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Elevating Singapore’s education infrastructure with modern networks

Magic Hsu
Magic Hsu • 5 min read
Elevating Singapore’s education infrastructure with modern networks
From an IT perspective, the foundation for supporting students' educational success begins at the networking level. Photo: Unsplash
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Singapore has come a long way since the height of global disruptions over the past three years, particularly in digitalising the education sector. The Ministry of Education (MOE) began piloting AI tools for personalised learning in 2021 and migrated its national e-learning platform onto the cloud infrastructure to enhance user experiences amid fluctuating learning models.

Latest figures today show that Singapore’s e-learning market is expected to reach US$4.83 billion by 2033, according to SPER Market Research. Despite undeniable progress, there remains room for refining Singapore’s digital infrastructure in the academic landscape—a recent incident involving a lag in the online system resulted in a nationwide end-time delay, affecting 700 students taking their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) mother tongue language oral exam.

While this highlights the need to fortify digital systems for seamless experiences, it also underscores broader requisites of physical-digital infrastructure to enable greater interaction between different digital infrastructure elements and their integration with the physical world. As part of Singapore's initiative to leverage technology trends in the next decade, the government will be increasing network capacity to guarantee higher symmetric bandwidth and fortifying the digital infrastructure to reduce the risks of network disruptions and security threats.

Understanding the role of the network for education

Educators have had to take on multifaceted roles that extend far beyond traditional teaching obligations, donning hats as IT support specialists when the need arises. Modern networks act as a catalyst for fostering inter-institutional collaborations to promote innovation. Wired and wireless networking infrastructure also enhances interconnected network ecosystems, enabling IT departments to ensure that students can seamlessly access the resources they require, regardless of their location.

Meanwhile, conventional textbooks are being substituted by mobile tablets and e-readers, and research departments are increasingly dependent on Internet of Things (IoT) devices in laboratories for continuous monitoring of environmental conditions, instrument status, inventory management, and data gathering.

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With the return of in-person classes, networks face tremendous strain to handle the upsurge in traffic and increased volume of connected devices. IT teams must navigate the intricacies of bandwidth allocation, compatibility issues, and the pressing need for robust security measures for potentially tens of thousands of connections daily. Modern networks are institutions’ most comprehensive data sources, and education leaders need to leverage data analytics for actionable insights around increasing enrollments, transforming academics, and improving graduation rates.

AI and data challenges in today’s modern networks

From an IT perspective, the foundation for supporting students’ educational success begins at the networking level. Whether through wired, wireless, or SD-WAN solutions, the focus must be on continuously enhancing the efficiency and security of networks.

See also: Strapping smart surveillance solutions on Singapore’s school safety woes

Modern networking technology integrates artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps), leveraging AI algorithms to detect and diagnose potential network issues before they impact users on campus. This approach extends to profiling endpoints—or IoT devices—by identifying and categorising devices for institutions to implement granular security measures to sensitive data. AIOps also ensures that critical educational applications and resources remain accessible and responsive, even during peak usage times, by analysing data patterns to optimise network performance and automate routine IT tasks to minimise the risk of human errors.

However, with so much data in the mix, IT teams face complex data challenges to unlock actionable insights. Advanced networking solutions incorporate highly accurate location awareness to capture situational data and analyse it in the cloud for fast on-demand access. In the implementation of such solutions, it is paramount to select a platform that adheres to compliance regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Research shows that by the end of 2023, 20% of organisations will have adopted a network-as-a-service (NaaS) strategy. Singapore's reduced education spending of $10.89 billion in 2023, compared to $13.6 billion spent in 2021, exemplifies the need to look at cost-effective options. With tighter budgets, institutions can consider modernising their networks with a NaaS strategy that is scalable but provides flexibility to address other critical educational needs, such as curriculum development and student support.

Keeping cyber threats at bay

Consistent digital access, both on-site and remote, magnifies risks to the broader cyber threat landscape via malicious actors, but also the inadvertent internal sharing of user credentials or inadequate security practices from school vendors. As students and educators explore immersive learning with on-campus streaming activities, institutions recognise that it takes a village to protect the digital ecosystem.

To ensure the security of both staff and student data within the complex academic landscape, educational institutions must look beyond traditional perimeter-based firewalls. In fact, modern networking solutions come with security engineered into every facet of wired, wireless, and WAN infrastructures.

Zero Trust and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) frameworks offer unparalleled defence against an array of threats spanning the entirety of an IT stack. A Zero Trust network operates on a proactive model, intelligently ascertaining the nature of connected devices and seamlessly adjusting access levels according to established policies and continuously scrutinising for anomalies, promptly flagging and remediating any abnormal behaviour.

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Yet, while optimising connectivity through a network-focused lens is undoubtedly crucial, it is equally vital to embrace a user-centric perspective to support innovations and solutions. To achieve this, IT departments should deploy solutions that monitor application response times and related performance metrics from the vantage point of user devices.

Singapore’s education sector is on a promising path of innovation, and the modernisation of networking infrastructure stands as an indispensable foundation for progress. With the right technology, IT teams can provide teachers, students, staff, administrators, and guests with a secure, seamless, connected, and always-on learning environment.

Magic Hsu is the director and general manager for Southeast Asia, Taiwan and Hong Kong & Macau at HPE Aruba Networking

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