26 July 2005

IT Loan Fund

Over time the original intention of the IT Loan, or IT Infrastructure Fund, has become a little blurred.

In 1998 VCAC introduced an IT Infrastructure Fund (the ‘IT Loan’) that allowed Divisions to 'borrow' against future budget expectations for the purchase of information technology equipment. An assumption underlying the establishment of the Fund was that if Divisions could upgrade their infrastructure to new and uniform equipment, the savings made on not having to repair, maintain and support a wide range of obsolete equipment would allow them to pay back the loans. Adrian Westerman reported to Council in February 1999 that:

This fund had worked well with significant improvements in IT infrastructure throughout the University being realised during 1998 and most cost centres repaying loans through savings during the course of the year. [http://www.canberra.edu.au/secretariat/committees/council/1990-/1999-docs/1999-02-05.pdf]

The Division of Communication and Education has failed to realise the full benefit of the Fund because the old equipment that is supposed to be replaced by the new purchases is being recycled (in an attempt to satisfy increasing and insatiable demands) rather than being sold or trashed.

Each year there is more technology of increasing variety and age: maintenance costs are higher, older equipment restricts our ability as a Division to, for example, provide training, expert support and to roll out new operating systems and services like remote assistance.

Staff and student numbers (at least in some units where resource costs are high, and postgraduate student numbers) are growing, and staff and student expectations of the quality and sophistication of the resources that should to be available to them are also increasing. These issues are not being addressed effectively in the Division’s resource planning, at least in relation to the provision of space, infrastructure and technology.

Heads of School need to be mindful of the resource implications of proposals they endorse especially with respect to:

  • projections of student numbers (are there enough items to be bought to satisfy the projected demand?);
  • costs of commissioning of any new hardware or software;
  • staff numbers and their skills;
  • training costs for existing and future staff required to use or demonstrate the equipment or systems;
  • additional infrastructure, licensing or provisioning requirements; and
  • ongoing maintenance and administration costs.

Executive should ensure that the IT & Infrastructure Committee considers these TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) issues in making its recommendations, and that all the members of the IT & Infrastructure Committee agree with the whole approach to managing any particular proposed resource over its life.