PLM inks strong partnership with wireless leader SMART

01 September 2009

“A fusion of a leader in local public higher education and a telecom giant” best characterized the latest forging of partnership between PLM and SMART. A wide range of benefits for PLM, at no cost to the government, had been offered by SMART to enable PLM in bringing its ICT-based communication enhancement programs to a higher level.

SMART initially offered its products to PLM during a general assembly of major stakeholders organized by then OIC-EVP Atty. Patrick L. Mariano on 06 July 2009 at the Bukod Tanging Bulwagan. Attended by a large audience of student leaders from various organizations led by the Supreme Student Council, as well as the heads of academic and administrative offices, President Tamano addressed everyone that his stewardship seeks to bring in technological innovations to enhance PLM’s stature as a topnotch university. He said that if there would be a multi-stakeholder clamor for the services being offered by the telecom leader SMART, then the student community (through the student leaders) and the academic and non-academic personnel (through the university officials) must take the ownership of this communication innovation to ensure the success of such advancement in making a difference in the operations of PLM. The services were unanimously accepted by the audience after a thorough discussion.

Twin Services
The package of services offered on 06 July includes the PLM InfoBoard with customized PLM subscriber’s identity module (SIM).

PLM InfoBoard
The PLM InfoBoard provides a variety of communication tools. It is a multi-module information medium and gateway for registered PLM mobile users to enable interactive & timely communication, where SMS facilities (like relevant info about PLM) can be accessed by anyone, anytime and anywhere. It also utilizes a set of PLM-personalized access codes, as well as a mask name for 717-756 (PLM). The masking of name enables the subscribers to receive messages from a personalized name (PLM) instead of a number (717-756).

Most useful among the InfoBoard tools is the “Text Cast” which empowers PLM to send off a SMS to all enrolled SMART SIMs like important or emergency announcements to scholars, alumni, faculty and staff, i.e., suspension of classes during inclement weathers, event highlights, and many others.

Many other features are available, including a mobile feedback which empowers the community by providing the content subscribers a feedback mechanism. This feature also protects the sender's identity, though his number appears as the source of such feedback for reference purposes. The PLM InfoBoard content provider would refer the feedbacks to the concerned unit or person either for consideration (of suggestions) or resolution (of concerns/complaints), as the case may be.

The PLM InfoBoard can also serve as a gateway for many other mobile services that enables PLM to fully mature technologically and leave its "archaic cocoon" of manual or old-system-based operations. Advance services include the enrolment in a snap at the convenience of your own time and at the comfort of your own home or whereever in the country you may be. That means whenever & whereever, and you are just one SMS away from completing your transaction. Once the PLM-SIS enrolment system is interfaced with the PLM InfoBoard gateway of SMART, there's no need to fall in line from morning to evening and come back the day after. That's innovation at its best!

Scholars and their parents may also eventually download their grades in an instant. In cooperation with the PLM-MPCCI, cooperative members may be able to pull data about their coop accounts, i.e., loan balances, monthly amortizations and other user-specific information. The same goes with the members of the PLM Administrative Employees Assocation, PLM Employees Association, PLM Alumni Association, and many other community partners.

Customized PLM SIM
The customized PLM SIM is designed as another community medium that supports the branding of PLM as an educational pioneer and leader. It showcases a SIM card with the unique design specific to PLM. Once the SIM module is detached from the SIM card, its usefulness is not lost. The card can be personalized with the subscriber’s name on it. Personalization was the brainchild of President Tamano and was made exclusive to, if not first for, PLM as this package has not been done with other universities. So instead of being thrown away as usually done, the SIM card serves as a scholar’s (or professor’s/employee’s) branded ID which the community can truly be proud of.

The PLM SIM also serves as a discount card in SMART-accredited establishments all over the metropolis and the whole country. PLM can also accredit establishments near its vicinity as an additional benefit for the PLM community. Just present the PLM SIM so you can enjoy the benefits.

Since it is a community-based service, the PLM SIM comes with a special usage rate discounts when a call is made from one PLM SIM to another. Instead of the regular P7.50 per minute call charge, PLM SIM subscribers are charged with only P3.00. That’s a whopping 60% discount! What's more? You can likewise enjoy promos given to regular SIMs, like subscription to unlimited calls and texts. Further, one can access the customized PLM-specific menu to download information for a discounted fee of P1.00 per transaction instead of the regular rate of P2.50.

Change Management Program
A mobile user would always find it difficult to replace his/her old SIM card or cell number. But with all these freebies and other quantitative and qualitative benefits that can be derived from the personalized PLM SIM card, it is easier to jump into the new PLM SIM. To facilitate the use of the new PLM SIM, subscribers are given a one-time P15.00 load, courtesy of PLM, plus P1.00 load & 35 free SMSs to all networks, courtesy of SMART. The P15.00 top-up load is a direction taken by the University Management in response to the clamor of the PLM community, which concerns were appreciated, recognized and therewith supported by the University President.

To encourage more the subscribers into sticking with the use of the PLM SIM, lots of raffle items, including several cellphones, were provided by SMART where the winner will be notified through his/her winning new PLM mobile number. The

Value-added services and items
To support the pet project of President Tamano in bringing Internet to the doorsteps of PLM, the ITC Director negotiated for two (2) desktop computers to be stationed at the University Library’s internet station. Dubbed as “PLM-SMART Friendship Terminals,” it adds up to the current collection of computers consigned exclusively for the research pursuits of the scholars, professors and staff.

New and better offers (Another twin projects)
During the 06 July assembly, the PLM community clamored for a signal boosting as PLM is a signal deadspot, similar to that of SUN Cellular that was earlier spearheaded by the ITC. PLM was a deadspot for all major telecoms, except at higher floors of a few buildings. On 20 July, in a meeting with PLM officials presided by President Tamano, SMART offered a special package where a fully-supported cellsite will be installed at PLM so that 2G and 3G signals would be boosted at PLM premises. Corollary to this package is its twin offer of a SWEEP partnership (SMART Wireless Engineering Education Program). The College of Engineering and Technology (CET) will immensely benefit from the many features of this partnership.

In his 22 July 2009 memorandum and based on the executive summary of his study, Engr. Garry Erwin N. de Gracia, ITC Director, recommended to President Tamano the adoption of the FREE services of SMART for the benefit of the PLM community. Approved on the next day, the ITC immediately managed the implementation of this new communication enhancement program. The ITC also implemented a change management program like ensuring a multi-stakeholder partnership with various organizations in PLM, including the Supreme Student Council, the PLM Multi-purpose and Credit Cooperative, the PLM Employees Association, the PLM Administrative Employees Association, and the PLM Alumni Association. More partners are signing up.

Additional benefits for Scholars and Employees
During the 06 July assembly, the scholars have enunciated their concern on the charging of P1.00 as a fee for the convenience to be derived from the text blast. The scholars affirmed that they recognize the overriding need for the PLM InfoBoard and fully appreciate the benefits that it may bring to PLM. As scholars coming from the financially-strapped spectrum of the society, they said that a highly-discounted peso fee may yet affect their current budget or allowance, unlike students of other schools where they have much to defray for.

Though SMART has shared plausible research studies which revealed that Filipinos, especially students, have actually become "more than willing to spare for mobile loads over other basic needs," President Tamano however recognized the plight of the PLM scholars. As a caring management decision, he promptly directed the Vice President for Finance & Planning (VPFP) and her Finance Team to study the matter and to subsequently submit a recommendation that will be beneficial to the main clientele of PLM -- the very reason for existence of this public university -- the scholars. The VPFP eventually recommended to provide a top-up of a minimal amount but would be extremely helpful and beneficial to this government institution's community -- a P15.00 load for everyone. To ensure that said value is put into great and optimal use, SMART even offered to extend the validity of said amount to 15 days instead of the regular 1 day. That's a big premium that was cornered by this public institution with sure exclusivity up to this moment!

Widely received for the benefits that the whole package brings, it was made to become more pro-poor so as to attune it to the situation or condition of PLM scholars. In keeping with the intents of President Tamano to aid or support the scholars to the hilt, SMART further waived the text blast fee and offered for FREE said service until November 2009. SMART enthused that it may extend said free service for a longer time if its corporate evaluation so reveals.

By early August, the PLM InfoBoard was already working. By end of the same month, the SMART signal was already at its peak, a.k.a. full bar, where it used to be a mere deadspot. The SWEEP Lab was already constructed and the wireless equipment subsequently delivered. PLM SIMs were already prepared for distribution. The PLM InfoBoard was ready to accept registration.

Indeed, the swift and focused management of the implementation of the projects was blazing, as admitted by SMART, and the fastest so far in its experience of dealing with universities. The blessings of wireless innovation were to shower over PLM by the month of September.