Paving the info superhighway
By Jason Ménard
The provincial government is set on improving Ontario's information highway and there will be a nice off ramp to the university following the announcement of $1.27 million in funding for a joint Western-Fanshawe project.
The funding, which is coupled with $1.2 million from the private sector, will go towards the creation of an asynchronous transfer mode network to allow for the creation and delivery of multimedia learning materials.
"We want to know how many people can 'talk' simultaneously without crashing a network," said Western's dean of engineering science, Mohan Mathur. "We do not know the answers yet. We have some solutions but now we'll be able to test them."
Currently Fanshawe College has some multimedia courses which it must offer through labs, as even running them on their local network would crash it. Mathur said by working on ways to improve the transfer of information, universities will be able to take a more active role in the community.
Mathur added universities will be able to offer courses to corporations over the Internet in the future with the development of this new technology.
Larry Kent, special assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, said the provincial government decided in October to allocate $20 million in funding to a telecommunications access partnerships program. He added the Ministry received 56 bids for funding and five were granted.
"This project is a determination to make sure the province stays in a leadership role in telecommunications," he said. "It's a recognition of the future. It may be a cliché but we're in an intellectual age and we want to make sure we're on the forefront."
Ruth Gates, Fanshawe's VP-business development, said there is currently equipment available which will help to either compress the information or extend the bandwidth enough to transfer information. However, it is the role of the two institutions to put all the pieces together.
"It's like landing a 747 on the 401," she said. "We just have to clear a landing path." Gates added the division of funding has not been determined and they are in the process of budgeting.
"We're looking at the budget right now and seeing how the division of work will be," she said. "We're really anxious to get on with it."
Mathur explained the co-operation between the two institutions is crucial for the project as both schools will feed off the other's strengths.
"We'll be responsible for the technical-related things at our end and they'll be responsible for more of the manpower things," he said. "Each institution has its own role to play."