lack of entrepreneurial action to make things happen.

Jim Belshaw said...

Morning both. Sorry for the delayed response.

Gordon, your comment reminded me of much earlier attempts to set up an educational network within Armidale. This later post reflects on that attempt - When I saw Martin Levins in Armidale in February I promised him to put up some photos of the Collective Wisdom demonstration. I have just done so on twitter.

I am out of touch in a technical and also factual sense at the moment. I did know of the optic fibre connection with TAFE. As I remember, one of the previous problems was the connection out of Armidale. This was creating significant problems in terms of band width and reliability. While the local focus is on delivery within Armidale, I think that the critical issue from a TAFE Hub viewpoint as a statewide operation is connection via the NBN National Transit Network. Specifically on speed, I understand the NBN is offering 1 gigabit at wholesale level.

Duncan, I don't think that Gordon was whining. He was providing information. I don't know how the existing networks including the state government network fit in. You may well be right in your comment on Armidale failing to take full advantage of the opportunities. I don't know enough about usage patterns. If the complaints about the earlier lack of NBN connection at Acacia Park are any guide, a lot of businesses focus on functions such as accounts, payroll and ordering/sales/delivery. UNE and now the new TAFE entity will be relatively high end high volume users. Others will follow. .

Johnb said...

“one of the previous problems was the connection out of Armidale. This was creating significant problems in terms of band width and reliability. While the local focus is on delivery within Armidale, I think that the critical issue from a TAFE Hub viewpoint as a statewide operation is connection via the NBN National Transit Network.”
I think you have hit at least some part of a problem Jim. Coffs Harbour is another FTTP town and I have recently been told that the town has been bandwidth capped at a 100 ?, I hesitate to put a unit in as it is a remembered conversation. I assumed this will trace back to the hybrid network we currently have in Oz. The effect being those with FTTP are unable to fully utilise its potential.

Jim Belshaw said...

Morning, John. I had to think about that point. The NBN is a wholesaler. I suspect the problem in Coffs lies the reseller packages. But I don't know.