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Updated: 2017.11.20 21:48
 
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KAIST Rallies Against Slow Internet
[ Issue 157 Page 5 ] Thursday, October 19, 2017, 12:49:41 Chonghyuk Song Senior Staff Reporter chonghyuksong@gmail.com

It’s been six months since the crowdsourced platform “Rally” (also translated from Korean as “Ah, please! Internet”) has launched its beta program. The application was released as an online platform for students to voice their complaints related to the lagging internet speeds around campus, a problem that has persisted for the past few years without having been fully addressed.

Students have previously vented their frustrations with the school’s Wi-Fi on social media and school portal sites such as Bamboo Forest and Ara. However, these posts have largely gone unnoticed by the Information and Communications Team (ICT), who is the so-called “decision-maker” and holds the key to improving the campus network.

That is where “Rally” comes into the equation. A team led by Professor Juho Kim from the School of Computing, who runs the KAIST Interaction Lab (KIXLAB), had been working on the website since September last year to provide a more centralized means of communication between the student body and the ICT.

Not only does the website act as one common platform where students can lodge a claim, but it also acts as an official channel — one that the ICT recognizes. One common platform means that they have more information to work with to diagnose the problem without having to comb through numerous unrelated posts on general purpose platforms such as Facebook, Bamboo Forest, and Ara.

Furthermore, the quality of information, or data, collected on this website makes these so-called “claims” much more than mere signatures on a petition to improve the campus internet. The website provides a more standardized form of complaint, which consists of contextual data provided by the user and measurement data collected by the website itself.

The website uses GPS to automatically locate from which building the user is making the complaint, measures download and upload speeds, and records the ping. The user complements this data by providing context, hence the term contextual data: how fast the internet speeds feel to the user, how consistent the internet speeds seem to be, and what application the user is using on his or her device. Both forms of information provide the ICT better tools to strategically tackle the problem. This is why the developers of the website also refer to it as a data-driven petition system.

Once the website has accumulated a certain number of complaints from a certain building in campus, the relevant information is organized into a report to be sent to the ICT. After the beta release of “Rally”, the ICT reviewed a total of 206 reports that were filed between the launch and April 17.

On June 2, it gave an official response that included a detailed explanation of the school’s network structure and the current state of network traffic, along with plans to remedy the problem. Most notably, they acknowledged the seriously falling standards of network connections in Heemang and Dasom Halls (W4), and revealed that there were ongoing budget negotiations with the school in order to address the issues in these dormitories as soon as possible.

So far, the response from the student body has been very positive. In a series of post-study interviews conducted by KIXLAB, students revealed that they found the website to be very accessible. Before “Rally” was launched, people were largely unaware of other channels through which they could voice their opinions regarding the internet — the supervisor, and the ICT itself. On the other hand, the new website, which was heavily advertised on Facebook with the help of the incumbent Undergraduate Student Council, PUUM, quickly gained traction. By June, the number of claims made on the website had grown to over 350.

On the other hand, KIXLAB received some mixed reviews from the ICT itself. They praised the effort on KIXLAB’s part to establish communication between themselves and the students. However, they were also slightly disappointed as it was still difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the problem behind a certain complaint, despite being given the wide range of data signatures collected by the website. The ICT would have liked to address each problem one-on-one with the issuer of the complaint. As of now, the standardized complaint does not provide enough information, according to the ICT.

Yet to this day, “Rally” remains the school’s only accessible platform dedicated to hosting and compiling internet-related complaints.

   
Professor Juho Kim, leader of KIXLAB
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