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Higher Education 2.0: Digital Transformation in action

By John Oates

The setting for the latest CBR Dining Club Event was apt given the subject matter and the level of debate it generated. The subject? ‘Higher Education 2.0: Digital Transformation in action’. The venue? The Royal Institution of Great Britain in Mayfair.

Founded in 1799, the Royal Institution’s goal was and remains “diffusing the knowledge, and facilitating the general introduction, of useful mechanical inventions and improvements”.

Diffusing knowledge was the order of this night, too, and David Chalmers , HPE’s Chief Technologist kicked things off by making the case for hybrid infrastructure and the need, regardless of the organization, to manage data at the edge.

These, of course, are not the dilemmas and challenges of the mechanical age but of the digital age.

Hybrid IT, Chalmers argued, is a necessity because no organisation is going to adopt public cloud only or on premise only. An infrastructure mix is required. Meanwhile, the need to manage information flows at the edge of the network is, Chalmers said, reflected in research recently undertaken on behalf of HPE. By 2022, the research suggests less than 25 per cent of critical data will reach an organisation’s central data centre.

In other words, three quarters of that data will sit on the outskirts of the network on, for example, mobile devices. This raises a particular challenge that higher education institutes, especially those with large research centres, will have to meet.

The discussion that followed covered a range of subjects including data management strategies, storage and the impact of GDPR. Drawing together all three, one delegate argued that the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) might prompt universities, colleges and other higher education establishments to take a cautious approach to edge devices. The potential result: less, not more, data at the edge.

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Others argued, by contrast, that this was an impossible hope and that user adoption habits and expectations rendered usage a fait accompli. “The consumerisation of IT means there is no choice,” one delegate said.

Other themes covered during the night’s discussion included the state of technology implementation in the education sector, the impacts of budgets and the need for good governance.

A suggestion by one attendee that education’s adoption of IT was “miles behind” generated plenty of discussion with fellow attendees willing to argue the case for and against in equal measure.


This CBR Dining Club event, ‘Higher Education 2.0: Digital Transformation in action’, in association with HPE took place on Thursday 21 September 2017.

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