Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-ife is Nigeria's leading ICT University with a campus wide network consisting of a continually expanding fibre optic backbone 23 Intra-Networked subnets and wireless access clouds (WiFi) distributed across what is regarded as one of the most beautiful estates in the world.
We at the Information Technology and Communications Unit(INTECU) are responsible for conceiving, designing and implementing ICT strategies for the university. The unit has been actively involved in the process of building one of the fastest growing networks in the country (and perhaps South of the Sahara)
Our mission is simple:
"To develop a set of policies that guide the deployment of ICT for the purpose of assisting the university to achieve its educational research and public service functions."
Our goals include:
- Make ICT a focal point in achieving even and all-round development in the university
- Making impact on the channels of information and communication within the university system
- Developing hardware and software support for e-learning environment
- Grooming ICT-based learning research within and outside the university community
In pursuant of INTECU’s goals and objectives, the following policies have been adopted:
We develop our IT staff by providing on-the-job learning experiences in project management, customer service and in other technical disciplines and acquiring supervisory skills.
We seek collaboration with research institutions and other professional outfits for staff training exchange programmes.
We sponsor at least one staff per year on International Seminars/conferences/Training programmes, etc. in order to keep abreast of new developments in ICT technology.
We continuously evaluate our work practices and programmes in order to ensure a proper working environment.
The initiative to establish academic networks for Nigerian Universities came from Professor G. O. Ajayi of the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University , Ile-Ife.The International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP, now Abdul Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste , Italy ) hosts an Academic Computer Network project for developing countries. Professor Ajayi had been a scholar in Trieste and in his personal recognition, Obafemi Awolowo University was proposed as the first node of the ICTP project in Nigeria . An alumnus of IFE , Dr. E. Ekuwem of TELEDOM International Limited, then a Fellow at ICTP, Trieste , conducted the feasibility study, the outcome of which facilitated the choice of IFE for the project. The then Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wale Omole, gave tremendous personal and executive support for the actualization of the project.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and ICTP was signed in early 1996 with the two institutions agreeing to collaborate in the establishment of a pilot educational and research computer network at the OAU. It was envisaged that such a network would provide access to international information networks necessary for the promotion of science and technology at the University in particular and in Nigeria as a whole. Under the project, a University Campus network, code-named OAUNet, was established with ultimate INTERNET connectivity. The project itself was code-named OAU/ICTP ACADEMIC COMPUTER NETWORK PROJECT.
The following are the collaborating units and the members of the Planning and Implementation Committee of the network project:
Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering
- Prof. G. O. Ajayi
- Prof. L. O. Kehinde
University Computer Centre
- Dr. G. A. Balogun
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
- Prof. A. D. Akinde
- Dr. F. J. Ogwu
- Dr. E. R. Adagunodo
At the ICTP’s expense, a staff of the OAU, Mr. C. E. O. Onime, spent three and a half months at the ICTP on training in the development, simulation, installation and operation of the network. In April 1996, ICTP financed the trip of a technical team from the ICTP to Ile-Ife for the installation of the network. The team included the head of the ICTP scientific computing section (Prof. Alvise Nobile) and two of his engineers/computer scientists. The OAU team, which comprised both academic and technical staff, joined the ICTP in the installation of the basic network. The ICTP team was much impressed by the commitment of the University Administration and the technical team.
The inadequate telephone system in Ile-Ife constituted a major barrier to the operation of the network. Although the network was operational on the campus, it was difficult connecting to the external world. In a desperate move to solve the telephone problem, the main computer equipment was taken to the NITEL Exchange in Ile-Ife town, in order to eliminate some local cabling problems. This did not solve the problem. NITEL, through some personal contact, supported the project by supplying over 1km of 50 pair underground cable. The University provided the labour for laying the cable from Ibadan Road through Road 1 to the University Exchange. The University also provided the overhead cable from the University Exchange to the Computer Buildings Complex, where the network servers were located. Further development by the University can be broken down into phases as listed below.
In order to solve the telephone problem, the University obtained a digital telephone line from the Ibadan digital exchange. The line was not reliable enough to support the data required for the network. This had to be abandoned at a stage. In the network configuration, OAU network (OAUnet) was to be regarded as an extension of the ICTP network. OAUnet was expected to call ICTP through the telephone network using the Ibadan digital exchange line. When this arrangement became near impossible, ICTP had to assist further in bearing the telephone cost of polling the OAUnet from the ICTP end. This arrangement worked for some months during which efforts were intensified at finding a lasting solution to the problem. Three subnets were established during the fist phase of the project. They were: the Computer Building, the Science Block (White House) and the Faculty of Technology ( Civil Engineering Building) subnets.
It became necessary at this stage to develop a new system, which was non-conventional, in order to solve existing problems. The ICTP/OAU team came up with the “Triangular Polling Arrangement”. By this arrangement, a computer relay station was established in Lagos, in the premises of one of the Internet service providers, Global Access Communications Ltd. (GACOM). The arrangement was for the relay computer to call OAUnet to collect all the out-going mails. It then calls the ICTP computer system to deliver outgoing mails and collect OAU-bound mails. Finally, it calls OAUnet computer to deliver the incoming mails. This procedure was repeated at specific periods of the day, which were identified as favourable for telephone connections. This system provided relief to the University community as a more satisfactory e-mail service was thus established, e.g. replies to mails could be obtained within 24 hours.
The University soon recognised the need for further expansion of the network and this was embarked upon in 1998. Priority was given to the provision of more computers in the University as well as for network expansion. Half of these computers were assembled by the staff of INTECU while the remaining were branded computers. There was a subsequent demonstration of the assembled computers to the members of the University Council, who subsequently suggested that the University should look into the possibility of computer assembly on a large scale for commercial purposes. INTECU has since been coupling computer systems for a variety of requirements.
During this phase, the network was expanded to seven subnets by the provision of four new subnets. In addition, the Science subnet was extended to the Chemistry/Mathematics building. The entire network was designed and implemented by the University INTECU team. The Computer Buildings Complex continued to serve as the central node of the network and as the Control Centre. The other subnets were connected to the central node using the spread spectrum wireless radio technology. More computers were provided at the public email rooms associated with each of the subnets.
Phase 4 - VSAT Connectivity
As the network grew bigger, it became necessary to provide a higher speed of connection between the analogue exchange and transmission facilities. NITEL in Ile-Ife could only support a connection speed of the order of about 9.6 kbps. The University therefore took the bold step of providing VSAT satellite connection. In January 1999, our VSAT connectivity on 64kbps up/down was commissioned. The dish available at that time was 2.4 metres which was later replaced by a 3.8 metre dish. A Cisco 2601 router was employed. The VSAT connection provided real time exchange of email and accessibility to the web, utilizing the WWW facilities available on the Internet.
It was obvious at that time, with a population of about 25,000 students and about 15,000 staff and dependants, that the number of computers, subnets and the available connectivity speed was grossly inadequate. It was therefore necessary to embark on an urgent expansion of subnets and an upgrade of the VSAT facility.
Pioneer Technical Staff
The pioneer technical staff were staff from the various collaborating departments, namely, the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, the University Computer Centre and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. They were:
- F. A. F. Ayara
- B. G. Adeyekun
- O. A. Odejobi
- H. A. Soriyan (Mrs)
- C. E. O. Onime
- M. O. Bello
- J. I. Ehimuan (Miss)
- G. A. Aderounmu
- I. Oluwaranti
- F. A. Farewo (Miss).