(i) Expansion of Bandwith. USP has concluded that prior to expanding the bandwidth, various options to improve efficiency and better utilization of the existing capacity will be investigated. This area is being covered by USP's internal studies and relevant assessment/valuation funded by JICA grant. In any case, subsequent bandwidth expansion (as and when required) will involve with recurrent cost and can therefore not be funded thorugh this RETA or ensuing project loan. One of the identified needs is to covert the system to I-Direct. This will result in improved speed for ICT education as well as establish a better platform for the entire USPNet, subject to final technical confirmation. The conversion and related equipment is expected to cost up to $400,000. The Vice-Chancellor requested that the amount be funded from the RETA. The Mission indicated that in principle, this could be done as this has been considered as one of possible components in the tripartite agreement signed in April 2009. ADB will await final decision by USP on the acquisition of I-Direct. JICA supports ADB funding for this component.
However, at the recipients end, namely 12 regional campuses, there are significant requirement for improvement of infrastructure, ICT equipment and network/system upgrade and replacement USP has indicated that such improvement is required in Solomon Islands and possibly in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) where the regional campus caters to a large number of students who are widely dispersed.
(ii) Access to Higher Education. USP has indicated that one of its goals is to bring access to higher education through ICT beyond capacity of each of its member governments. This would involve the capital expenditure and ICT infrastructure and connectivity in the remote outer islands to further promote the outreach programs.
(iii) ICT Curriculum Development and Conversion to e-Learning Materials. USP has indicated that contents upgrade and development constitute an integral part of the DFL development and require external support. While considerable work is ongoing in this area for basic level courses, there is need to develop curriculum for higher courses (200/300 level courses) and in certain subjects as well as for e-based Master of Business Administration (MBA) and new degree programs. JICA is actively assisting in this area through technical cooperation.
(iv) USP's Academic Partnerships. Vice-Chancellor emphasized the importance of the partnership with education institutions in India, Japan, and China. Presently, there is minimal linkage with any institution in India. While such partnership should eventually be advantageous to both parties, it is possible that during the initial years, USP may be the primary beneficiary of such joint programs. With India, VP prefers institutions such as Indian Institute of Technology for engineering, Indian Institute of Management for management, Nehru School and other reputable institutions in the field of econoics.
(v) USP's Main Campus Needs. The master plan for the main campus is being updated and is likely to propose some additional facilities for new programs, conferences, student housing, and other academic requirements. The Mission has been informed that the JICA funding for both buildings of the ICT center are available and the first building will be completed in 2010 and the second in late 2011. USP will advise ADB on specific requirements that they would like ADB to fund once the master plan is completed.
VC mentioned the need for conference halls and possibly USP's Convention center with lodging facility for promoting USP's leading role as the knowledge center in the Pacific and as the center for excellence. Such a project would need to be carefully evaluated for financial viability. For such campus improvement project, VC would like to seek ADB's concessional loan. He felt that USP's unencumbered asset will qualify USP for such a loan