“We’re an infrastructure black hole” – the technical challenges of maintaining a school’s data resiliency

The datafication of schooling relies on schools having robust, functioning computer and data infrastructures. In our investigations of the work involved in school data, we are increasingly drawn to schools’ IT staff, technicians and other people now employed to deal with the ‘back-end’ of school data.

These staff are facing the challenge of school data in very immediate and material ways. For example, the primary concerns of technical staff in Northland College involve having to regularly second-guess the materiality of schools’ data flows on a city-wide level – an obvious source of uncertainty and stress. Indeed, given its outer-suburbs location, Northland suffers from a paucity of local data infrastructure – a continual source of anxiety for the IT team that virtually everyone else in the school will be blissfully unaware of (… until a major problem occurs):

Because we’re in a suburban area, we’re an infrastructure black hole. So every new piece of infrastructure that comes in has to be built from scratch. So, we can’t connect [internet] to Telstra or to Optus because the cable infrastructure isn’t there. It’s all consumer-grade junk. It’s all on the old Foxtel cable. Which is a killer for us, because we can’t get a fat internet pipe through …

… [Another] main issue on-site in terms of making technology work is electricity. We lose power every nine months pretty much on the dot. Because we don’t have any alternate way to get power. There’s not a second grid we can plug into. It just doesn’t run. So it’ll just cut out for nine hours …

… our ‘pathway to [data] resilience’ is something that I’m constantly reviewing.

[Northland College IT Manager]