Qatar’s MoE embarks on network overhaul

Qatar's Ministry of Education (MoE) is embarking on a massive infrastructure overhaul project to connect the majority of its departments on a single data network and introduce an array of IT services.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  February 3, 2002

|~||~||~|Qatar's Ministry of Education (MoE) is embarking on a massive infrastructure overhaul project to connect the majority of its departments on a single data network and introduce an array of IT services. The initial phase of the project is going hand-in-hand with the ministry's move to a central office location in the West Bay area of Doha.

When the construction of the Al Awqaf Tower is finished in May, the MoE will consolidate its departments under one roof and connect them over a high-speed data network. Although in its early stages, the ministry is anticipating supporting between 1500-to-2000 users and running a number of shared services.

"The infrastructure is going to enable us to deploy all sorts of new applications," explains Engineer Othmen Al Qudah, system & network supervisor, the Ministry of Education, State of Qatar.

"Previously all the departments were scattered and we connected by leased lines. But the speed varied depending on what was available from QTel [the local service provider]. We had one building that was on 512 K/bits and another that was only one 128 K/bits," he adds.

The location shift is also allowing MoE to introduce a number of applications. "The speed of the network was a problem but now we are looking at introducing a number of applications, such as a messaging system, an intranet solution, web enabling applications, video conferencing, a [central] archiving system and a workflow system," comments Al Qudah.

The MoE has hired a local firm, Al Majaz IT Consultants to draw up the specifications for the data network. Part of the early consultancy services is the assessment of the available skills within the ministry, and then mapping those skills to training programmes. At the same time, the MoE is also building its knowledge base in security tools, methodologies and development technologies.

The need to acquire advanced technology is going to intensify as the MoE continues its modernisation drive. The network being designed for the Al Awqaf Tower complex has to be capable of supporting a far greater degree of automated business processes. With the implementation of a messaging platform the ministry is ensuring that more "business will be done over the network, rather than by fax," says Al Qudah.

The ministry is also currently deploying data networks in the country's high schools, and plans to connect the schools directly to the MoE, via a virtual private network, so that they can access applications that the ministry hosts centrally. Already, the ministry's team of developers are in training on Oracle's 9i platform. When completed, the ministry hopes to migrate its existing bespoke Oracle-based applications to the Internet and produce its own educational portals.

Currently, schools use dial-up connections to the ministry's remote access servers to work on the central students database. However, such application and database access will be enhanced with the advent of education portals. Although there is no timeline for the delivery of such services, work is likely to begin in earnest sometime in the summer.

"Eventually we're hoping to deliver portals… it's our intention that even the parents can go through the Internet from their own homes and inquire about their kids," says Al Qadah.||**||

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