Northern Ireland invests in rollout of stg£170m education cloud

9 Mar 2012

Education Minister John O'Dowd and Jimmy Stewart, director, C2k (right), with Stuart Gunning, regional director, Northgate Managed Services, and Darren Lemon, general manager, Eircom

Northern Ireland is investing stg£170m in a new ‘Education Network Northern Ireland’ cloud-based network as part of the Classroom 2000 (C2k) programme. Northgate Managed Services will be responsible for the delivery of the network that will serve 1,200 schools and 350,000 teachers and learners.

The new service has been designed to create a dynamic, future proofed, flexible service that provides schools with increased access to learning resources and the ability to collaborate and develop skills which will equip learners for the future.

Schools will have greater flexibility and choice in how ICT is used across the curriculum. Improving wireless technology supports the growing trend for using mobile devices in the classroom – allowing teachers and students to gain access to the network and resources securely via personal devices such as smartphones, iPads, tablet PCs and laptops.

Schools will access a range of applications, educational resources and toolsets through Northgate’s innovative My-School learning portal.

Northgate will take responsibility for all aspects of the service, including the wide area network, local area network and telecoms which will be delivered in partnership with its subcontractor, Eircom.

The five-year contract will see Northgate design, implement, manage and support Europe’s first Education Cloud environment for schools in Northern Ireland, providing secure access to resources online, 24 x 7 from a wide range of devices. Eircom will deliver superfast connectivity to the Education Cloud, providing schools with up to 200Mb of bandwidth.

Jimmy Stewart, director, C2k said, “The new ICT service has been designed to recognise the educational requirements of Northern Ireland schools, deliver technology-driven learning environments and incorporate the latest innovations in technology.”

A scalable education cloud

The new Education Cloud provides the ability to scale computing resources to meet the needs of schools both today and in the future with schools benefiting from secure cloud computing. Centralised backup and archiving services ensure that schools have access to virtually unlimited storage.

“This is a tremendous achievement for the company and is one that clearly positions Northgate as a leading provider of innovative ICT services for schools,” Northgate Managed Services CEO Andy Ross said.

“Building the first Education Cloud in Europe is a significant point in the company’s history and creates a fantastic platform for future growth in the UK and beyond.

“Winning the contract is also of great significance for the local economy. The continued investment in ICT in schools ensures that every student can attain the vital ICT skills needed for today’s technology-driven workplace and support the continued growth in Northern Ireland’s vibrant technology sector,” Ross said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years