Efficient data communication in the cloud
What do eighth-year pupil Sophie and IT engineer Philippe Devaud have in common? They both enjoy the benefits of digitalisation every day. The canton of Fribourg is progressing successfully.
Text: Anton Neuenschwander, Images: Michael Meier,
Sophie and Louisa are concentrating at their desks in a classroom at the École de Bourg in Fribourg. They are working on computers to compensate for problems stemming from their reading and writing difficulties. On their laptops they open the Storebox folders containing the worksheets. One click and the French text is downloaded. They add the missing words and upload the text to the cloud memory again. Et voilà: Isabelle Parrat, their special education teacher, or the class teachers will correct it later.
Shaping the future: data communication with Storebox.
Since August 2017, sharing and exchanging data has been child’s play in Fribourg’s schools. This has been made possible by the Storebox cloud-based platform from Swisscom. In the canton of Fribourg, however, it is known as fribox, as Philippe Devaud emphasises. As the interim Head of the specialist unit Fritic, he is responsible for the integration of the ICT in Fribourg’s schools. “We have created our own identity by giving Storebox a unique design and a new name,” he explains. “Our users feel at home in the cloud.” Around 5,000 employees of the Fribourg Department of Education have been given their own fribox account so far. And it’s pretty special: The teachers, managers and administration employees have 50 GB of cloud memory at their disposal. And all of the pupils are to be given their own accounts in the future as well. Until then, teachers such as Isabelle Parrat will exchange tasks and worksheets via personalised folders in their own accounts with those pupils who use a PC that helps compensate for their learning difficulties.
“Storebox/fribox enables a new, very dynamic way of working.”
Philippe Devaud, interim Head of specialist unit Fritic.
“At present, the data communication is mainly between teachers, school principals and the Department of Education,” says Philippe Devaud. One especially helpful aspect for him is the flexibility of Storebox – sorry, fribox. “It enables a new, very dynamic way of working. Rather than being centralised and hierarchical, fribox has an open structure. An example: Ten teachers from all corners of the canton develop a new teaching tool. Within seconds they create a shared fribox project folder in which they share their contributions. Every change to the files is completely transparent, everything is always up to date, and everyone involved has access from anywhere on any terminal.”
For the very first time, the canton of Fribourg has implemented a cloud-based solution and handed over the responsibility for operating it to an external partner. This decision was also influenced by strategic considerations. Christian Rieder, Head of the Technology section at the Department for IT and Telecommunications (ITA) says: “The canton of Fribourg wants to play a leading role in the digitalisation field in order to create optimum framework conditions for both companies and private persons. This means a lot of work for our department as the requirements multiply, and it is essential that we concentrate on our core activity. Building our own solution for simple data communication would have tied up too many resources. With Storebox, Swisscom fulfils all of our specifications – in particular having secure data storage in Switzerland.” Not all parties were enthusiastic, Rieder explains: “For a long time, ‘cloud’ was a forbidden word in the canton. Swerving this obstacle has proven to be the right move. fribox is extremely stable and is widely used.” Also, all users are finally working solely on a single – and secure – platform. Before this, they were using USB sticks, Dropbox, One Drive, Google Drive & Co: an ideal biotope for security loopholes and incompatibility.
Jump-starting the digitalisation: Patrick Ostertag (ITA), Philippe Devaud (Fritic) and Christian Rieder (ITA).
Around five months after the rollout of fribox, 80 per cent of teachers and employees are benefiting from their new cloud memory – half of them at least once every day. For Philippe Devaud, this success is no coincidence: “So far, 800 teachers have visited our courses. Also, we’re often on site explaining fribox and supporting the users. Good communication is essential for success, because ultimately this involves changing people’s behaviour. This isn’t always a very popular thing… However, our clients are almost always surprised at how easy it is to use fribox. We’re certain that we will achieve our goal: for all users to get the maximum benefit from fribox!”
“Swisscom fulfils all of our specifications – in particular having secure data storage in Switzerland.”
Christian Rieder, Head of the Technology section at the Department for IT and Telecommunications (ITA).
Sophie, what do you think of fribox? “It was a little difficult at first. But I’m used to it now, and working with it is no problem any more. Learning has become easier for me. I can get my PC to read texts to me, and if I make any writing mistakes it corrects them automatically. This makes life easier for me. Because the computer makes it easier for me to learn, my parents bought me a laptop to use at home.”
“Learning has become easier for me.”
Sophie, eighth-year pupil.
In its legislature report, the government of the canton of Fribourg set out its goal of playing a leading role in digitalisation. Ten years from now, it should be possible to use all of the canton’s services digitally. The fribox cloud platform is an important building block in the setup of the digitalised canton. The next step is the planned rollout to 500 employees and students at the teacher training college. This will be followed by figuring out the right memory solution for the 50,000 pupils and students, along with around 10,000 canton employees.
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