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Survey: Broadband Infrastructure Support Is Vital for MSIs

Minority-serving institutions (MSIs) need broadband infrastructure support in order to access the data management and computing resources required to advance their STEM, health, social science and humanities education and research, according to a recent survey from the Minority Serving-Cyberinfrastructure Consortium and Internet2. The organizations polled 291 respondents across 144 MSIs in the United States; respondents included educators, researchers, administrators, cyberinfrastructure professionals, students, nonprofit professionals, STEM support organizations and representatives of government agencies.

The biggest barriers to achieving MSIs' high-performance computing cyberinfrastructure goals, the survey found, are funding/resources (cited by 57 percent of respondents) and staff/institutional support (17 percent).

"These are issues that we were all well aware of within the consortium but being aware of them is not enough, we have to start doing something," said Damian Clarke, chief information officer at Alabama A&M University and a member of the MS-CC leadership council, in a statement. "There is an immediate present need for broadband infrastructure across all minority-serving institutions. When we talk about broadband, this includes broadband that connects an institution and broadband that is distributed via wired and wireless connections across the campus."

The top priorities favored by respondents to support the goals and objectives of MSI research computing programs, the survey found, were connectivity, equipment, security and access to technology. That was followed closely by data storage, data management and data analytics. In addition, respondents indicated the importance of collaboration among MSIs; the need for data infrastructure for campus operations; and "the potential for data and computing to advance issues central to community culture and societal disparities."

"A common need for all our colleges is the actual infrastructure, the hardware and connectivity, without which you can't stand up the kinds of data, computing services and resources that are universally being identified as essential to supporting advanced science and engineering and mathematics," commented Al Kuslikis, senior associate for strategic initiatives, American Indian Higher Education Consortium. "That infrastructure also includes data storage, data management and data analytics. The actual use of the infrastructure to inform data-driven decision-making and to deliver programming in research computing across all disciplines."

"Collaboration is a key indicator among all respondents," noted Deborah Dent, chief information officer at Jackson State University and a member of the MS-CC leadership council. "It's not just the equipment, it's also the people. It is important that our cyberinfrastructure professionals are able to communicate with each other and build a coalition to advocate for our needs as a group. There's strength in numbers."

More information on the survey is available on the Internet2 site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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