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NOUN’s Fight Against Technology

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The positive impact that technology has brought to our world and in all aspects of our lives cannot be overemphasised. It is a known fact that technology has come, to forever, ease up the way we communicate, produce goods in factories, travel, healthcare delivery, education, etc.

It is, therefore, disheartening to note that, in this age when technology is reigning supreme in all spheres of our lives, people in some organisations are still fighting against instituting technology to ease up the way they run their day to day affairs.

I have always made recommendations on how of technology can improve our daily lives and the economy generally, but most of these recommendations seems not to gel with the authorities concerned. I have, however, seen a few of those recommendations made in this column implemented, whether coincidentally or not.

I remember writing on the then dangerous and retrogressive plans by JAMB to remove the CBT from the examination plans of the Board for reasons best known to those who run the Board. Thankfully, that plan seems to have been jettisoned, even though, we are still making a mess of the whole process as evidenced in the last examinations that JAMB conducted. A lot still has to be done to perfect the process.

One place where technology is being fought and brought to attention, is the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). I have looked into this issue and based on my findings, the big question is; why would a university, in this day and time, fight technology? I just cannot understand why.

This is because, I am currently running a course at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (MIT), which will eventually qualify me to practice as a Startup coach and everything is being done online. This is a similar scenario that should happen in relation to students at NOUN. I just completed the first step of the course, remotely online.

The question is; why would an institution like NOUN be reversing the gains of technology? Is the management’s decision based on the assumption that Nigerian students are not tech savvy enough?

The disturbing decision by the management of the National Open University of Nigeria to abruptly shut down its erstwhile comprehensive iLearn platform and replace it with multiple weaker platforms, for me, is a fight against technology. This singular action has rendered thousands of students devastated, distressed and dejected.

Besides the negative implications which the decision had brought forth, the present administration of NOUN does not see the future in technology, one of the greatest innovations that has transformed learning across the world.

As a matter of fact, the goal of Open and Distance Learning, which NOUN stands for, is to supplement admission to our regular tertiary institutions.

Many Nigerians who may have sought for admission into tertiary institutions without success have found NOUN as a reliable alternative to bagging their degrees in various disciplines. The entire process of enrolment, lecture, submission of assignments, class work, examination and other forms of support were simplified as a result of a technology-enabled platform, (iLearn). These are some of the reasons the majority of NOUN alumni were able to acquire their degrees while still working.

They enjoyed some high level of flexibility, which NOUN had provided for over the years, through robust ICT deployment.

Today, the situation is different. You cannot see that flexibility anymore because of the closure of a number of ICT menus that handled a number of activities seamlessly on the iLearn.

It is now a herculean task to get in touch with lecturers for assistance, submit classwork, pay tuition fees, send applications, carry out online clearance etc. which NOUN was known for. Infact the main portal www.nou.edu.ng has been under maintenance for months now and students are directed to multiple websites such as www.nouonline.net, www.nounonline.com and www.nouedu.net.

As someone who has been in the game for almost a decade, I can boldly conclude that using multiple platforms that can be easily combined into one is a huge waste of time and resources as well as a drain on everyone’s productivity.

There is an urgent need for the current administration of NOUN to have a rethink because, there is no justification whatsoever, to run an Open and Distant Learning institution with a weak technological base.

Do not take my word for it. Find a current student of NOUN and ask about the situation before when the iLearn was on and after with the new sets of platforms. I honestly cannot make any sense out of the decision and I repeat, this is a fight against the adoption of technology.

There are many adverse implications associated with this crisis, of which I will highlight only a few of them.

First, the knowledge gap. Let us look at the wealth of knowledge provided by technology, through the iLearn platform, which I seriously believe NOUN students had benefited from.

It is a common trend in Nigerian universities today to find students jettison buying textbooks, rather preferring to spend their money on other stuff.

With the iLearn platform, which NOUN, hitherto, had provided, students did have access to smartbooks and insightful materials to help them online.

Secondly, payment of tuition fees, receiving lectures, interactions between lecturers and students, clearance, etc., were done seamlessly online. I am sure that the students, staff and management of NOUN are now bearing the brunt as this has now been yanked off and replaced with multiple platforms.

According to a reliable source, NOUN had less than 60, 000 students at inception. With the creation of iLearn, enrolment shot up to over 150,000 students in two years, due to the publicity and ease of getting information about NOUN through iLearn.

Rather than frustrate students, NOUN management should work hard to increase the numbers to say one million students, using the right technology and yes, it is possible.

Apparently, with the yanking off of iLearn, NOUN will exponentially record a decrease in the number of applications, and this will mean a significant decline in the institutions’ revenue. The reason is simple. The confidence level and flexibility that attracted many students are no longer available.

Importantly, we need to start appreciating the roles and significance of technology. The management of NOUN should be exploring ways of improving the existing technology and block loopholes instead of taking decisions that ultimately hurt students.

Technology has simplified the entire process. Whatever reasons there were to impede this, the intention cannot be right, therefore, the status quo should be reverted to.

Even in the traditional tertiary institutions today, the management should have passion for technology rather than the rusty, manual ways of doing things. This is more so, for an Open and Distant Learning institution like NOUN.

Surprisingly, this issue has been on for sometime now and there seems to be no positive way of resolving it. Matters of such magnitude should be dealt with swiftly instead of waiting for a total collapse of the system.

I, hereby, request all well meaning Nigerians, to prevail on the NOUN management to revert to the status quo, powered by technology. Time is of essence because, NOUN students are already frustrated by the fight against the adoption of technology in the institution.

CFA is the Founder, www.CFAtech.ng & Co-producer/Presenter,Tech Trends on Channels Television

 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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E-Business

Visa Launches ID Intelligence for Smarter Customer Authentication

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Visa has launched Visa ID Intelligence, a platform that lets issuers, acquirers and merchants quickly adopt emerging authentication technologies, according to a press release.

Available through Visa Developer Platform, Visa ID Intelligence offers a curated selection of third-party authentication technologies that feature simple integration with Visa APIs and SDKs. This allows clients to create, test and adopt new authentication solutions.

This ultimately helps financial institutions and merchants to adopt effective and secure solutions and accelerate time-to-market with streamlined on boarding and implementation through Visa as a single trusted source, the company said.

Visa ID Intelligence features include: Identity Documents— the platform evaluates identification documents and matches selfies to photo IDs, while extracting document information and converting it into digital form.

Uses include creating new accounts, and performing password reset and lost or stolen card replacement.

-Biometrics — Visa ID Intelligence allows clients to use eye, face, fingerprint and voice to meet consumer needs for convenience, security and speed in authentication.

Uses include app login, payments, step-up authentication, and more.

“Traditional methods for authenticating a customer can create frustration or are simply not designed for the new ways people are shopping and paying. We built Visa ID Intelligence to help accelerate smarter and easy-to-use authentication solutions for any commerce environment — to better protect against fraud and to move closer to a world without passwords,” Mark Nelson, Visa senior vice president of risk and authentication products, said in the release.

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ESET Works With Google To Protect Chrome Against Dangerous Malware

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By peter oluka

ESET, a leading global cybersecurity company, on Thursday launches Chrome Cleanup, a new scanner and cleaner for Google Chrome designed to help users browse the web safely and without interruption.

Chrome Cleanup will be available for all Google Chrome users running on Windows.

As cyber-attacks become more complex and difficult to spot, browsing the web can lead users to dangerous sites which can install malicious software onto devices.

Chrome Cleanup will alert Google Chrome users to potential threats when it detects unwanted software.

Google Chrome will then give users the option to remove the software. Chrome Cleanup operates in the background, without visibility or interruptions to the user. It deletes the software and notifies the user once the cleanup has been successfully completed.

“Using the internet should always be a smooth and safe experience for everyone,” said Juraj Malcho, chief technology officer at ESET. “For three decades, ESET has developed a number of security solutions that allow users to safely enjoy their technology and to mitigate a variety of cyber threats. Chrome Cleanup addresses unwanted software that can negatively influence a users’ experience on the internet.”

Chrome Cleanup is included in the latest version of Google Chrome. For more information about these tools, read Google’s blog post, here.

For 30 years, ESET® has been developing industry-leading IT security software and services for businesses and consumers worldwide.

With solutions ranging from endpoint and mobile security, to encryption and two-factor authentication, ESET’s high-performing, easy-to-use products give consumers and businesses the peace of mind to enjoy the full potential of their technology.

ESET unobtrusively protects and monitors 24/7, updating defenses in real-time to keep users safe and businesses running without interruption. Evolving threats require an evolving IT security company.

Backed by R&D centers worldwide, ESET becomes the first IT security company to earn 100 Virus Bulletin VB100awards, identifying every single “in-the-wild” malware without interruption since 2003.

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A Buyer’s Market in the Global Economics of DDoS Attacks

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It’s a buyer’s market in the local property arena at the moment, according to certain industry experts.

 

This is largely as a result of the slower economy, which has seen a rise in the number of properties for sale.

 

But did you know that globally, it’s a buyer’s market as well when we look at the economics of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks? The second, of course, is an underground market, largely regarded as a criminal one.

 

So said Bryan Hamman, Arbor Network’s territory manager for Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Referring to recently released information from Arbor Networks, he said, “It is interesting to analyse the current economics in global DDoS attacks, which are attempts to make an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic from multiple sources. Most people who are aware of DDoS attacks understand that there will be a perpetrator and a target.

 

“However, we’re now seeing a growing number of third-party providers of DDoS attacks as a service, who advertise their abilities online in order to either sell would-be attackers access to the tools needed to conduct a DDoS attack, or who perform the attack themselves on the customer’s behalf and provide reports afterwards.”

 

Hamman noted  that the fees of these underworld providers are lessening, due to rapidly expanding competition and the supply of readily available attack resources such as botnets. As a result, he says, the DDoS business is currently a buyer’s market.

 

Arbor reported that the prices for attack services, sometimes called “stressers” or “booters” vary widely, as do estimates of the total cost of an attack to the victim. But the economics are simple: DDoS attacks are becoming cheaper than ever for the perpetrator; are extremely lucrative for the attack service provider, and potentially financially devastating for the target.

 

Arbor noted that an increasing number of operators resemble legitimate service provider infrastructures with significant computing power, typically running their own botnet armies to unleash DDoS attacks. Perpetrators can essentially rent the providers’ botnets by the hour, day or week, or in some cases can buy a specific number of bots outright. The mechanics of transactions follow a classic web service model, meaning the perpetrator and the provider need never come in contact.

 

Providers that conduct attacks-as-a-service even post their services online, with tiered pricing reflecting the different types of attack that they offer. Prices are based on several factors. They can include the duration of the attack, the perceived value of the target, the country in which the attack takes place and/or the different methodologies employed.

 

In Arbor Networks 12th annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report, 59 percent of respondents estimated their downtime costs as being more than USD500/ minute in lost revenue (some ZAR6,700 per minute with the rand/dollar exchange rate on around ZAR13.50 to the dollar), with some indicating even higher losses. This also does not factor in the costs of repairing the damage, potential legal costs of settling with customers denied service, or reputational damage to the company’s brand.

 

Hamman concluded, “Here in South Africa, we may not yet face the overtness of DDoS operators advertising their services, as can be seen in the US. However, this does not mean that local companies shouldn’t be vigilant against DDoS attacks – protection is more vital than ever. A hybrid solution that combines on-premises and cloud-based protection is the industry best practice in DDoS defence. When you accept that DDoS attacks aren’t going away, and in fact are projected to escalate, it makes the best economic sense of all to make sure that you are adequately prepared against a DDoS attack.”

 

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