Education department pulls down ICT Web site

Technology advisors and computer coordinators from NSW schools were stunned last Friday when a key technology advice Web site was withdrawn without notice.The Technology Resources Information Files Faq Instructions Downloads (TRIFFID) Web site, developed and maintained by technology advisors from NSW schools, contains invaluable help details for the computer coordinators supporting ICT matters in the 40 NSW districts.

Technology advisors and computer coordinators from NSW schools were stunned last Friday when a key technology advice Web site was withdrawn without notice.

The Technology Resources Information Files Faq Instructions Downloads (TRIFFID) Web site, developed and maintained by technology advisors from NSW schools, contains invaluable help details for the computer coordinators supporting ICT matters in the 40 NSW districts. With each school using individual operating systems, the Web site, which integrates information commonly asked by computer coordinators, has been very helpful in solving schools' ICT problems.

The Department of Education and Training (DET) supported the Web site when it started last month by providing a spare server.

After the Web site was withdrawn last Friday by a senior officer of the Information Technology Directorate, the president of Australian Teachers of Media, Greg Alchin, wrote to DET regarding the Web site's disappearance.

"Here is the department saying we want to improve the ICT skills of the NSW schools and then suddenly withdraws the Web site that has become extremely valuable to computer coordinators in each school, without no warning, no memo, and no reason," Alchin said.

According to Alchin, the centralised help desk available now cannot handle the large volume of inquiries from schools in each of the 40 districts. "There are 700 computer coordinators in NSW. With the volume of inquiries, if something happens to the system in a school, it can end up being down for days because it takes a long time for the help desk to get back to you. With the TRIFFID Web site, we can self-diagnose and solve the problem sooner."

Sven Wright, spokesperson for DET, says they are currently doing an overall review of all the technology support services that DET provides. He assures that the first stage of the new TRIFFID Web site will be up again within this week.

Users can expect to find information about Novell and Microsoft services, general operation of PC and Macs, some networking advice and some self-help software for virus problems.

Wright says no notice was given to the schools because they were not expecting to withdraw the Web site for too long.

DET explained that the TRIFFID Web site presented itself as a DET corporate Web site, using the DET logo with the corporate Web site look and feel. Because of this, they deemed it was important that the DET corporate procedures for establishing a Web site were also followed. Another concern DET raised was that since part of the site was accessible by non-DET users, it was important that the site did not lead users to believe that DET endorsed the site content.

The TRIFFID Website will be reinstated this week with changes so it does not give the appearance of a DET corporate site and is not accessible by non-DET users. DET says the new Web site should fulfill a similar role to the old TRIFFID Web site.

Although the Web site will soon be reinstated, Alchin believes the matter could have been handled better by the DET. "The lack of transparent communication and consultation dramatically impacts the day to day delivery of educational services. Part of this could be easily and cheaply addressed by setting up departmental e-mail addresses for the NSWDET computer coordinators as soon as possible," Alchin says.