By MARTY LEVINE
Pitt IT is working with UPMC to create access to Pitt’s network and Pitt-licensed software for Pitt faculty working in UPMC-owned spaces, as well as for UPMC employees whose work is funded by grants to Pitt. Right now, they often have computer access only to UPMC networks.
Adam Hobaugh, Pitt IT's deputy chief information officer, told the Senate Computing and Information Technology Committee on Sept. 30 that the University is testing Eduroam software, which allows users to access Pitt IT resources through a virtual private network (VPN) on their mobile devices. The pilot program in UPMC Presbyterian hospital is being expanded to other Oakland buildings over the next two weeks.
Hobaugh said Pitt IT has been working with UPMC on four other issues:
Changing both institutions’ IBM software licensing to allow access to Pitt-licensed software in UPMC buildings.
Allowing the desktop versions of Zoom and Panopto, which have more sophisticated features than their mobile versions, to run from Pitt’s network in UPMC spaces.
Allowing UPMC and Pitt users of Microsoft Suite, which includes Office and Teams, to have “feature-parity across the whole suite,” Hobaugh said, including features disabled in the UPMC versions, such as whiteboarding in Teams.
Creating better sign-in capabilities, so that those using UPMC email will not have to open up a separate browser in order to use their Pitt email simultaneously on the same device.
“This has been a matter that has been a thorn in a lot of people’s sides across a number of years,” noted committee chairman Michael Spring, retired School of Computing and Information faculty member, “and the progress that has been made on this has been fantastic.”
Spanning the digital divide
Mark Henderson, chief information officer, said the University is working with the local nonprofit Meta Mesh Wireless Communities on a plan to potentially provide IT connectivity to underserved students, faculty, staff and the broader community, who “are at a distinct disadvantage” for access to educational and other computer resources.
The plan may place antennas on the roof of the Cathedral of Learning — without marring its esthetic, he was careful to note — to broadcast and return signals to smaller antennas in three target communities of New Kensington, Homewood and Coraopolis, “with the intent to move very quickly to the Hill District” and other places, he added. Pitt would contribute the infrastructure to the project, including receivers affixed to apartment buildings and homes in these communities, “to better address the digital divide issues,” Henderson said.
“We see this as an opportunity to perhaps provide similar types of coverage to our rural campuses” and their surrounding communities, he added. “In some remote areas it’s hard to get a cellphone signal, let alone a broadband signal.”
Henderson reported that Pitt IT is also drafting a comprehensive strategy for supporting faculty with research computation and data storage needs.
He also noted that the merger last year of Computing Services and Systems Development and Financial Information Systems into Pitt IT had thus far saved the University $1.2 million. Using the estimate by consultant Deloitte in 2019 that Pitt spends $132 million per year on IT, “we believe we can drive out 7 percent of that $132 million so it can be focused on supporting other University priorities,” including IT improvements, he said.
Spring said the committee would join Pitt IT in re-examining the Deloitte study and recommending future directions for the office, as well as examining two policies Henderson is now in process of formulating — on the use of Pitt’s network and on access and use of computers at Pitt.
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-758-4859.
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