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A Framework For Building Sustainable It Infrastructure To Support Undergraduate Education In A Developing Nation

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Preparing Engineering Students for International Practice

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.39.1 - 13.39.15

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Paper Authors


Paul Stanton United States Military Academy

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MAJ Paul Stanton is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the United States Military Academy. He recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom where he worked alongside and mentored the staff and faculty at the National Military Academy of Afghanistan.

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Eugene Ressler United States Military Academy

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COL Eugene Ressler is the Department Head and Professor USMA for the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the United States Military Academy. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2005 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom where he helped to establish the National Military Academy of Afghanistan.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A framework for building sustainable IT infrastructure to support undergraduate education in a developing nation We present a process model for building sustainable information technology infrastructure to support undergraduate education in developing nations. We began applying the model in 2004 in Kabul, Afghanistan at the nation’s brand new National Military Academy. Assessments of progress and problems that have occurred there have helped to refine it. The aim of this paper is to describe the model that has been successful thus far as a guide to others engaged in similar work.


In our personal experience, leaders of developing nations are eager to follow the examples of India, Pakistan, China, and others to achieve economic and political successes rooted in information technology (IT)-related industry. They rightly believe this must begin with excellent technical education of their populations. “Pulling one’s nation up by its bootstraps” in this area is, however, a difficult undertaking. Creating good IT educational environments demands the same know-how and background that the environments are intended to develop. Physical infrastructure, technical staff, teachers, policy-makers, and administrators—which we collectively call educational infrastructure—must be developed in parallel and in a synchronized fashion, usually from very modest beginnings.

The old saw says that it’s “what you don’t know that you don’t know that will kill you.” Certainly that applies here. The developing nation setting tends to be rich in excellent enthusiasm and audacious goals, yet to be unknowing of the long path to competitiveness in IT in a globalizing economy that is advancing at breakneck speed in this area. It is a primary job of those in the role of consultant, assistant, or (our preferred relationship) mentor to erase the first level of “don’t know.” That is, she must educate all concerned as to the full scope of work needed to build IT educational infrastructure so that enthusiasm finds productive outlets. In order to do this, the mentor must in turn know what she does not know. Technology education “best practices” of highly developed economies are little help; rather, they are frequently counter-productive. The purpose of this paper is toward filling this blind spot with a model—a framework for thought and action related to educational infrastructure development.

The model can be applied in two ways. First, it can serve as a kind of manual or methodology for the mentor to discover a strategy that will both get development started and sustain it—the key people, relationships, and logistical considerations. Second, it can serve as a common language between the mentor and the people who must finally own and operate whatever is built for the long term.

Overview of the model

Our model begins with an assessment of the environment, accounting for the stark challenges that a university Chief Information Officer or Technology Services Director in a first

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