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Asean higher education institutions increase software and services spend

Higher education organisations in developed Asean countries are investing heavily in software and services as their IT use matures

Higher education institutions (HEIs) in developed countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region are becoming more mature in how they use IT, with spending patterns shifting from hardware to services and software.

In general, this shift towards spending on software and services is due to a greater focus on cyber security to protect digital assets, reducing IT costs, improving business-IT alignment and providing access to the latest technologies, said Shreyashi Pal, market analyst at IDC Government Insights.

IDC forecasts that IT spending in the higher education sector in the wider Asia-Pacific region excluding Japan (APEJ) will increase from US$8.7bn in 2015 to US$10.4bn in 2019, with an annual growth rate of 5.2% over the next five years. Developed Asean countries will have similar growth rates to those in Asia-Pacific, while less developed Asean countries will have lower rates.

According to IDC, the opportunities for higher education in the Asia-Pacific region are in personalised learning, collaborative education and smart campus initiatives.

An example of a smart campus initiative is Smart Campus Platform at Singapore’s Temasek Polytechnic, which uses IT to make better decisions to improve study and work. It will provide a testbed to try out ideas, build capability and train future-ready students. The polytechnic plans to build teaching services on the smart campus and create an ecosystem where students and staff learn and work.

Another example is EduCity Iskandar Malaysia, which aims to provide an integrated campus experience by bringing together several universities and institutes of higher education, research and development (R&D) centres, student accommodation, as well as recreational and sports facilities.

Education seek innovative ways of using technology

“Higher education institutes are among the forerunners of technology adoption. They recognise the need to harness infocomm technology to achieve higher levels of engagement and cater to learners’ needs,” said Ferry Chung, vice-president of Smart and Safe City Centre of Excellence at Singapore IT service provider NCS.

Chung said HEIs continue to spend their IT budget on areas such as network infrastructure, datacentres and storage, while others are using technologies to enable student-centric learning in the new digital era.

Read more about enterprise IT in the Asean region

ICT can enable innovative new possibilities for educators and change their approach, said Chung.

“The widespread popularity of tablet devices has radically transformed the way teaching and learning is delivered in a classroom. Devices and Wi-Fi access have become tools for the students to access electronic publications (such as e-books and research journals) and connect to multimedia resources and Web 2.0 tools for social-collaborative learning,” said Chung.

Recently, Singapore’s National Institute of Education (NIE) International – the business consultancy arm of the country’s teacher training institute – began offering courses with massive open online course (MOOC) provider Coursera. It joins two other Singapore universities – the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) – which started offering courses on the popular MOOC platform last year.

Other Asean countries have also made forays into e-learning. The Malaysian Open University and the Thailand Cyber-University Project are working to offer e-learning programmes.

However, tertiary institutions are struggling with shrinking ICT budgets, and face strategic dilemmas when choosing across a wide range of technology options to effectively cater to differing individual needs and technology readiness, said IDC.

While the tertiary institutions in developing nations display strong overall growth rates with lower overall IT spending expenditure, the majority of their IT spending is concentrated in hardware expenditure.

IDC predicted that education IT investment in Asean in the next two to three years will be driven by democratisation and widening access to education, internalisation of quality education through digital education initiatives and the growing demand for personalisation and widespread collaboration.

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