5 April 2024

Interview with Assoc. Prof. Sinchai Kamolphiwong Outlined the Work of AUN-ICT Initiative towards Enhanced University ICT Capabilities in ASEAN

Noppanun Sookping
AUN Programme Officer;

Information Communication Technology (ICT) remains a challenging development area of higher education as streaming technological advancement continues to introduce both new opportunities and challenges in the process of educational management and delivery. To promote improved ICT capabilities of ASEAN higher education, the Quality Standardisation of ICT Systems and Management Quality (AUN-ICT) initiative has been conducting a series of workshops as well as developing the “One Platform One Protocol” AUN-ICT Framework. Significant progress has been made with the first and the second AUN-ICT Workshop having introduced several ICT experts, academics and practitioners from universities across the ASEAN region to the dialogue and the in-development model.

Hosted by the Prince of Songkla University (PSU) with Chiang Mai University (CMU) as co-host, the 3rd AUN-ICT Workshop is currently priming for occurrence on 9-10 May 2024 with the aims of furthering the development of the AUN-ICT model for launch and solidifying the partnership with universities who will become key drivers behind the initiative in the near future. In light of this upcoming penultimate event for this ambitious initiative, the ASEAN University Network (AUN) Secretariat would like to use this opportunity to encapsulate the AUN-ICT journey and roadmap so far through a conversation with one of the initiative’s aspiring leaders – Assoc.Prof. Sinchai Kamolphiwong, from the Prince of Songkla University.

1. First of all, congratulations on the progress so far on the Quality Standardisation of University’s ICT System and Management (AUN-ICT). Before we proceed to discuss the current state of development of the AUN-ICT initiative, perhaps you can summarise and introduce our readers briefly to what AUN-ICT is, including its original ideas and objectives.

“One big challenge is how to deliver quality management and services as expected in higher education systems. In the ICT management domain, there are several ICT standards and practices. Each of them has a specific purpose, a standalone one with their own pros and cons. It is essential to carefully select the most appropriate standards to suit our organisation, considering factors such as cost, time, complexity, and effort requiredTo address such a challenging mission, we, together with the AUN working team, ISEM (Institute of Software Engineering and Quality Management), and AUN partners, are working on this proposed model called “One Platform One Protocol for AUN ICT Framework.'' This is a single framework entity to integrate 5 categories in ICT strategy and operation, namely: 1) project governance, 2) product development, 3) service development, 4) information security, and 5) organisation management. By blending explorations of each practice, we aim to enable our organisation to embrace quality management and services that hold extraordinary potential for delivering excellent operations and capability building.”

2. What are the key outputs which the AUN-ICT team has been working to achieve?

“As a brief introduction, in early 2022, our team, along with partners, initiated the ICT framework project. In March 2023, we conducted the first hands-on workshop with AUN university members. The results of this workshop affirmed that the project effectively addresses the challenge of delivering ICT quality management and services expected in higher education systems.
Subsequently, the second workshop took place in Bangkok, Thailand, in November 2023. This time, the workshop functioned as a consultative and knowledge sharing platform for the AUN-ICT team to present the early draft of the AUN-ICT Framework for further discussion and feedback from the participants. The inputs from all the university ICT experts and academics present helped the initiative greatly in fine-tuning the model of the framework to ensure effective implementation and practical positive impacts when utilised. In addition, the initiative also received positive support from AUN university members, which motivated us to proceed with the third workshop.
The upcoming final workshop, the third one, will ensure that the proposed AUN-ICT framework bridges the gap and fulfils all members' requirements regarding ICT strategy and operation.”

3. Based on the progress of the initiative so far, have the key outputs/outcomes of the initiative been different from what you first envisioned?

“We are in the final stages of completing the AUN-ICT framework draft, which will be ready for publication soon. It is remarkable that the initial vision of the project has proved to be the right direction and trend. The framework's completion marks a significant milestone in our journey towards digital transformation and operational excellence. The framework guideline has been significantly enhanced, with improved details, re-organized structure, and enhanced work guidelines, matrices, and checklists within and across categories. This will ensure that the AUN-ICT framework will serve as a valuable tool for enhancing collaboration and driving innovation within the AUN community.”

4. In addition to the enhanced IT capabilities and management, what are the net benefits that the AUN-ICT initiative is aiming to achieve for all the participating universities and stakeholders?

“In the context of the Digital Transformation Organization Structure, the operational backbone, such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), is considered the cornerstone for successful digital transformation. Strengthening this backbone is crucial as it drives and accelerates other digital transformation components. The AUN-ICT Framework is designed to enhance and fortify this operational backbone, thereby facilitating and advancing the overall digital transformation process. It helps organisations ensure that ICT investments contribute to sustainable development and ESG objectives while meeting quality and performance standards.
By incorporating principles of sustainability into the ICT framework, we can reduce environmental impact, improve social outcomes, and enhance good governance practices. As a result, this can contribute to a university's overall performance and reputation, potentially leading to improved measuring outcomes in various university rankings and assessments.”

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Images from the 2nd AUN-ICT Workshop on 7-8 November 2023 in Bangkok, Thailand

5. What can the participants as well as ASEAN higher education institutions at large expect to be the outcome of the upcoming 3rd AUN-ICT Workshop?

“The upcoming AUC-ICT workshop will showcase a real-life scenario demonstrating how the AUN-ICT framework embodies best practices and enhances operational excellence. Through this workshop, we will illustrate how the framework aligns with an institute's vision and leads to desired outcomes.

Participants will engage in fruitful discussions and exchange ideas within small groups, focusing on practical applications and future work. In addition to high level technical discussions, we will provide a session to explore strategies for effectively driving sustainability initiatives through the AUN-ICT Thematic. In this regard, [the AUN-ICT Initiative] is committed to progressing further by strengthening the task force involved in this initiative.”

6. What would you like to see in the future of the AUN-ICT initiative, as well as the management and quality of ICT in the region’s higher education?

“We are currently developing the road map for the AUN-ICT initiative, with key elements to be shared and discussed at the upcoming workshop. The focus will be on enhancing collaboration and strengthening partnerships among AUN partners. In the near future, we aim to establish a core working team through a thematic university network of AUN-ICT to drive the project to further success. This will strengthen human capability building. More importantly, this will serve as a governance framework, providing support and guidance for the expansion of the AUN-ICT initiative.”

7. Would you like to leave a message to our readers as AUN-ICT is entering its final leg of development before regionwide launch and implementation?

“We have established a unified framework with a distinct identity for the AUN community: the AUN-ICT Framework. With a strong foundation and collaborative support from AUN, including its excellent universities and robust AUN thematic networks, we are confident that this framework will establish trust and result in fruitful collaboration and transformation of ICT management and quality standardisation for higher education institutions in ASEAN. As the work of AUN-ICT has always been based on collaboration, on behalf of the AUN-ICT initiative, I would like to thank all the AUN-ICT partners who have been with us since the beginning, and welcome those who will join us in this upcoming AUN-ICT workshop.”

The path towards augmentation of university ICT management and quality is indeed long and strenuous. However, Prof. Sinchai’s sharing of background, insights and driving force behind the AUN-ICT initiative helped shed light on this new corridor of university cooperation under AUN to empower ICT capabilities of the region’s universities. Under the leadership of PSU and ISEM, in combination with vigorous contributions and engagement from universities across the ASEAN region.

With the upcoming 3rd AUN-ICT Workshop promising new and broadening aspects to the initiative, stay tuned as the AUN Secretariat continues to provide coverage on further developments of the AUN-ICT initiative.

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