Establishing Data Centre at Mzuzu University

The presentation below was recorded for the International Association of Social Sciences Information Service and Technology (IASSIST), 1st African Regional Workshop, from January 11-13, 2021. In the presentation, Felix Majawa (Mzuzu University, Malawi) and Ralph Hall (Virginia Tech, USA) discuss the findings from a stakeholder survey that was sent to faculty and staff at Mzuzu University and Virginia Tech about a proposed data centre that could be located in Mzuzu University’s new library. The abstract form a report on the survey responses is provided below.

REPORT ABSTRACT

Mzuzu University lost its Library as a result of a fire that took place on 18th December 2015. In response, the university decided to establish two processes. The first was to restore information services within six months by creating an interim Library. The second was to design a new library in collaboration with Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture and Design in the United States. A total of three conceptual designs were developed, from which Mzuzu University selected a final design. One key aspect of each conceptual design was a dedicated space for a Data Centre. The initial concept was that the centre will support research activities at the university, within the Malawi, and with international partners outside Malawi, such as Virginia Tech. This paper captures the anticipations and aspirations of the key stakeholders involved with the library design project at Mzuzu University and Virginia Tech. They were captured by a survey that was shared via email with 29 stakeholders. A total of 10 responded at Mzuzu University, and 12 responded at Virginia Tech. A key finding from the survey is the need to create clear plans for each aspect of the project, from the effective implementation of the data center, to staffing and equipment procurement and management, to data literacy programming, and to the long-term sustainability of the centre. Developing a policy/process to guide the operations of the data centre was also considered to be critical. The library construction began in November 2020 and is expected to end in November 2022. Having a clear plan for how the data centre could be operationalized will be essential to ensuring the centre is successful. The data centre will be a new facility for the university and this report should be considered as a first step towards shaping the centre’s requirements and future potential.

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