The Role of USPNet in Capacity Development in the South Pacific Region

Ronald Duncan and James McMaster

The University of the South Pacific (USP), a regional university, has changed its delivery systems for teaching and learning over the years to serve the growing needs for tertiary education of students living on the thousands of small and remote islands in the Pacific Ocean. This case study examines how the university has relied on its communications technology system (USPNet) to enhance its role as a regional capacity development centre for students, public and private institutions, and civil society in the region. The case offers interesting insights on the opportunities and challenges associated with relying on regional institutions to address capacity issues while also drawing attention to some of the capacities which are particularly important to the effective functioning of networks.

A number of lessons have emerged from USP’s experience in implementing a long-term regional capacity development initiative. These lessons, concern in particular the challenges and opportunities in building up and managing networked capacity across a large multi-campus regional university owned by the governments of 12 Pacific island nations.

  • Strong Leadership: The first lesson is the need for strong and consistent leadership, particularly in the hub organization.
  • Participatory Approach: The second lesson is the value of a highly participatory approach to the design and implementation of such initiatives and putting in place systems to gain regular feedback on performance from clients.
  • Retention of Key Staff: The third lesson is the critical importance of retaining highly qualified individual capacity in key positions.
  • Accessible Project Planning System: A fourth lesson relates to the value of adopting an accessible planning system that provides information to all stakeholders across the regional network on planned upgrades and the annual work program.
  • Promoting the Vision: The fifth lesson is the importance and the challenge of promoting a shared vision throughout a regional network.
  • Clearly Defined Roles: The sixth lesson is the critical importance of ensuring clarity in roles and responsibilities of persons responsible for implementing activities across a regional network.
Year of publication: 
ADB Capacity Development in the Pacific
Themes and sectors: 
Education and training
Themes and sectors: 
Information and communications technology
Case story length: 
48 pages

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