1 December 2023

AUN-ICT Thought Leaders Weighed In on ICT Quality and Management in ASEAN Universities

Noppanun Sookping
AUN Programme Officer;

Interviews by Alistair Yap Yiow Zhoong, AUN Intern

The endeavour to foster Information and Communications Technology (ICT) capabilities in ASEAN universities is no small task. In the case of AUN-ICT, co-hosted by Prince of Songkla University (PSU), the Institute of Software Engineering and Quality Management (ISEM) and ASEAN University Network (AUN) Secretariat, the development of this regional initiative requires much input and contribution from higher education experts, veterans and practitioners of digital technology and ICT management for universities. Maintaining the rhythm of dialogue and exchange of good practices is vital to the AUN-ICT goal of establishing a new set of comprehensive qualification standards on ICT quality and management tailored specifically for implementation in the context of higher education.

During the Workshop on the Quality Standardization of University's ICT System and Management (AUN-ICT) on 7-8 November 2023 in Bangkok, the AUN Secretariat team had the opportunity to engage in brief conversation with several of the workshop speakers and group leaders – all whom were top-tier practitioners of data and ICT management from premier AUN Member Universities. In this regard, we would like to share some of the insights and perspectives of this collective group of experts on different prospects of AUN-ICT.

AUN-ICT potential to the fostering of digital and technological optimisation in ASEAN higher education

The general impressions borne as a result of this second iteration of the AUN-ICT workshop was that this initiative serves as a critical stepping stone to the regional efforts to promote ICT quality and management standardisation among ASEAN universities. The workshop served as a great opportunity to consolidate networking, contribution and collaboration between ICT practitioners from premier universities across the ASEAN region.

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Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti, Executive Director of the AUN Secretariat

According to Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti, Executive Director of the AUN Secretariat, the AUN-ICT initiative represents the spearheading mindset of AUN in the “how” not the “what” when it comes to solving one of the region’s biggest capacity challenges in higher education. In this regard, AUN-ICT works not only as a guideline for each university in ASEAN to maximise their data, IT and ICT capacities, but also serves as a roadmap towards achieving the goal of digitalisation as well as technological optimisation of ASEAN Higher Education.

“Similar to other frameworks and practices under AUN, such as the quality assurance systems or the healthy quality framework under AUN-HPN. There are many AUN comprehensive frameworks in other areas under AUN. In the case of AUN-ICT, we show the region how each university makes a full use of technological advances in the current world to the benefits of educational management as a whole -- not only in teaching, but also in research, administrative support or in connection or engagement with stakeholders outside the university.”

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Asst. Prof. Johannes M. Camasura, Director for Automation, Innovation and Computing at Cebu Technological University

Such an impression is coherent with that of Asst. Prof. Johannes M. Camasura, Director for Automation, Innovation and Computing at Cebu Technological University, the Philippines, and one of the four group leaders who helped lead the discussion with other participants and the staff of PSU during the workshop’s breakout sessions. Regarding his impression on the progress and potential of AUN-ICT so far, Asst. Prof. Johannes emphasised on his university’s interest in this “one-of-a-kind standard that really focuses on the quality ICT systems that are working on the universities”. Considering that many of the IT frameworks available currently were designed for business and industries, Asst. Prof. Johannes noted that AUN-ICT, while remaining an incubating ICT standard initiative for universities, showed great potential as the first counterpart which establishes the standards for ICT systems for the university as a whole.

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Mr. Ang Leong Boon, Head of IT Security at the National University of Singapore

Similarly, Mr. Ang Leong Boon, Head of IT Security at National University of Singapore and one of the workshop group leaders, noted AUN-ICT's positioning as a unified ICT standard designed specifically for the ASEAN higher education sector:

“In Singapore, we lack dedicated frameworks of this nature for universities. Nevertheless, we've successfully adopted industry frameworks over the years. This strategic adaptation has not been without its challenges, as not every aspect is directly applicable to a university setting. Prior to my arrival here, I anticipated encountering a simple modified industry framework, but the workshop has revealed that it is comprehensive and integrated across five distinct domains.”

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Ms. Tan Shui-Min, Chief Information Technology Officer at National University of Singapore

Ms. Tan Shui-Min, Chief Information Technology Officer at National University of Singapore and one of the panelists in the workshop’s interactive discussion session, shared with the AUN Secretariat team that the initiative may be of value to universities across the region who have yet to adopt any quality standards in ICT management. For universities like NUS which are already certified in international quality management standards, they can share their experiences in the adoption journey. 

“Other universities in the ASEAN countries who have not embarked on this journey will definitely find such a standard useful. For universities with established ICT competencies, we will be able to contribute by sharing experience with universities who wish to adopt similar frameworks. We could share with them some of the lessons gleaned along the way - what we've encountered and what it takes to maintain and keep the practice going for the university.”

The Challenge of AUN-ICT Standard Implementation and Sustainability

Despite the promising potential which AUN-ICT possesses, the initiative’s journey towards full implementation of new ICT standards and qualification framework for universities in ASEAN is still a long way from the finish line. During the event, some of the looming challenges to the initiative’s mission include the accessibility of the initiative to be implemented in universities with different levels of data and ICT competencies, and how AUN-ICT can succeed in convincing top management in the region’s higher education institutions.


Dr. Eng. Ady Wahyudi Paundu, S.T., M.T., Director for the Directorate of Information System and Digital Transformation, Universitas Hasanuddin

This concern can be a matter of different perspectives, according to Dr. Eng. Ady Wahyudi Paundu, S.T., M.T., Director for the Directorate of Information System and Digital Transformation, Universitas Hasanuddin, Indonesia. Dr. Ady pointed out that, in present days, some universities still regard data, digital technology and ICT as a set of operational tools without recognizing the integrative benefits they present in optimising the processes involved in their higher learning mission. “The challenge for IT in ASEAN Universities is the way we still see IT only as an Operational Tool, not as an Operational "Way of Life". Therefore, having standards to be implemented might be seen as a burden by most.”


Co, Brian Ong, Assistant Director, Information Technology Services Office at De La Salle University

The latter prospect was also raised by Co, Brian Ong, Assistant Director, Information Technology Services Office of De La Salle University, the Philippines, who emphasised during the panel discussion and the conversation with the AUN Secretariat team the challenge of convincing university top-management to recognise the importance of investing in data and ICT Management. “How do we ensure that this initiative is given priority by top management? Because obviously, in the university, you have a lot of competing projects, a lot of competing departments vying for attention. So why would ICT be given this priority?”

Another prospect of the challenge on implementation for AUN-ICT is the post-certification maintenance. This concerns the sustainability of AUN-ICT standards beyond the state of implementation and qualification. According to Co. Brian, the design of AUN-ICT ensures that universities’ success in authentic improvement in their ICT quality and management standards should surpass the certification, continuing into long-term maintenance of standards and improvement.

This comment goes hand-in-hand with the perspective shared by Ms. Fivien Nur Savitri, S.T., M.T., Chief Information Officer at Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia, one of the workshop panellists. She emphasised on the prospect of assuring that universities will continue to strive for better ICT capabilities beyond certification provided by AUN-ICT.

“The most challenging aspect is how our university can ensure ongoing compliance with standards after obtaining certification. Who will be responsible for maintenance and compliance oversight? How will our university assess and manage cybersecurity and data protection-related risks? There should be appropriate business continuity plans in place. The university must ensure the ongoing maintenance of the certification once obtained, which includes continuous monitoring and improvement processes.”

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Ms. Fivien Nur Savitri, S.T., M.T., Chief Information Officer at Institut Teknologi Bandung

First of all, universities all have different internal procedures, practices and procedures in order to qualify for certification. They also have limited resources to accommodate evaluation and implementation in the ICT prospect of their overall university mission. This logistical aspect paints the first dimension of challenges for AUN-ICT standards long-term maintenance. Another related point mentioned by Dr. Fivien was the relevancy of the AUN-ICT standards. In tandem with the ever shifting landscape of data security and technological advancement. As new disruptions and concerns emerge, these standards for universities must ensure the ongoing maintenance of ICT standards while catering to universities' latest needs and demands.

Navigating the intricate landscape of AUN-ICT presents not only design and implementation hurdles but, as articulated by Mr. Ang, a more profound challenge looms — the widespread scarcity of IT professionals. This predicament is pervasive, transcending sectors, and even tech-savvy nations like Singapore are not immune. The deficiency in IT personnel, coupled with the struggle to entice fresh talent into this domain, emerges as a formidable impediment hindering the collective drive toward regional ICT standardisation.

“There is a pronounced shortage of ICT professionals across the industry. Drawing these talents into the education sector poses an even greater challenge due to more enticing opportunities elsewhere in the dynamic ICT landscape. This inherent obstacle becomes critical because without the right people, implementing these initiatives is nearly impossible; we can't solely rely on machines. While Gen AI is present, its level of intelligence is not yet optimal. The ultimate challenge, therefore, lies in human resources. It's a common struggle faced by all, even in tech-driven Singapore. Overcoming this challenge requires a daily, concerted effort to attract and retain the right individuals.”

Reflections on the Future of AUN-ICT

Regarding the prospects of AUN-ICT’s future direction, different panellists and group leaders of the workshop provided some valuable thoughts and suggestions.

For Dr. Choltis, he would like to see the unfolding of AUN-ICT capacity building activities with the aim to establish a group of AUN-ICT practitioners by bringing together a group of people working in this area in ASEAN higher education to learn the good practices and standards of AUN-ICT from the region’s best universities.

Asst. Prof. Johannes emphasised on his excitement to be a part of this project leaning towards a better future of ICT capabilities in ASEAN higher education. In future activities of AUN-ICT, he was looking forward to sessions which delve into the more technical aspects of the initiative, as well as those focusing on digital security as well as implementation for universities under different contexts and ICT competency levels.

Ms. Tan highlighted unified digital data exchange as a potential area for AUN-ICT to explore in the near future. As one of the recommendations arising from the workshop was for a common ICT language between universities to be established, having a central and unified data metrics in place can address this matter as it could help the initiative optimise the overarching goal of regional standardisation. According to Ms. Tan, such an ambition could be a matter beyond this initiative, and might constitute as a separate project for AUN Member Universities to work on altogether.

Similarly, Mr. Ang voiced his support for the initiative to explore integrative data exchange between participating universities, underscoring exchange of student data. Having a common student data model in place would greatly facilitate data exchange as well as analysis for AUN-ICT operation. On the other hand, as frameworks are commonly not dynamic, Mr. Ang believed collaboration is vital to the success of implementing this initiative at a regional level. In this connection, Mr. Ang would also like to see deepened collaboration, dialogue and sharing of knowledge and application of the resulting ICT standard model between the collective of universities involved in future AUN-ICT activities.

Referring to his concern over the readiness of the initiatives, Co. Brian recommended future AUN-ICT workshops to explore different dimensions to ensure universities’ success and sustainability of AUN-ICT excellence in post-implementation of AUN-ICT. This aspect is vital in increasing the chance of convincing and gathering people who will review, adopt and implement this new standard.

Sharing the same focus, Ms. Fivien is interested in exploring the aspects of Project Governance, specifically with the involvement of third-parties and its connection to security and the protection of personal data. As AUN-ICT strives for becoming a strong network of ICT collaboration in ASEAN higher education, she would also like to see more universities attending future AUN-ICT workshop as well as activities

Lastly, according to Dr. Ady, the current version of AUN-ICT standard model is much more mature and detailed from how it was in the previous iteration of the initiative’s workshop. In this regard, Mr. Ady recommended that the initiative to further develop Information Security Management (SM) as the organisation of process descriptions and sub-practices for this standard Category remains cluttered and could seem intimidating to external partners and users of the AUN-ICT model. In addition, the AUN-ICT team might need to start exploring its communication front and strategy for the initiative (e.g. AUN-ICT main website) to raise awareness and convince decision makers to endorse the adoption and implementation of the initiative in their universities.

There is a long road ahead before AUN-ICT is ready to be implemented in the regional effort to improve IT and data capabilities of universities in ASEAN. In any case, with positive impressions, insightful feedback as well as generous and collaborative contributions from all the experts and universities in attendance of the latest AUN-ICT workshop, the future has never been brighter for the initiative as well as ICT standards in ASEAN higher education.

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