Volume 4, Issue 1

January - March 2002

This issue is co-sponsored by: Academy for Educational Development and USAID's Global Bureau, Human Capacity Development Center (G/HDC), under an Indefinite Quantities Contract (No. HNE-I-00-96-00018-00) to AED/LearnLink.
The contents of this Issue do not necessarily reflect the policies or the views of the co-sponsors or their affiliates

Thematic Focus: The Technologies for Education and Learning

5 Technologies for Education and Learning: More than Meets the Eye
Wadi D. Haddad, Editor Acquisition of the technologies themselves may be the easiest and cheapest in a series of elements that could ultimately make these technologies sustainable or beneficial. We call for an Institute or Commission to explore and encourage new technologies that are derived from educational needs, have a long lifetime, and are cost-effective.

7 Configuration of School Technology: Strategies and Options
Eric Rusten, Academy for Educational Development A primer on where and how computers should be distributed, connected and used in schools.

13 Solving the Connectivity Problem
Heather E. Hudson, Ph.D., University of San Francisco This article describes different connectivity options: terrestrial wireless, satellite technologies, wireline technologies, and other technologies.

16 TechKnowNews
America Online Launches Online Campus Learning Center ♦ IBM's Edvisor Wins Excellence in ELearning Award ♦ Launched in November 2001 ♦ Hong Kong Internet Centers: Free Access for Elderly and Women ♦ Thailand Offers Free IT Training to Its Unemployed

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18 VSATs and Rural Education: An Operational Reality at Last
Pedro Sáenz, Norma Garcia, and Laurence Wolff, Inter-American Development Bank At last, low-income, remote communities may end their isolation through satellite-based solutions that may be cost-effective and provide a reliable flow of education materials, teacher training, and communications.

21 Uganda: Wireless School Internet Connectivity
Anthony Bloome, Regional Coordinator, World Links Program Anglophone Africa This article describes a VSAT system that is piloting new concepts in technology and pedagogy to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) in education in developing countries.

26 VITA-Connect: A Unique, Low-cost Data Communications System
George Scharffenberger, President, Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA) VITA-Connect is the lowest-cost remote area connectivity option where landline or cellular service is not available. Its capacity to receive and deliver text files and messages and to access web pages makes it ideal for enhancing the effectiveness of remote education and training.

30 Digital Satellite Radio for International Development
Rose F. Tchwenko, Manager, WorldSpace Foundation A geo-stationary satellite broadcasts to portable digital receivers equipped with satellite dishes the size of teacup saucers. When connected to a computer, they operate as a modem for web-based multimedia data.

32 ICTs in African Schools: A Multi-Media Approach for Enhancing Learning & Teaching
Shafika Issacs, SchoolNet Africa SchoolNet Africa is a network of organizations that promote education through the use of ICT in up to 23 African countries, in partnership with a range of global, regional and local organizations.

35 Designed for the Dumpster, Outdated Computers Bring Hope & Progress to
Disadvantaged Communities
John Thomas, Executive Director, The CURE Network, Inc. How to start your own computer recycling program.

38 Pedagogical Uses of Web-based Chat: A Pilot Activity in Brazil
Vera Suguri, Lourdes Matos, Noara Castro, Ieda Castro, Lurdes Marilene Jung, and Eric Rusten This article discusses the technologies that were used in the Chat Pilot Project, describes the different project activities, presents an analysis of results, and outlines lessons learned.

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44 The Global Service Trust Fund - Bridging the Digital Divide for Education & Health
Peter T. Knight The satellite industry that has the technology that can most easily reach the isolated populations should seek to do its share to address this problem with innovative answers.

49 ThinkCycle at M.I.T. : Sharing Distributed Design Knowledge for Open Collaborative Design
Nitin Sawhney, Saul Griffith, Yael Maguire, and Timothy Prestero, MIT ThinkCycle is a student-led initiative at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that seeks to raise awareness, develop design pedagogy and collaborative tools to address critical design challenges by working closely with universities and organizations worldwide.

54 Getting a School On-line in a Developing Country: Common Mistakes, Technology
Options and Costs
Mike Trucano and Robert Hawkins, World Links This article provides a blueprint for school officials and planners to determine the connectivity options and costs associated with getting (and keeping!) schools connected.

59 Educational System Computer Maintenance & Support: They Cost More Than You Think!
Kurt D. Moses, Vice President, Academy for Educational Development Annual Support and Maintenance costs for a healthy education computer system can range from 30% to 50% of the initial investment in computer hardware and software. This article provides a detailed breakdown.

63 The Costs of Computers in Classrooms: Data from Developing Countries
Marianne Bakia This article analyzes the costs of computer projects in Barbados, Turkey, Chile and Egypt under four main categories: hardware, software, connectivity, and support and maintenance.

69 Virus Protection and Security: What Is It and How Do We Respond?
Glenn Strachan, Academy for Educational Development Virus protection is as much a strategy or an attitude as it is a collection of information and related software.

72 Intelligent Tutoring Systems
Gregg B. Jackson, Associate Professor and Coordinator, Education Policy Program, George Washington University If intelligent tutors are so smart, why haven’t they taken over computer-assisted instruction?

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75 Open Source Software: No Free Lunch?
Eric Rusten and Kurt D. Moses, Academy for Educational Development Is Open Source Software a savior for cash-strapped schools and national governments?

80 WorthWhileWebs
Sonia Jurich This article offers a selection of web sites that deal with current innovations and future trends in information technology.

82 Technologies for Education: Looking into the Future
Sonia Jurich The future of technology is limitless due to human intelligence and innovation. Will the future of education continue to be limited due to human tradition and inertia?

85 RiverWalk - Brazil: Virtual Journey, Real Learning
Arati Singh, Eric Rusten, and Vera Suguri, Academy for Educational Development The RiverWalk Project is a collaborative activity in which students and teachers from six countries research and share information about rivers in their communities.

92 Digital Opportunity: USAID's New IT Initiative
Mary Fontaine, Academy for Educational Development USAID's new initiative, the DOT-COM Alliance, unites a large number of leading businesses and nonprofit organizations with significant experience and expertise in both IT and international development. Within the Alliance, three consortia each focus on a critical IT area: dot-GOV on policy and regulatory reform, dot-ORG on access and applications, and dot-EDU on education and learning systems.

Year 2002 Editorial Calendar
January - March 2002 April - June 2002 July - September 2002 October - December 2002 The Technologies for Education and Learning Virtual Systems of Education and Learning Technology for All - Issues of Equity Technologies for Teacher Training

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Wadi D. Haddad, Editor-in-Chief

Technologies for Education and Learning:
More than Meets the Eye
Schools and school systems across the world are under tremendous pressures to provide every classroom (if not every student) with computers and their accessories and with connectivity to the Internet. The pressures are coming from vendors, parents, businesses and technology advocates. Decision-makers are faced here with two myths: a macro and a micro. The macro myth is that the mere provision of computers in schools transforms the learning process and the mere connection to the Internet changes the world of the learner. Experience is showing over and over again that without a supporting educational change, computers hardly make a difference, and the Internet connects to nowhere. The micro myth is that the provision of technologies means acquiring computers and securing a connection to the Internet. Again, experience is proving, to our surprise, that the acquisition of the technologies themselves, no matter how hard and expensive, may be the easiest and cheapest element in a series of elements that could ultimately make these technologies sustainable or beneficial. I list eight of them: 1. An Answer to What Questions Selecting a computer involves decisions about technical specifications: speed, memory, monitor, etc. Selecting a computer for educational purposes involves decisions about educational goals, classroom methodologies, role of teacher, role of students, modalities of group work, role of textbook and external sources of knowledge, etc. Likewise, to connect or not connect a school to the Internet involves the same kind of decisions. 2. How Many, Where and How Where and how should computers be distributed, connected and used in schools? Different educational and institutional objectives are served by different configuration options: computers in classrooms, on wheels, in computer rooms or labs, or in libraries and teachers' rooms. Next, should computers be stand-alone or connected to form a network? If so, which network option is the most cost-effective: peer-topeer, client/server, or thin-client/server? Finally, should computers be connected by wiring the classroom or school, or should we go wireless? (See Rusten's article in this Issue.) 3. Connecting to Where Turning computers into powerful communication tools requires access to the Internet. However, getting a school online, particularly in a developing country, is not a straightforward task. First, schools need to figure out why they need to connect and to what. The next problem is communication infrastructure. In many areas, it is either nonexistent or expensive to use. Some forms of terrestrial wireless and satellite technologies are being introduced. These technologies do not require installation of wireline networks and are ideal for remote and isolated areas. (See Hudson's article in this Issue.) Finally, schools need to find out whether they have the resources, beyond the initial investment, to cover the operating costs of connectivity. 4. Maintenance Computers need highly skilled and costly maintenance for them to operate most of the time. Yet, in almost all cases, schools invest in buying and networking computers but do not sufficiently budget for their maintenance and technical support. It is estimated that support and maintenance annual costs for a healthy education computer system can range between 30% and 50% of the initial investment in computer hardware and software. This makes some donated computers quite expensive, especially when they are old, outdated and require high maintenance. (See articles by Moses and Bakia in this Issue.) 5. Operating Software There has been an ongoing debate whether it is better for school systems to use open source software or commercial software products. The question is not restricted to cost. There are issues of technical support, availability of educational applications, user-friendliness and transferability of computer skills beyond the school. (See article by Rusten and Moses in this Issue.) 6. Aging or Out-Dated Computers are not dying out of old age. Every so many years they need to be replaced because they cannot handle new operating or application software. This creates a major problem for schools and national governments with limited financial resources. In fact, school systems that are spacing the introduction of computers over a period of time longer than the life of a computer will never be able to cover all the schools - ever. Some organizations are trying to address the problem by providing software packages that can be run on any computer from a 286 to the newest Pentiums. (See

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7. Competent Users Computers will be underused if teachers are not well trained to handle them and to use them to enhance the teaching/learning process. This is probably the most neglected and costliest element in the whole process. 8. Supporting Infrastructure ICTs in school require supporting infrastructure of electricity, communication, wiring, and special facilities. Just as countries are experimenting with wireless connections, some, in Africa and Latin America, are using solar energy to run computers (and radios) in remote and isolated areas.

Published by Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Wadi D. Haddad, President, Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.

A Call for Action
The education sector has been using the technologies developed for the business and commercial sectors, and has been caught in the cycle of purchasing evermore-powerful computers and software. Technologies for education have therefore been more of applications than solutions. The question that many are asking is: Do we really need high-powered computers, continuous connectivity and most up-to-date operating software to use computers for education purposes? There is no empirical answer because there has been no systematic attempt to go to the drawing board and set design specifications for an "education machine" that meets the pedagogical and institutional needs of the education sector within the financial parameters that govern this public, non-profit sector. There have been some humble efforts in countries such as Brazil and India to address this issue and produce a less costly computer with a longer operational life. But what we need is a more concerted effort in this domain. We call on the International Development Community (UNESCO, World Bank, UNDP…), that is providing millions of dollars in support of ICTs in schools, to take this issue seriously and invest a small portion of these amounts in an Institute or Commission to explore and encourage new technologies that are derived from educational needs, have a long lifetime, and are cost-effective. Such body should include education planners, technologists, engineers, programmers and education consumers drawn from the public and private sectors. Unless we take such collective and intelligent action, technologies for education and learning will continue to be vendor driven, unattainable and unsustainable.

INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD: Jarl Bengtsson, Head, CERI, OEDC Claudio Castro, Pres., Advisory Bd., Faculdade Pitágoras Gajaraj Dhanarajan, President & CEO, The Commonwealth of Learning Dee Dickenson, CEO, New Horizons for Learning Alexandra Draxler, Director, Task force on Education for the Twenty-first Century (UNESCO) Pedro Paulo Poppovic, Secretary of Distance Education, Federal Ministry of Education, Brazil Nicholas Veliotes, President Emeritus, Association of American Publishers

ADVISORY EDITORIAL COMMITTEE: Joanne Capper, Sr. Education Specialist, World Bank Sam Carlson, Executive Director, WorldLinks Mary Fontaine, LearnLink, AED Kathleen Fulton, Independent Consultant Gregg Jackson, Assoc. Prof., George Washington Univ. Sonia Jurich, Consultant Frank Method, Consultant, Former Director, UNESCO Washington Kurt Moses, Vice President, AED Harry Patrinos, Sr. Education Economist, World Bank Laurence Wolff, Sr. Consultant, IDB



Wadi D. Haddad

This Issue is Co-Sponsored By: Academy for Educational Development (AED), and USAID's Global Bureau, Human Capacity Development Center (G/HDC), under an Indefinite Quantities Contract (No. HNE-I-00-96-00018-00) to AED/LearnLink.

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© Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.

Configuration of School Technology

Strategies and Options
Eric Rusten, Academy for Educational Development

The demand to integrate computers into education forces education planners, principals, teachers and technology specialists to make many decisions about the technical, training, financial, pedagogical and infrastructural requirements of school computerization programs. One of the more challenging clusters of questions that planners and educators must make center on the concerns of where and how computers should be distributed, connected and used in schools. There is no single best computer configuration.1 Rather, there are only optimum solutions for each school.


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Educational Context: Needs and Approaches
Each school or school system must evaluate its situation and educational needs and compare the costs and benefits of a variety of computer system configuration options. In carrying out an assessment, the following questions may need to be to be considered: ! What are the educational goals and learning objectives for using computers in schools? Different computer configurations have a direct relationship to how computers and the Internet can and will be used by teachers and students to enhance education. ! What is the target ratio of computers to students that the school or school system is aiming for? ! Will a school's computer system need to be used by members of the community during non-school hours? The high cost of investing in technology in public schools will often be partly justified by allowing the new computer facilities to be used by members of the school community. If this is a priority, then a lab or computerson-wheels configuration may be needed. ! What are the physical characteristics of the school building? This includes the types of building materials used in the walls, the availability and quality of electrical power, the size and shape of classrooms, the quality of natural or electrical lighting, the availability of telephone lines, and the types of furnishings? ! How secure are the school and the classrooms in which computers may be installed? Is the risk of theft high? Providing sufficient security to prevent theft of equip-


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ment, software and supplies is expensive and it is often only possible for one or two rooms in a school. What is the average number of students per classroom and a projection on how this ratio may change over time? Schools that have large numbers of students per classroom will likely have limited space for computers to be permanently installed. What strategies will be used to provide support, management and maintenance of the computer facilities? How much money is available to purchase and install the equipment, buy software, and train teachers? Is there a budget for on-going maintenance, supplies and technical support, and for replacing aging equipment and increasing the number of computers in the school? Technology budgets for initial installations of systems and on-going support will likely be a dominating factor when deciding which configuration is best for a school or school system. This is especially true for older schools that may need to have special electrical systems installed for computers, and for crowded schools with poor general security, which may need to install special doors and window grates to prevent theft. Do the teachers know how to use the computers and, more importantly, do they have the skills to integrate computer and Internet use into routine teaching and learning? Most investments in computers and Internet access in schools are done both to provide opportunities for students to learn about using computes and to enable the overall quality of teaching and learning to be improved. The physical technology by itself cannot achieve these goals. Only skilled teachers can. Integrating technology into education often requires teachers to change their approach to teaching and their interaction with students. The configuration of computer facilities in a school has important relationships to the training and professional development needs of teachers and affects teachers’ abilities to use technology to achieve the educational goals of the investment. Do students move from class to class throughout the day or do they spend most of their time in one room? Will the computer system be used by special needs students? Is physical access to computers by students in wheel chairs an important issue? Will rooms with computers need to be air-conditioned or

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protected from excessive dust in the air? ! Will the computers be connected by cable or wireless systems to form a network, and will this local area network (LAN) require a central computer or server to manage network activity? ! Will the computers be connected to the Internet? If yes, what type of connection (intermittent use of normal phone cables, dedicated phone or cable connections) will be possible? These questions are not equally important. So, the answers should be accordingly weighted. One of the most difficult challenges, though, is balancing educational objectives with hard financial realities. Ultimately, the goal of an assessment is to determine the optimum configuration for integrating computers into education at a specific school. There are many ways to categorize and describe the different computer system configuration options and strategies. In this article, we use three organizing themes: • • • Physical configuration options Networking technology options Internet access options

can accommodate computers in sufficient numbers. Providing only one or a few computers in all classrooms of a school will likely have little or no impact on learning since it will be difficult for teachers to make computer use an integral part of their teaching. Important considerations for classroom computer installations: • Teachers’ skills Computers in classroom conskills: figurations usually require teachers to have a high degree of technical skills along with the capacity to dynamically integrate the use of computers into their teaching. This combination of technical skills and pedagogical capacity is not common and without it investments in classroom computers can lead to negligible educational gains. • Space and student numbers Placing clusters numbers: of computers in a classroom to enable effective student use requires enough space for groups of two to thee students to sit comfortably in front of the computers. Space is also needed to give teachers enough room to move among the groups to orchestrate activities. Furthermore, incorporating computers into regular classrooms usually requires non-traditional student seating arrangements. Few schools and classrooms, especially in developing countries and poorer communities have sufficient space or the capacity to provide a low student to computer ratio to make classroom computer installations feasible. • Quality and availability of electricity electricity: Computers demand a quality electrical supply. Classrooms in older schools often do not have access to quality electricity or to electrical systems with the capacity to support 12 to 20 computers. Remodeling classrooms to meet the electrical needs of computers is usually very expensive, especially if it needs to be done for many classrooms. • Security Security: Classrooms in many schools are often used for many purposes throughout the day and week. Maintaining sufficient security to prevent theft of equipment, software and supplies while also enabling open access to the classrooms to a variety of users is usually not possible. Also, modifying the doors and windows in the classrooms to make them secure can significantly increase the cost of installing computers in a school. • Availability of maintenance and supsup services: port services Distributing computers throughout the classrooms of a school will make it more difficult and therefore more expensive to provide effective maintenance and support services. This is especially true in systems where teachers lack the skills and time to provide these services on their own. • Internet access Access to the Internet can multiaccess: ply the educational impact of computers many times. However, few schools have the capacity to provide

Physical Configuration Options
There are three basic ways that computers can be distributed in schools to meet educational goals. They can be provided to individual classrooms, installed in central computer labs and placed in libraries and teachers’ planning rooms. Each of these options, and their combinations, has associated benefits and costs that need to be carefully considered. Some educational technology specialists argue that proximity and easy access to computers are dominant factors in achieving high rates of use by students and teachers and thus positive educational benefits. Similarly, some people consider that installing computers in central computer rooms or labs is “old fashioned” and inhibits effective educational use. These are overly simplistic perspectives since the distribution of computers is only one factor determining how teachers use computers and the Internet to enhance teaching and learning. Teachers can use each of these configuration options to help enhance education. The most critical factor is the teacher, not the physical configuration of computers in a school. Configuration can, however, affect teachers’ access to computers and their options for how technology can be used.

Computers in Classrooms
One of the greatest potential benefits of distributing computers to individual classrooms is to provide teachers and students with easier access to these educational tools. This can make it potentially easier for teachers to integrate computer and Internet use into routine educational programs. But it cannot be guaranteed. Also, not all schools and classrooms

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Internet access to all classrooms. Providing even limited Internet access via intermittent use of a single dial-up connection via a phone line can significantly increase the cost of school computing. Enabling high-speed access to all computers in a classroom can be prohibitive. Connecting computers within the school: classroom and the school As with Internet access, connecting computers together in a classroom and school to form an electronic network can multiply their usefulness and increase their educational impact. Without being networked, computer use is limited to simple one-to-one and small group activities, routine word processing, and the use of stand-alone reference and educational software applications. Unfortunately, most schools require extensive remodeling to enable computers in classrooms and schools to be connected to form networks. Also, creating classroom networks in schools can require significant investments in additional computer hardware (servers, hubs, switches, routers, etc.).

• • • •

each classroom, the cost for software can also be much less with COWs than with conventional classroom computer installations. COWs can be stored in secure rooms when not in use. COWs can provide classroom access to computers in situations where students have classes in different rooms. COWs can be customized to include expensive specialized equipment that normally would not be part of a classroom system. COWs can be used in support of teacher professional development programs.

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The initial cost of COWs with laptops and wireless networking capabilities has a higher cost per computer than conventional stationary computers. COWs can be seen as “communal” property and therefore it can be more costly to maintain them, especially when using laptops, than with stationary systems. There is a greater risk of equipment damage from accidents, hard use or dropping with COW using laptops than with stationary equipment. Dedicated staff is often needed to maintain COW systems, deliver them to teachers, and help teachers set up and use the equipment. Schools with multiple floors without elevators either have to have COWs for every floor or restrict their use to specific floors. Similarly, schools comprised of different buildings may not be able to use COWs. The difficulty of scheduling the use of a limited number of COWs may frustrate teachers and inhibit them from using these systems.

Class Alternative Computers in ClassStrategy—COWs room Strategy—COWs
COWs or Computers On Wheels are carts that hold a set of computers (10 to 20), usually laptops, often a printer, with the possibility to connect to a school network via one network connection. COWs can be wheeled into a classroom when the teacher wants to use computers for a specific activity. Some of the benefits and challenges of using COWs are discussed below. •

COWs make it possible to provide teachers access to computers in their classroom without having to significantly remodel the room, provide special furniture, or reserve space for dedicated computers. Working in small groups at their desks enables all students to have access to computers even in crowded classrooms. Using battery-powered laptops makes it possible to avoid the need to provide special electrical power. Using infrared printing and wireless networking cards enables the students to print their work and connect to the school network for e-mail communication and possibly access the Internet without the need for cables. COWs allow schools to optimize the use of expensive equipment by enabling any teacher to request a cart of computers. COWs may be more affordable than the costs to remodel classrooms, provide special electrical supplies, install cabling to network all the computers, buy furniture, and purchase the computer equipment. Since software only needs to be purchased for the computers on the carts and not for dozens of computers in

Computer Rooms or Labs
Establishing one or more computer rooms or labs is a popular way to provide equitable access to computers for the greatest number of users at the lowest possible cost. Computer labs enable schools to concentrate expensive resources in a common space that can be used for student educational activities, teacher professional development events and community groups. When using computer labs, it is important to arrange computers along the walls of the room rather than in rows so that teachers can view all the students’ work from a common point and move quickly and easily from student to student, providing feedback and support. It can also make it easier and less costly to provide electricity and network access to the computers. Some of the benefits and challenges of using computer labs are discussed below. •

• • •

• •

Establishing a computer in a lab or dedicated room only requires schools to install quality electricity, network cabling and servers, effective security, climate control

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• • • • •

systems, good lighting, and specialized furniture in one or two rooms in a school rather then in many different rooms. A dedicated room, if effectively designed, ensures that there is sufficient space to allow students to work in groups, move about to see each other work, while also allowing teachers to move from group to group to provide input and guidance. Computer labs can be maintained by one or two staff that can also provide teachers with technical and pedagogical support. Equipment and software costs can be less for computer labs used by all classes than by classroom-based systems. Computer labs can optimize return on technology investments. It can be easier and less costly to provide access to the Internet via computer labs than with classroom systems. Computer labs can make it easier to encourage collaborative projects among groups of teachers and students.

sufficient room, suitable infrastructure, funds and technical resources, the strategy of distributing computers to classrooms either as stationary systems or via COWs can be an effective means of enabling easy access to computers and the Internet. Library computers can be used to focus on research activities, while special classrooms can be outfitted with computers, especially for special needs students, to enable and enhance benefits that are difficult to achieve from computer labs. The combination of these two options with one or more computer labs can create an ideal solution to providing students and teachers with rich and powerful educational tools.

Networking Technology Options
Connecting computers together to form a network and connecting school, lab and classroom networks to the Internet can significantly multiply the educational value and impact of computers in schools. There are a variety of options for creating classroom, lab and school computer networks.

Computer labs can quickly become oversubscribed and competition for use may make it difficult for teachers to engage their students in longer-term on-going projects and activities. Scheduling conflicts can frustrate teachers and inhibit their use of computer labs. Users, as with COWs, can see computer labs as a communal resource and thus reduce the feeling of responsibility and make it more difficult to maintain. Once the novelty of using computers wears off, encouraging teachers to move their students to the lab may become increasingly difficult. Spontaneous needs to use computers for research, reference, word processing, etc. can be impossible or very difficult to act on. In some schools, principals or lab coordinators may implement policies that can limit access to the computers.

Peer-to-Peer Networking
As with all networked computers, users can share files and resources located on computers in the network. With peer-topeer (p2p) (see Figure 1) networking, however, there is no file server or central computer that manages network activity. One or more of the computers in a p2p network can provide centralized services such as printing and access to the Internet. Most desktop operating systems come with software to enable p2p networking once the computers are connected by some cable or wireless-networking infrastructure.

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Teach Computers in Libraries and Teachers’ Rooms
When funding and staff resources are scarce, schools can optimize investments in computers and Internet access by installing a few computers in public spaces such as the library and the teachers’ planning room. Giving teachers private access to computers and the Internet can encourage teachers to learn to use these technologies and enable them to carry out planning activities involving the use of computers. Figure 1: Peer-to-Peer Network2 Peer-to-peer networking is good for small networks where a centralized file server is not needed and where network security is not a major issue. This type of networking is less expensive to set up since the only expense is in the cables and networking hardware. However, as the network of computers grows in size and complexity, it will likely be necessary to shift to a client/server style of network.

Hybrid Options
Where possible, the greatest educational returns on technology investments can result by strategically using combinations of the above configuration options. For schools with

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Client/Server Networking
Larger networks in schools are client/server networks. In these networks, as seen in Figure 2, one computer centralizes functions of storing common files, operating network email delivery and providing access to applications.

Dave, June 28, 1999)3 The primary reason for a low TCO is savings from centralized management, often from centralized remote sites, and from less costly upgrades in software and applications. Thin-client/server networks are also easier to install than traditional client/server networks. Also, since the client appliances cannot function without the server, there is little risk of theft. Thin-client systems are very efficient at providing access to the Internet. Because the client appliances have few moving parts and limited functions, thinclient/server networks are more reliable and stable than traditional network systems. A major disadvantage for some thin-client/server networks is that little educational software is written to run on thin-client servers running a version of UNIX. Most of these servers come with special emulation software but this is usually an incomplete solution and software often runs slower and some applications fail to function. Since many thin-client/server networks are based on a type of Unix operating system, skills with Unix are needed to set up and administer. However, if schools have no staff with these skills but have access to the Internet, it is possible to have a technician at some remote site administer and maintain the network. This enables a school district to have one highly skilled technician manage thin-client/server networks in several schools thus reducing management costs further. Even though thin-client/server network systems are relatively uncommon in K-12 educational environments, they are a viable alternative to traditional client/server network systems. A careful assessment of TCO and the availability of technical skills at a school or school system can help planners decide if the thin-client/server network is best for their needs.

Figure 2: Client/Server Network2 One of the advantages of client/server networks is that they are scaleable; you can add more clients and servers to the system without significantly changing the network. Centralizing network services can also make the network easier to manage and administer and client/server networks provide a greater degree of security than do p2p networks. These benefits come with some disadvantages. Because of the dedicated server, initial costs are higher and they are more complex to set up and maintain than stand-alone computers and p2p networks, often requiring schools to hire a network technician to oversee the network. Also, if the server fails, all network functions fail.

Thin-Client/Server Networking
A thin-client/server network is similar to a traditional client/server network except that the client is not a free standing computer capable of operating on its own. In contrast, thinclients are desktop appliances or network devices that link the keyboard, monitor and mouse to a server where all applications and data are stored, maintained and processed. The server, often called an application server, is built to provide all the networking services and computer calculations. Since all network and computer services are centralized, all maintenance and upgrading is done at the server; there is no need to service the clients. Proponents of thin-client/server networks emphasize that even though initial purchase costs are usually higher than with traditional PC/server networks, lifetime costs or total cost of ownership (TCO) can be significantly less. For example, a recent “survey of 25 [business] sites using thinclient technologies conducted earlier this year by Datapro concluded that on average, deploying thin-client devices cut support [life time] costs by more than 80 percent.”(Molta,

Connecting Computers
There are essentially three ways to connect computers together to form local area networks. The most common is to use some form of cable, either standard phone cables, coaxial cables or 10/100BaseT twisted pair LAN cables. Of these, the most common cable option today is 10/100BaseT Ethernet networking. Installation usually requires cables and ports to be installed in walls, floor or ceilings. An option to installing special network cables that has recently become a reliable technology for some situations is to use the existing power lines in the school to carry the network traffic. Presently, Power Line Networking (PLN) is capable of providing reliable network communication speeds between 250Kbps and 500Kbps for six to 20 network access points. Higher speed systems ranging form 2 to 12 Mbps are also available. Equipment costs are presently higher than conventional networking technologies. These prices are expected to fall as technical improvements are made and larger scale systems become available. In some situations, the costs

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of using PLN can be less than installing cable systems. Another network option that is becoming increasingly popular and affordable is wireless local area networking. Such systems use a variety of communication frequencies to enable reliable connections at a variety of network speeds from 2 to 11 Mbps across distances ranging from 30 to 500 meters. For small local area networks or portable classroom systems, wireless connectivity is often a viable and costeffective option in comparison to cabling older buildings. Wireless networking also provides a degree of flexibility that is not possible with cable systems. Also, since cables do not need to be installed, a network can be created in a very short period of time.

Dial-up Connection
The simplest and lowest cost connection to the Internet is through dial-up access using a single standard phone line. This can either provide Internet access by a single computer in a lab, class room, teachers’ room or library, or by using software on a server to allow networked computers to share this single connection. However, when sharing a connection, the speed of access can become very slow since the total available bandwidth will be divided among the number computers in the network. If two or three phone lines are available, it can be possible to combine these lines using an analog router to enable multiple phone line access to an Internet service provider (ISP), thus increasing available bandwidth. If phone lines are not available but cell phone links are, it is possible to use a cell phone with a cellular modem to allow access to the Internet. This can be very costly and is usually limited to short burst of use for email communications.

Internet Access Options
One of the most important educational benefits of computers is that they enable access to the Internet and can be used as powerful communication devices. There are a variety of options and technologies that should be considered when deciding about Internet access. This section only introduces Internet access options. These and other options are further detailed in Heather Hudson's article, "Solving the Connectivity Problem," in this Issue of TechKnowLogia.

Dedicated Connection
Schools can speed up and improve reliability of Internet access by using dedicated high-speed connections where available and affordable. There are a variety of dedicated high bandwidth options that may be available to schools including ISDN, DSL, digital cable, radio modem, and satellite access.

Simulated Internet
If a direct connection to the Internet is not possible either for economic, technical or availability reasons, it is possible to provide students and teachers with simulated access to a selection of Internet resources by copying valuable web sites to CD-ROMs (CDs) and then using the CDs. For example, the Rio de Janeiro Municipal school system provides schools that cannot directly access the Internet with a CD containing a selection of Portuguese language educational web sites. The CDs, which are periodically updated, use the same Internet browsers that are used with the Internet so that when Internet access becomes available, teachers and students will have no difficulty using this technology. The “Internet” CDs can also make it easier for teachers to prepare structured educational activities; students can explore the CD but cannot surf beyond the scope of the activity. Even if Internet access is available, using a CD with copied web sites can make it easier for students to use a slow connection.

Concluding Thoughts
As mentioned at the start, there are no “off-the-shelf” configuration solutions to meet the diversity of needs and conditions for different schools around the world. Carrying out an assessment of needs, physical conditions, constraints and opportunities and weighting factors according to their importance, will contribute greatly to the process of deciding which type of configuration optimizes resources against needs. It is also important to examine the capacity of local markets to support different options, especially new innovative state-of-the-art technologies. Throughout the information gathering and decision-making process, it is important to evaluate options and alternatives against the ultimate objective of all school computer systems—to enhance teaching and learning.


In this article, computer configuration refers to how computer systems will be distributed, arranged, connected and used in a school. The article will not discuss the technical configuration of how software is installed or how individual computers are prepared for use. 2 From: “An Educators’ Guide to School Networks,” Florida Center for Instructional Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida.

Molta, Dave, “For Client/Server, Think Thin,” IT Papers.Com ( June 28, 1999

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Prob Solving the Connectivity Problem
Heather E. Hudson, Ph.D.1
Several new technologies offer the potential for developing countries to leapfrog earlier generations of equipment to provide connectivity. Terrestrial wireless and satellite technologies offer many advantages in that they do not require installation of wireline networks. Satellite facilities can also be installed where communications is needed, even in remote and isolated areas, rather than waiting for terrestrial networks to be extended from the cities. standard can also allow the base station to act as a wireless PBX and further reduce cost.4 For example, DECT has been used in South Africa to provide links to rural pay telephones and telecenters. However, DECT has very limited bandwidth, so that it is not suitable for accessing the Worldwide Web. WAP (Wireless Access Protocol): This protocol has been developed to make it possible to transmit web pages and other data to cellular phones. It may be adapted for wireless services in developing countries so that Internet information can be transmitted to low bandwidth wireless systems.

Terrestrial Wireless
Cellular: Cellular technology, originally designed for mobile services (such as communication from vehicles), is now used for personal communications with small portable handsets. Cellular service has become the first and only telephone service for people in many developing countries where it is available much sooner than fixed line service. In countries such as Gabon, Uganda, Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, and Tanzania, there are now more cellular telephones than fixed lines. However, the bandwidth available on current cellular systems is very limited; it is possible to send short text messages and simple e-mail, but not to access the Worldwide Web. Wireless Local Loop (WLL): Wireless local loop systems can be used to extend local telephone services to rural schools without laying cable or stringing copper wire. WLL costs have declined, making it competitive with copper. Wireless allows faster rollout to customers than extending wire or cable. It also has a lower ratio of fixed to incremental costs than copper, making it easy to add more customers and serve transient populations. Wireless is also less vulnerable than copper wire or cable to accidental damage or vandalism. Examples of countries with WLL projects include Bolivia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Indonesia, South Africa and Sri Lanka.2 Multi-Access Radio: Time division multiple access (TDMA) radio systems are a means of providing wireless rural telephony. They typically have 30 to 60 trunks and can accommodate 500 to 1,000 subscribers. Their range can be extended using multiple repeaters.3 Cordless: Short range cordless extensions can provide the link from wireless outstations to subscriber premises; the DECT (Digital European Cordless Telephone) technology

Satellite Technologies
Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATS): Small satellite earth stations operating with geosynchronous (GEO) satellites can be used for interactive voice and data, as well as for broadcast reception. For example, banks in remote areas of Brazil are linked via VSATs; the National Stock Exchange in India links brokers with rooftop VSATs. VSATs for television reception (known as TVROs for television receive only) deliver broadcasting signals to viewers in many developing regions, particularly in Asia and Latin America. (See also VSAT articles in this Issue of TechKnowLogia by Bloome and by Saenz, Garcia and Wolff.) Internet via Satellite: Internet gateways can be accessed via geostationary satellites. For example, MagicNet, an ISP (Internet Service Provider) in Mongolia and some African ISPs access the Internet in the U.S. via PanAmSat, and residents of the Canadian Arctic use Canada’s Anik satellite system, while Alaskan villagers use U.S. domestic satellites. However, these systems are not optimized for Internet use, and may therefore be quite expensive. Also, there is a halfsecond delay in transmission via GEO, although it is a more obvious hindrance for voice than data. Several improvements in using GEOs are becoming available: DirecPC: This system designed by Hughes uses a VSAT as a high speed downlink from the ISP, but provides upstream connectivity over existing telephone lines. Some rural schools in the U.S. are using DirecPC for Internet access. Interactive Access via VSAT: Several companies are developing protocols for fully interactive Internet access via

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satellite, to make more efficient use of bandwidth and thus lower transmission costs for users. Examples include VITACom, Tachyon, and Aloha Networks.5 High Bandwidth LEOs (Low Earth Orbiting): Future LEO systems are being planned to provide bandwidth on demand. Constellations of LEO satellites such as McCaw’s Teledesic and Alcatel’s Skybridge, and new generations of GEOs such as Loral's Cyberstar and Hughes’ Spaceway will be designed to offer bandwidth on demand for Internet access, video conferencing and distance education.6 Global Mobile Personal Communications Systems (GMPCS): Using LEO satellites, these systems provide voice and low-speed (typically 2400 to 9600 bps) data virtually anywhere, using handheld transceivers. However, the price per minute for these services is typically much higher than national terrestrial services, and the first generation of LEOs has very limited bandwidth. Data Broadcasting by Satellite: GEO satellites designed for interactive voice and data can also be used for data broadcasting. For example, China’s Xinhua News Agency transmits broadcasting news feeds to subscribers equipped with VSATs. Digital audio can also be broadcast by satellite. The WorldSpace geostationary satellite system delivers digital audio directly to small radios. While one market for these products is people who can afford to subscribe to digital music channels, the system can also be used to transmit educational programs in a variety of languages for individual reception or community redistribution. It can also be used for delivery of Internet content; participants identify which websites they want to view on a regular basis, and WorldSpace broadcasts the data for reception via an addressable modem attached to the radio. WorldSpace has donated equipment and satellite time for pilot projects at schools and telecenters in Africa.7 (See also article by Tchwenko in this Issue of TechKnowLogia.) Store-and-Forward Messaging: Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA) has developed a satellite-based system called VITAsat, capable of delivering sustainable, low-cost communications and information services to remote communities. The system uses simple, reliable, store-and-forward email messages relayed to the Internet via LEO satellites. Using compression technology and software that allows access to web pages using e-mail, VITAsat can make the Internet accessible virtually anywhere. VITA’s current two satellite system has the capacity to serve about 2500 remote rural terminals that could be installed in schools, clinics, community centers and NGOs. VITA plans to include local skill and organizational capacity building and development of targeted information content and services designed specifically to meet the needs of small businesses, local NGOs, educators, health workers, and other relief and development workers.8

(See VITA article by Scharffenberger in this Issue of TechKnowLogia.)

Wireline Technologies
Innovations in wireline technology make it possible to provide high speed Internet access over telephone lines, rather than having to upgrade existing copper networks.9 These technologies may be used in urban areas where basic telephone service is available. Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN): Regular twisted pair copper telephone lines can carry two 64 kbps channels plus one 16 kbps-signaling channel. One channel can be used for voice and one for fax or Internet access, etc; or two can be combined for videoconferencing or higher speed Internet access. Several ISDN lines can also be combined, for example, for higher quality video conferencing. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL): Several variations of DSL technology have been developed that provide data rates of up to 1.544 mbps (T1) downstream over existing copper pair for services such as limited video-on-demand and high speed Internet access. This technology can be used in urban areas where copper wire is already installed, but its range is limited. Hybrid Fiber/Coax (HFC): A combination of optical fiber and coaxial cable can provide broadband services such as TV and high speed Internet access as well as telephony; this combination is cheaper than installing fiber all the way to the customer premises. Unlike most cable systems, HFC allows two-way communication. The fiber runs from a central switch to a neighborhood node; coax links the node to the end user such as a school, home or residence. Developing countries with HFC projects include Chile, China, India, South Korea, and Malaysia.10

Other Technologies
Other technological innovations that can be used to improve access to communication networks in developing regions include: Digital Compression: Compression algorithms can be used to "compress" digital voice signals, so that 8 or more conversations can be carried on a single 64 kbps voice channel, thus reducing transmission costs. Compressed digital video can be used to transmit motion video over as few as 2 telephone lines (128 kbps), offering the possibility of low cost videoconferencing for distance education and training. Internet Telephony: (Voice over IP): Packetized voice communication can be transmitted very inexpensively over

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the Internet. Some carriers are now offering dial-up access to Internet telephony. The advantage of using Internet protocols for voice as well as data is much lower transmission cost than over circuit-switched telephony networks. Community Radio: Small FM community radio stations can be important news sources for the community and can be used to broadcast educational radio programs for listening both in school and at home or community centers.11 Some telecenter projects are combining computer facilities with community radio stations. Portable wind-up radio receivers are practical for school and community use.12

there are any toll free or flat rate options. Speed and Reliability of Access to the Internet: The speed of access to the Internet depends not only on the bandwidth available to reach the ISP, but the number of ports at the ISP and the bandwidth it has available to reach an Internet gateway. In addition to asking the ISP for such information, it is useful to check with other customers to find out whether they experience outages or delays, and whether they have noticed any improvement or degradation in access over time. Batched and Compressed E-mail Accounts: Users can save money in telecommunications charges if they can compose messages offline and send and receive e-mail in batches to the ISP. A batched e-mail service using the compressed UUCP transfer protocol is four to eight times faster than the standard TCP-IP/POP (post office protocol) used by most e-mail clients.13 Web Hosting: The ISP should provide web-hosting capability if another web hosting site is not already available in the country. Alternatively, schools can use one of the free web hosting services made available by some U.S., European or Australian sites.14

Selecting an ISP
In addition to choosing a means of connecting to the Internet, it will also be necessary to choose an Internet Service Provider or ISP (some ISPs bundle connectivity with services). Factors to consider include: Distance to Point-of-Presence (POP): Ideally, the ISP should provide local connectivity so that long distance calling charges are not incurred. However, in many rural and developing regions, local access is not available. In such cases, it will be important to consider the price charged by telecommunications operators to reach the POP, and whether

Professor and Director, Telecommunications Management and Policy Program, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA. e-mail: 2 ITU, World Telecommunication Development Report. Geneva: International Telecommunication Union, 1998, p. 53. 3 Kayani, Rogati and Andrew Dymond. 1997. Options for Rural Telecommunications Development. (Washington, DC, World Bank), p.27. 4 Kayani and Dymond, p. 48. 5 See ; also The Red Herring, September 29, 1998 ( ; also and . 6 Hudson, Heather E. "The Significance of Telecommunications for Canadian Rural Development." Testimony on Behalf of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre et al., Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission Hearing on Telecom Public Notice CRTC 97-42, Service to High-cost Serving Areas, April 1998. 7 See . 8 See . 9 It should be noted that copper wire is prone to theft in some countries: Telkom South Africa reported more than 4,000 incidents of cable theft in 1996, at an estimated cost of R 230 million (about US$ 50 million). 10 ITU, World Telecommunication Development Report, 1998, p. 57. 11 See, for example, Latchem, Colin and David Walker, eds. Telecentres: Case Studies and Key Issues. Vancouver: Commonwealth of Learning, 2001. 12 See, for example, Freeplay Energy at . 13 Jensen, Mike and David Walker. "Telecentre Technology" in Latchem and Walker. 14 See, for example, or .

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America Online Launches Online Campus Learning Center
America Online (AOL), the world's leading interactive services company, announced, in December 2001, the launch of AOL Online Campus. This new service enables AOL members to research and register for offline courses, access career advancement resources, pursue an interest or hobby, and complete an undergraduate or graduate degree. Courses are offered by quality educational providers such as University of Phoenix, University of California Berkley Extension, PBS, and Barnes & Noble. The courses and content offerings focus around three major areas of interest: career advancement, degree courses, and personal enrichment. AOL Online Campus will also offer an online library of more than 65,000 books and journal articles. An online research engine is also available that features a digital archive of primary source materials, journals, periodicals, newspapers, reference books and case studies. This content is available for purchase by AOL members. For more information, AOL members can go to AOL keyword: Online Campus. Source: America Online, December 2001 who work in a non-traditional environment. Specific goals include the following: • • • • • To change management development from a one-time classroom event to a continuous process of learning. To provide a blend of e-learning (online performance support, online simulations, virtual collaboration) to enhance the classroom experience. To provide a personally-customized career learning path for each individual manager. To meet both immediate problem-solving needs and long-term developmental goals of managers. To make learning accessible whenever desired and convenient for managers.

Edvisor's web-interactive solution provides the following three tracks to managers: Track 1: Solve a people-management &/or leadership problem: Edvisor provides immediate access to over 150 online best-thinking and best-practices management performance-support modules. Managers can 24/7 access modules by topic, alphabetically or via a keyword search engine. Modules include company-designed learning tools, online simulators and interactive cases, and external materials consistent with company approaches and models (e.g., Harvard Business School ManageMentor). Track 2: Prepare for attending classroom learning lab. Managers use Edvisor to create their own personal pre-work skill curriculum for a 2-day Managing@IBM learning lab -a face-to-face workshop. Track 3: Work on longer-term leadership and management development. Managers use Edvisor to design a personal, long-term development plan. Edvisor "interviews" the manager, asks questions about his/her current business conditions, and analyzes his/her 360-survey feedback. Incorporating this information, Edvisor creates a recommended personal Manager Development Plan (MDP). This MDP provides immediate online access to the development offerings the manager needs to improve his/her leadership competencies, and tracks his/her progress through the plan. The MDP continues throughout the manager's

IBM's Edvisor Wins Excellence in E-Learning Award

IBM's new online performance support and personal development tool was one of only three honorees awarded the Gold Prize in Innovative Technologies in the 2001 "Excellence in eLearning" Awards program. This is a tool managers can use both for immediate assistance and as a state of the art learning program. Edvisor was developed in response to IBM's challenge to enhance leadership skills for 30,000+ experienced IBM managers

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career and can be modified whenever desired to meet changing business needs or personal goals. Source: IBM c44443d85256ad300721a10?OpenDocument&ExpandSectio n=1

The centers aim to provide the community, especially the elderly, women and new arrivals, with access to IT and Internet training and facilities. The first 'Super Cyber Centre' was opened in Canton Road, Yau Ma Tei, in July of last year. The center opens for 12 hours each day and is home to over 100 PCs with high-speed Internet connections. The facilities are divided into training areas where non-profit organizations and IT industry volunteers can arrange courses, sections devoted to the Internet, reading and video, and a special area for children. Services are free, but users must register their details with the center before they will be allowed online. " Appraising the center's performance, Director of Home Affairs Shelley Lee said the center has registered 7,000 members and recorded an average usage rate of more than 70 percent with over 100 percent during peak hours. Source:, January 2002., November 2001



The Association for Progressive Communications' (APC) Online Resource Centre launched "," and Online Resource for Learners and Trainers in the Development Community. According to the APC, the Online Resources Centre project is "supporting the creating of an interactive, multilingual Website of Internet training materials to support and promote the strategic use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) for development and social justice." was developed by APC in conjunction with organizations with experience in training in a development context. These are: Bellanet, the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), and OneWorld. Most useful about this portal is that it offers materials and annotated links to high quality resources in English, Spanish and other languages on topics ranging from computer and Internet basics to highly technical areas. This site and these resources, are offered to help civil society and the development community increase their impact. Web address is: Source: APC NewsFlash

Thailand Offers Free IT Training to Its Unemployed
Thailand's Labor Ministry's Department of Skill Development has requested approximately $9.81 million to offer IT training classes to the unemployed between January and September 2002. Training would include basic computer and Internet usage, e-commerce, and computer aided design (CAD). This department has set up nationwide training in the past, and most recently for graduate students in conjunction with Chulalongkom and Ramkhamhaeng Universities. But this IT training will be aimed at a larger audience consisting of college students, the unemployed and the general public. Courses will be developed in consultation with experts in the field. Approximately 740 basic computer and Internet usage courses will be offered, serving some 30,000 students. Each course will be 40 hours, lasting seven days. The CAD curriculum will offer 48 classes for 20 people each. The ecommerce curriculum will comprise 228 classes for almost 8,000 students and will cover e-commerce, web-design and business management. At completion of classes, students will be aided in finding a job. Source:, January 2002.,

Hong Kong Internet Centers: Free Access for Elderly and Women reports that: "The Hong Kong SAR government has promised to open more cyber centers offering free Internet access to the general public. Hong Kong's Home Affairs Department (HAD) envisages at least one 'cyber center' in each of Hong Kong's 18 districts, providing nationwide coverage.

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VSATs and Rural Education:
By Pedro Sáenz, Norma García and Laurence Wolff


hat is VSAT and why is it important?

Over the past 20 odd years, there have been many dreams about linking rural schools through telecommunications. At last, low-income, remote communities may end their isolation through satellite-based solutions that may be costeffective and provide a reliable flow of education materials, teacher training, and communications. VSAT, which stands for Very Small Aperture Terminal and is defined as a method using a small satellite terminal for one-way and/or two-way (interactive) communications through satellite, is now an operational reality. Over the last 5 years VSATs have typically been used to facilitate Internet access to remote communities, or basically to places where terrestrial communications (using traditional telephony grids) are not present or working optimally. VSAT is not new. It has been used mainly for business purposes, and there are today about 500,000 terminals installed in 120 countries, most of them developing countries. In countries like the United States, VSAT-based Internet connections are now available to the consumer. Monthly unlimited service fees vary depending on the value-added products and services selected by the clients, but on average they amount to $69.99 per month.1 This growth in usage has resulted in improved and less expensive VSAT technologies that education systems can now benefit from. The components of a VSAT site consist of a parabolicshaped antenna mounted on the roof of a building, connected by a cable to a chassis inside the building. Operators install these antennas at customer sites and buy transmission capacity on satellites. Regulations permitting, it is normally more cost-efficient for isolated schools to buy transmission capacity from private operators. However, state-controlled telecom monopolies sometimes allow only the State to invest in the whole system, not just the terminals. VSAT networks can have different configurations: point-topoint, star, mesh, star/mesh, and broadcast. Point-to-point

allows two-way communications between two VSAT sites. Star networks allow any number of VSAT sites to have twoway communications with a central hub. Mesh networks allow two-way communications between any VSAT site in a network, without a central hub; each site communicates with another with a single satellite hop. For education purposes, VSAT can be used in a “mesh” system with each education site (school or telecenter) capable of both transmission and reception of data, to or from any other site in the mesh. In this way, learning materials –both for students and teacher training—can flow in any direction within the system. Video and sound are also possible but depend on the complementary infrastructure, not just on the VSAT system. VSAT can be the medium of choice in rural and isolated areas because satellite networks have the following advantages: • • • • They can be installed in weeks, since the many miles of cables are not needed. They have versatility to cope with typical obstacles of rain forests, deserts, mountainous terrain, or connecting remote island locations. They bring about bandwidth advantages that provide a bigger “pipe” for transmitting video, voice, and data. While comparisons between VSAT and cable services are impossible, it is important to note that charges for terrestrial services are nearly always distance-dependent, while VSAT connections cost the same whether sites are 1 or 1,000 miles apart.

Some creative teachers can do a great deal with a traditional lecturing/blackboard approach to teaching. However, the capacity to visualize, conceptualize, construct, discuss, reflect and remember knowledge, as well as the capacity to use such stored knowledge for lifelong problem solving, are greatly enhanced by audio-visual aids that can provide lasting memory –particularly if they use two-way communication. Of course the effectiveness of any medium for teaching (“face to face,” printed materials, audio, computer, televi-

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sion, or Internet) obviously depends not just on the engineering technologies available but on the availability of good material and qualified teachers. The risk with VSAT, as with any new media, is that if an appropriate training and/or pedagogical system is not implemented, the outputs could be worse and certainly more expensive than with traditional approaches. Piloting and monitoring projects is therefore key for developing countries entering the area of technology and education. A further caveat here is in assessing the costs of finding, buying, outsourcing or producing the contents that will be delivered through VSAT. If remoteness cum difficult terrain and similar conditions make investments in traditional telecom grids prohibitive, the VSAT alternative can be an efficient, cost-effective way for reliable distribution of data, and/or images and/or sound. With a well defined plan for proper training and organization, and careful sequencing of activities to verify conditions to scale-up site expansion rates, access to schooling and quality can be vastly enhanced. Honduras and Colombia are two countries that are pioneering in this area.

tronic equipment. Technical assistance and training will be provided to apply the technologies productively. The main telecommunications architecture follows a VSAT option. VSAT connectivity will allow taking advantage of existing distance education programs in Honduras, as well as testing innovative software and pedagogical models that can result in expanded and higher quality learning outcomes. In the absence of regular telephone distribution grids and the very difficult terrain, the investments to extend terrestrial interconnection via the telephone or radio microwave grids are too expensive. Even radio would be more expensive because it would require purchasing real estate, building relay stations and constructing access roads through difficult terrain. The VSAT architecture2 consists of the main station (the hub) and the various (spokes) remote terminals (VSAT) located in the rural areas. The hub could run around US $500,000 and the VSAT stations around US$4,000 - $5,000. The operation of this system requires renting the satellite segment and prices vary according to the type of frequency band used and the transmission speed required. Satellite segments can be rented from providers for about US$1,000 $1,500 per month for dedicated connections at 64 Kbps. If instead of dedicated connections, the system is operated using “demand access,” i.e. on an as need basis, prices could range from US$80 - $100 per month. (Options such as using DirecPC antennas, which may be cheaper, were discarded since Honduras suffers from periodic adverse atmospheric conditions, and also, these systems are slow for the requirements of this project to transmit audio, video and VoIP). The diagram illustrates the system.


SAT-enhanced-education in Honduras

With assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank, Honduras is beginning a pioneer program to apply new technologies for the development of educational and marketknowledge services in about 100 remote, low-income communities. The program will supply “technology packages” that will include tools such as computers, software, magnetic media, cellular phones, and faxes, coupled with a renewable energy source, such as photovoltaic panels, to drive the elec-

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At last, low-income, remote communities may end their isolation through satellite-based solutions that may be cost-effective and provide a reliable flow of education materials, teacher training, and communications.

and institutions alike to exchange educational and teacher training material, develop additional curricular content material, and promote a new information and communication culture. The participating schools will be equipped with computers and will have VSAT-based Internet connection for at least three consecutive years. The Skyblaster VSAT satellite communications network used in this program is being provided by Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. through Informática Datapoint de Colombia Ltda. Skyblaster is a two-way VSAT solution that provides high speed Internet access. In total, the equipment and services provided by Gilat would provide internet-based distance education to 1400 Colombian schools,3 including the 650 schools that form part of the Nuevas Tecnologías program. Students will be able to use the computers during class or during their free time, in order to allow them the opportunity to learn at their own pace and spend more time on a given subject if needed. In addition, the computers will serve teacher training needs. Approximately 2000 teachers will be trained in computer and Internet use and they will also take virtual courses as part of a continuing education program. These courses will be managed by the Ministry of Education, and will be selected depending on local needs. It is expected that through virtual courses, teachers will learn to create their own teaching materials, projects and class exercises that incorporate technology use. In this regard, the development of the virtual education network will be extremely important to allow teachers to both exchange the materials themselves and discuss their advantages and limitations. Computers will include education software, such as English Discoveries, a comprehensive software program designed for the instruction of English as a second language that includes listening, speaking, reading, writing, vocabulary and grammar components. This software includes multimedia features like animation, voice recording and high-resolution graphics.4

The graph above shows the VSAT architecture, which is comprised of the Hub, the remote terminals also known as VSAT terminals, and the Satellite. As specified above, the hub is located in a central site and the remote terminals are located in the remote areas which will benefit from this technology. Communications flow from and to the remote terminals through the Satellite and the hub depending on the topology of the network. The indoor unit located at the remote terminals is the equipment for connecting telephones, Facsimiles, personal computers and local area networks.


olombia and VSAT potential benefits

Nuevas Tecnologías, or New Technologies is one of the main programs the Colombian government is implementing to provide distance learning to both rural and urban schools through the use of VSAT. This program aims to integrate pedagogy and communication and information technologies to promote innovative ways of teaching and learning in 650 primary and secondary schools. By using Internet services, students will be able to sharpen their research and communication skills, will become more familiar with scientific approaches, and will have the opportunity to perform more “hands-on” activities on their own and in working teams. An important component of this program is the development of a virtual education network that will allow students, teachers

1 2 Proposed by Norma Flores, a Honduran Consultant (e-mail: 3 4

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Connec Wireless School Internet Connectivity
Anthony Bloome1

Monkeys and Technology!
Most satellite dish manufacturers do not worry about making their dishes safe from monkeys. Yet this is a legitimate concern of Mr. David Kintu, the headmaster of Busoga College Mwiri, a rural secondary school about two hours east of Kampala, Uganda. Mr. Kintu's school is the recent recipient of a 2.4-meter VSAT satellite dish, which will provide high speed Internet connectivity to his school and the community. Monkeys ate through the school’s telephone line a few months back -- and David doesn’t want to see them mess with the satellite equipment as well. While they (the monkeys) probably don’t appreciate the greater technological sophistication of satellite versus landline Internet connectivity, the school has put in an elaborate wire mesh enclosure around the satellite dish just in case the monkey mistakes the dish for a large mango. (There is a second box around the core wiring that needs to be built to keep the monkey urine off, but that is a separate topic…)

World Links2 and Partners
The wireless satellite-based school connectivity project is part of an ongoing international initiative by the World Links Program to pilot new concepts in technology and pedagogy to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) in education in developing countries. Uganda was the first World Links country program established in 1997, and will be the first of the now twenty-seven World countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia to pilot the use of this technology as part of its country program. With generous financial support to World Links from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the dishes and attendant satellite reception equipment were purchased as part of an exciting pilot project to link fourteen (14) secondary schools and one National Teacher’s College with high-speed Internet connectivity. Geographically disbursed around the country, eleven of these institutions have received Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite dishes, while four additional schools will be connected to Busoga College’s satellite dish via wireless spread spectrum connections. (For a more in-depth technical description, please see Project Technical Description later in this article). All the equipment for the project has been procured and installed -- and the network will be operational as of January 2002.

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Five other important project partners are supporting the Ugandan project: Schools Online (a California-based nonprofit which has teamed up with World Links in a number of countries) provided ten of the participating schools with computer labs of networked PCs and printer; SchoolNetUganda has played the lead role on the ground; Verestar is providing the satellite bandwidth at very competitive prices; AFSAT has handled school-based VSAT installation and commissioning; and the Ministry of Education and Culture paid for the duty clearance of the satellite equipment. The most important partners – and beneficiaries -- are the students and teachers at the participating institutions themselves.

• •

• •

Descrip Project Technical Description
The VSAT system will use a national network of 2.4 meter dishes operating in the C-Band. (Due to climatic conditions, C-Band (3 – 6 GHz) is less susceptible to interference from heavy rains as its wavelength is much bigger than the size of a raindrop). The system will be full duplex (two-way) so no PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), microwave links or optical fibers are needed for a return link. The link will be asymmetric – i.e., more bandwidth will come to the schools than go from the schools. The “download” bandwidth, 256 Kbps shared among the network of participating sites, will guarantee that each site has a minimum of 23 Kbps to operate simultaneously. Any school will be able to “burst” or obtain higher bandwidth (within the total amount) if other schools are not using it. The “upload” bandwidth is a dedicated 32 Kbps per site during the pilot phase. While this bandwidth currently isn’t sufficient to do video-conferencing or video streaming, schools can purchase more bandwidth to enable this if there is sufficient interest for additional capabilities. Ten of the fifteen participating sites will have stand-alone VSATs (i.e., antenna, wireless units, routing equipment), a server and at least ten PCs on a local area network (LAN). In addition to the VSAT equipment identified above, the eleventh site, Busogo College Mwiri will have an onward connection to the four other schools in Jinja via a point-tomultipoint Spread Spectrum wireless link through Ethernet bridge equipment. With a wireless Ethernet connection, the four “remote” sites will require very little maintenance and their bandwidth usage can be tracked and controlled by Mwiri (the VSAT “hub” site) with appropriate monitoring software. In developing the specifications for this pilot, the choice of the technology platform was based on the following assumptions:

• •

• •

• •

• •

The system would need to be highly scalable from an initial group of 11 VSATs up to possibly 1,000 in a few years time. The solution should be affordable even with low numbers of schools (for example, if the pilot stops after the initial 11 schools are launched), even though the costs will clearly be greater until additional sites are added and indeed may need some kind of subsidy or forwardpricing. The schools themselves should ultimately be able to bear all running costs in order that the system be sustainable. This means very low recurrent monthly figures. The Internet facilities to be used by the schools include e-mail (the major application); file transfer (small scale); web browsing (at acceptable speeds so as not to discourage use of the system and including graphics elements and multi-media where appropriate to the teaching); IP multi-casting (sending out materials overnight to all schools simultaneously); and some reasonable level of interactivity, especially in the future as the number of schools grows (this to include low-quality video sharing, although not in the initial instance). Local ICT skills required in the schools should be minimized. Some schools will serve as centers that will provide onward connectivity via point-to-multipoint spreadspectrum microwave links, and will therefore need additional bandwidth capabilities on the satellite link (and ability to control the use by individual schools). Many countries in Africa will eventually share the system in order to achieve real economies of scale. Higher capital costs are acceptable if it means lower operational costs, as establishing capacity for local sustainability is the most important factor for scaling up the project. Over time, increased bandwidth will be needed as Internet experience and skills become more sophisticated. (Also, hopefully, the cost of bandwidth will decrease with time). Any web servers/list servers etc. will most likely reside on the Internet backbone in the North (rather than at any of the African sites). Project managers do not wish to purchase, build or maintain their own hub but rather wish to use the facilities of an existing provider who will manage all facilities on their behalf. If possible, it would be best to avoid highly proprietary systems. The pilot project will run for an initial period of two years. After this time (as well as at six months intervals during the pilot phase) a major review will be conducted to take account of changes in Internet usage and new technologies. Contracts, therefore, should be for a maximum of three years.

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• • • • •

The schools will allow access to their Internet facilities by the local communities in order to generate income to cover their costs. Facilities for the community should thus be at an acceptably good level so that this service offering will take off and be successful. The VSAT systems will operate in the C Band (due to climatic conditions). The hub should be based on a high-speed part of the Internet (e.g. in Europe, USA or South Africa). No PSTN lines or microwave links will be available for a return link to the Net in these rural areas, and that two way VSAT operation is therefore necessary. Throughput rates on the pilot project should be at a reasonable level in order that users are not discouraged from using the facilities. Ability to closely monitor and control network usage must be available.

communities and user groups. (In fact, nearly two-thirds of the approximately 800 World Links schools in the twentyseven countries are outside of the capital cities.) Two of the project sites are highlighted below: Mbale Senior Secondary School is located in Eastern Uganda and borders the Republic of Kenya. This day school, situated in the Mbale township some 4 hours drive from Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, has over 2,000 students – and is the largest secondary school in the eastern region. The school staff, excited by the Internet connectivity provided by the project, looks forward to opportunities for teacher professional development and for improving school efficiency in management of finances and student data. Senior staff believes that connectivity will ensure that their students keep abreast of latest developments around the world and hopes to use the Internet to establish an interactive public relations platform that will enable the school to put itself on the global map. (This is another key component of the World Links and SchoolNet-Uganda Programs – to reverse the typical North-to-South flow of Internet-based information to promote the acquisition and dissemination of locally produced content from developing countries.) A number of surrounding institutions have expressed interest in utilizing the Internet and computer resources and training at Mbale Senior Secondary, including a Primary Teachers’ College, a Technical College, several surrounding secondary schools, a public library, district education offices, rural water and sanitation project, and other government projects/offices. For sustainability, all participating schools will pay a monthly access fee to offset Mbale’s operating costs. Muni National Teachers’ College (NTC) is another VSAT project site located in Arua District in northwestern Uganda, some 520 kilometers from Kampala. Bordered by Sudan in the North and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the West, travel to Arua is often complicated and dangerous due to the spillover of military action taking place across both these borders. Most of the regional economic activity is small scale or subsistence farming. The College receives energy from the Uganda Electricity Board only five hours a day (7 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.) and must supplement this power during the day through its own generator. Notwithstanding this challenge, the headteacher and faculty of the college are ecstatic to be part of the project. Access to information technology in the district is extremely limited – and their teachers will acquire useful skills to enhance their teaching and learning and to improve their student’s chances of employment upon graduation.

Verestar, a global communications solutions provider, presented the winning bid for the project and assembled a number of partners including Gilat (VSAT equipment manufacturer), AFSAT (Local support, installation and maintenance), and UUNET (Internet provision). The hub -- a Gilat Skystar Advantage -- will manage this traffic and is located in New Jersey. The traffic will be directed through an Intelsat satellite located in the Atlantic Ocean region and servicing Africa.

Sur Community Assessment Survey and Site Selection
From August to October this year, World Links commissioned a team of researchers from Makerere University to conduct local community surveys at potential sites around Uganda. Through stakeholder meetings and interviews, the researchers gathered basic demographic information and made recommendations concerning potential community partners. The overall findings of this report revealed high interest from the schools, business community and local government units. Several of the teachers interviewed in the survey observed that the project had great potential for mitigating the shortage and lack of variety in teaching-learning materials across all school levels and for vocationally oriented out-of-school youths and adult learners. These and other findings from the report will be useful in identifying community clients who can benefit from the ICT resources and training available at each site. Ultimately, schools were selected based on geographic location, enthusiasm for and commitment towards the project, and proximity to other community stakeholders. A majority of the schools are located in rural communities in Uganda. This is an important premise of the project -- extending Internet connectivity options to less advantaged

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School Commitment and Lab Sustainability
The schools and other host institutions are responsible for underwriting the lab’s capital costs (e.g., chairs, desks, power points), financing recurrent costs (e.g., satellite bandwidth, maintenance, paper, toner, diskettes), providing security (e.g., burglar bars) and staffing. World Links and its partners provide the equipment, a series of professional development workshops on how to most effectively use the technology in the classroom, and ongoing technical and pedagogic advice through support from the national SchoolNet-Uganda secretariat. The phone and Internet connection costs are typically the greatest recurrent costs that schools have to underwrite. Average recurrent costs for World Links school labs connected via landline or wireless (cellular or spread spectrum) are US$150--$250 a month for bandwidth which rarely exceeds 28.8 kbps. In most cases, the school and parent-teachers associations finance these costs. Because of the unique nature of this VSAT project, World Links is partly subsidizing the recurrent costs by underwriting half the costs of satellite connectivity (half of the US$400 a month per site) for two years. The remaining costs of connectivity are equally distributed among the network of fifteen schools. Because the satellite footprint covers all the sites in the country, there are no additional connection charges for this connectivity (e.g., no telephone surcharge).

Specialist is working with stakeholders at each of the VSAT sites to further develop their business plans for serving clients both during and after school hours. A particular emphasis of this position will be linking these sites with the development needs of the community. For example, after-school clients might include women entrepreneurs, out-of-school youth, HIV/AIDS NGOs or youth groups. Development agencies can facilitate this linkage by further subsidizing the recurrent costs associated with the use of the ICT resources and training at the sites by and for these client groups.

Professional Development Work Workshops
From September 11-15th, 2001, headmasters and World Links-trained IT Resource Teachers from the fifteen schools gathered in Jinja, Uganda to attend a workshop focused on financial sustainability of the VSAT sites. Produced by experts in the field of telecenter development, the weeklong workshop entitled Planning for School-Based Telecenters explored the opportunities and challenges associated with such a model. Topics discussed included identifying and matching potential clients with service opportunities, timetabling and business plan development. The fifteen sites involved in the project will also join the other seventeen (17) SchoolNet-Uganda schools in an ongoing series of professional development workshops. These workshops take heads and teachers from a basic exploration of computer literacy and application topics through a deepening understanding of use of ICT in the classroom -- i.e., Using Internet and E-mail in the Classroom, Online Collaborative Project Development, Curriculum Integration of ICTs (Phase III), and ICT Evaluation and Diffusion. As these participants graduate from each workshop, they are tasked to introduce the concepts learned and train other teachers in their schools.

School-Based Telecenters Commu and Community Usage
Recognizing that connectivity and lab maintenance costs are a significant factor for school participation, particularly in rural communities, World Links is working with the participating VSAT pilot institutions on a number of fronts including providing assistance from international and national staff and actively promoting the sites’ development as schoolbased telecenters. In a school-based telecenter, the schools’ labs serve students and teachers during the day, and remain open to the community on evenings, weekends and holidays. By paying a nominal fee for computer and Internet access and training, these community clients help underwrite the labs’ running costs.

Develop Business Development
Additionally, World Links is supporting SchoolNet Uganda with a full-time consultant to work with the participating sites. This Community Development and Small Business

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National Expansion
The network model described above, with “hub” and “remote” sites, offers an exciting model for national program expansion to even more sites. Each new school or institution added to the network, as a “hub” or “remote” site will share some of the connectivity costs. This will lower the overall operating costs for all schools involved. While adding new sites can lower overall Internet connection speeds around the national network, it is hoped that additional demand can be met through increasing the total bandwidth available and further technological innovation. For example, new satellite hardware and software which lowers overall bandwidth costs (a model which World Links is also exploring), remote network monitoring to assess and balance national bandwidth allocation, and server software -- e.g. proxy servers and web page and e-mail caching – to balance on- and off-line user load. Certainly a positive indication of project demand and impact will be user demand driving network expansion; i.e., school and community clients actively supporting more sites and greater bandwidth acquisition. These will be important variables to gauge interest in and use of the Internet in rural communities. The current policy environment, however, for adding additional sites in Uganda is still unclear. At present the one school in Jinja will be allowed to add more schools via the spread spectrum technology. But until the legal environment is clear for schools offering this service, no other schools will be allowed to extend their access to the community through wireless links.

What Lessons Will Be Learned?
This national pilot project will attempt to explore several questions: • Is a nationally distributed VSAT network with “hub” and “remote” sites workable within the context of serving a national network of schools in a developing country? Is the equipment that is required for such a system affordable and sustainable? How will the equipment be maintained and at what cost? Can the recurrent costs be met by schools and additional clients using the school-based telecenters in the afterschool hours? What is the educational impact of providing fast Internet access to rural schools in developing countries? What is the educational impact on out of school youth and adult learners?

• • • • •

These are some of the questions which World Links and its international and national partners are committed to exploring.

And the Monkeys…
And as for Busoga College’s monkeys, by default they are just one of the participants -- hanging out in the trees and looking on with curiosity at the well-protected satellite dishes. Until they find a way to test its overall edibleness, the dish will provide far more intellectual sustenance for the many students and teachers at the school -- using it to exchange a daily menu of information and a rich smorgasbord of educational material with their peers in Uganda and around the world.


The author, Anthony Bloome, is the World Links’ Program Anglophone Africa Regional Coordinator and can be reached at Other contributors to this article include: Robert Hawkins, Task Manager, WorLD Program, Samuel Carlson, Executive Director, World Links Organization, Daniel Kakinda, National Coordinator, SchoolNet-Uganda, and Allen Luyima, Technical Coordinator, SchoolNet-Uganda.

The World Links Program is an initiative jointly supported by the World Links Organization, an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit registered in Washington, D.C., and the World Bank’s World Links for Development Program (WorLD). For more information on either, please see and .

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Communi A Unique, Low-cost Data Communications System
George Scharffenberger
President, Volunteers in Technical Assistance

With courage and little fanfare, a multitude of local and international organizations toil on the frontlines of global struggles–to alleviate poverty, to build sustainable livelihoods, to combat disease, to eradicate hunger and illiteracy, to defend human rights, to protect the environment and to prevent and respond to natural and man-made disasters. In hundreds of thousands of remote communities, dedicated workers provide services that help, heal, teach, provide hope and pave the way for a better future. Many live and work beyond telecommunication networks, without access to a dial tone, or to the information resources and communications potential of the Internet. Until now they have had to spend a disproportionately large portion of their financial resources for vital communications and information access for limited service or simply do without. Now there is an affordable resource to overcome those constraints. Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA), a notfor-profit organization with extensive field experience, has developed VITA-Connect, a unique, low-cost, communication and information service, to meet the needs of humanitarian, development and environmental organizations and the communities they serve. VITA’s intent is for VITA-Connect to be a replicable demonstration project, a learning laboratory and a catalyst to help local institutions and civil society organizations maximize the potential of new information and communication technologies, to learn new skills, and to develop new ways of implementing their missions. Never before has the need been so large or the opportunity as great. Of the many applications for VITA-Connect, distance education for the rural poor is among the most promising. VITA-Connect will deliver low-cost data to and from the remotest parts of the world and is a valuable tool for rural educators and trainers who historically have been cut off

from critical information resources. By connecting teachers and trainers in the field with curriculum resources, teacher trainers, administrators and other providers of educational content and support, VITA will help make high quality, nearreal time distributed education a global reality. While VITAConnect provides a solution for significantly expanding access, an even greater responsibility falls on the shoulders of program designers and content providers to develop appropriately formatted, compact, custom educational materials developed specifically for bandwidth constrained users. Without concerted efforts to develop appropriate content, educators and students with limited bandwidth will never share in the full promise that remote communication holds to enhance the educational experience while increasing its efficiency and effectiveness.

VITA and the VITA-Connect Technology
VITA has been providing appropriate, quality technical information in support of humanitarian, development and environmental programs for over 40 years. As technologies have revolutionized the process of information collection, storage, processing, and dissemination, VITA has experimented with a variety of approaches for providing quality technical information to, within and about developing countries. VITA’s range of technical information dissemination technologies and applications include wireless packet radio, electronic mail and bulletin boards and a low-earth orbiting satellite system. VITA’s groundbreaking work in applying microelectronics and space technology to the dissemination of information led to it becoming the only humanitarian organization granted operational satellite communications licenses by the FCC under the Pioneer Preference program. VITA has combined its experience in low-cost communications systems and in the design and delivery of high value information services with the technology and operational

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capacities of its satellite communications partner, Wavix Inc.,1 to create VITA-Connect. VITA-Connect’s user-focused, email-based communication network is built upon VITAsat, a low-cost, robust and proven technology. For the past 8 years, using similar technology and experimental satellites, VITA has successfully provided remote area connectivity to more than 20 development activities in Africa, Asia, and … even the South Pole. Now, thanks to VITAsat’s two low-earth orbiting satellites, already in orbit, thousands of users around the globe can gain access to enhanced connectivity and information services.

windfall for rural schools, clinics and communities currently without any connectivity at all. To help overcome this limitation on the receiving end, an optional interface with multimedia enabled WorldSpace’s all digital satellite-radio receiver3can be incorporated to greatly enhance the value of both technologies for distributed learning purposes. Access to VITA-Connect’s satellite network requires a user supplied basic laptop or desktop computer and the purchase of a portable ground station, antenna, and specialized software.4 The annual cost share to support operational costs of the network will start at $495 and will cover network management, VITAmail and VITAinfo communication services, and VITA’s costs for maintaining international satellite communications licenses.5 As the number of participants in the VITA-Connect network expands, the annual cost-share is expected to decrease. Full VITA-Connect service will be available in early 2002. VITA’s goal over the next three years is to fully implement VITA-Connect, providing connectivity to a minimum of 2,000 remote area field sites participating in the VITAConnect network. VITAinfo information services will also be made available to millions of additional humanitarian and development workers around the world via the Internet.

The VITA-Connect Service Menu
Accessible via a unified, browser-based, portal-style, userfriendly interface installed on the user’s computer, VITAConnect basic service will include: • • Email messaging using standard email programs; An expanding and fully searchable database (VITAinfo) of select information developed in response to user requests and feedback. Agreements currently being negotiated will facilitate access to the best ‘how to” technology sites and listservs on the web such as GRET, SKAT, GATE, ITDG, Village Earth, ELDIS, etc.; Webmail access to the full information resources of the Internet (requested webpages automatically delivered via email attachments);2 A selection of monthly, sector-based newsletters (sustainable agriculture, small enterprise development, renewable energy, home technologies (house construction, water and sanitation, domestic technologies), primary health care, basic education, etc., providing practical information, inter-community discussion, news, best practices, “best of” annotated links to additional web resources, events and training opportunities; and, A planned selection of email-based, distributed learning resources.

Why VITA-Connect?
The rollout of telecommunications networks, while expansive, has yet to reach the majority of the world’s population living in rural areas. Recent data indicate a slowdown in the pace of expansion of low-cost services accessible to the poor in both rural and urban areas. As well, the current “meltdown” in the telecommunications industry and financial markets means that many projects for expanding services will be postponed for years or shelved altogether, including many new and existing satellite-based broadband projects. Equally challenging is the fact that web-based information resources of direct value to the poor in developing countries and to the organizations supporting them are scarce, difficult to locate, costly to access, or not in a form appropriate for user needs and capabilities (English only, high graphic content, etc.). The lack of affordable connectivity and relevant information resources handicaps the poor, and especially the rural poor, in their efforts to improve their lives. It creates inequalities that limit learning, cripple efforts to improve production and identify new market opportunities, hamper creativity and cultural expression, stymie involvement in governance and exclude participation in broader communities of interest. The same lack of connectivity dramatically increases the costs and reduces the effectiveness of international and local organizations and institutions, government services and enterprises responding to the needs of the poor.

Capacity, Cost and Availability
Given current system-level throughput limitations and VITA’s desire to maximize the number of organizations and communities able to take advantage of this unique resource, each VITA-Connect ground station is programmed for an average 2-way throughput of 350 kilobytes per week. While this is only a fraction of what would be needed for broadband content delivery, it is the equivalent of 175-250 pages of text, transmitted during 4-8 daily satellite passes – a significant

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In Africa alone, the number of communities, schools, clinics, local government offices, project offices, NGOs, and research stations without affordable access to connectivity is in the hundreds of thousands – a good portion of which have no access at all. Many thousands of these benefit from financial and technical support provided by national and international development organizations but the effectiveness of that support is often dramatically reduced by the same lack of connectivity and information access. Interviews with organizations such as CARE, UNICEF, Save the Children, the Peace Corps and OXFAM indicate a strong and growing interest in lowering costs and enhancing effectiveness and impact through increased use of information and communication technologies. Many see technology-related skill building and the facilitation of increased access to information resources and networking as important complementary strategies to their more traditional poverty reduction programs.

make VSAT an attractive option for potential users having sufficient financial resources, the low purchasing power of most organizations and institutions serving rural areas makes VITA-Connect the lowest cost, sustainable solution for many applications. Included in these would be most rural schools and training centers in large portions of Africa and Eurasia, as well as smaller pockets in the Americas and the islands of the Pacific.

Applying VITA-Connect to the Educational Environment
VITA-Connect’s capacity to receive and deliver text files and messages and to access webpages makes it an ideal technology for enhancing the effectiveness of remote education and training. VITA’s experience in project design and implementation of communication technologies for dissemination of training and educational materials confirms this. For example, at the request of the Philippine Department of Health, VITA designed an earlier generation of VITA-Connect based on a packet radio network that helped transfer valuable information related to health education and the prevention of epidemics to health centers on outlying islands. Also in the Philippines, VITA provided a link between the Visayas Agricultural College on the island of Leyte and Cornell University’s agricultural school through which Visayas professors and students received technical assistance, advice, educational materials and remote mentoring. Similar projects using this technology and other wireless technologies have been implemented throughout Africa and Southeast Asia to connect people in remote field locations with centralized support structures. By applying this same model to the way educational information and materials are shared among institutions, individual instructors and students, VITA-Connect creates multiple and affordable opportunities for disseminating educational material to a variety of audiences and enhancing the educational process through two-way communications including: • • • • • providing educators and students with access to on-line resources; networking educators, students, curriculum producers, teacher trainers and administrators in email-based virtual communities; connecting educational institutions and sponsoring organizations with remote campuses; supporting centralized testing and statistical analysis for remote schools; and updating learning materials with near-real time efficiency.

VITA-Connect Compared with Other Options
VITA-Connect is the lowest-cost remote area connectivity option where landline or cellular service is not available. Satellite phone service (ex. INMARSAT) has been available to these areas for several years, though it is either too slow or too expensive for continuous data services for most users. Iridium's new data service is billed on a per minute basis (currently up to $1.50 per minute, depending on location), only offers a throughput speed of 2400 bps, and will be primarily marketed to government and military users and vertical markets such as maritime, oil and gas, mining, construction, forestry, and aviation. Unless voice service is essential, and as long as data throughput needs correspond to VITAConnect’s parameters, VITA-Connect is a viable and much less costly option. Other satellite data services using similar technology have begun to target remote rural users in developing countries but have lower capacity limits, uncertain financial viability and considerably higher costs. None of these services has a specific development focus nor comes bundled with VITA-Connect’s content that is specifically targeted to the needs of humanitarian, educational, health and development organizations working in rural communities. In some areas, communication and Internet service via commercial VSAT is becoming available. Service provided is real-time Internet connectivity with robust throughput that holds excellent promise for distance education. Costs, however, are considerable – in the range of $300 - $400 per month. These prices are expected to fall over the coming years, but even if halved, they would still be 2-3 times VITA-Connect’s projected cost (including annual cost share and the amortized cost of the VITAsat ground terminal). While the “real-time” connectivity and superior throughput

VITA-Connect provides opportunities to leverage existing investments in networking and “community building” be-

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tween educators by adding an additional tier of remote participants who, because of their lack of connectivity, had been excluded from such efforts in the past.

content partners, VITA is making information available to low-bandwidth users that would not have been accessible to them by: • • • • • • • repackaging information in modular form; simplifying the format of documents; reducing the file size; substituting or removing custom document templates and macros; eliminating unnecessary data rich fonts and graphics; developing creative alternatives using text or simple line drawings to replace high resolution photographs and diagrams; and incorporating text-based descriptions to replace graphic representations.6

The Next Step in Creating Educational Resources for Bandwidth-Constrained Users
Users of low bandwidth access technologies risk finding themselves increasingly frustrated not only by constraints of their technology relative to those available to their better-off peers, but even more so by the dearth of appropriately designed and formatted curricula and educational resources tailored to their connectivity constraints. The historic “bookbias” of many educational content providers has, to a large degree, been mirrored in many of the distributed learning programs being offered on today’s market. In many cases, they involve little more than adding indexing and search capabilities to digital reproductions of existing textbooks. At the other end of the spectrum are the new learning environments designed with the latest IT bells and whistles with high-resolution graphics and complex multimedia interfaces. Neither option fits the needs and possibilities of the vast number of bandwidth-constrained educators and students. The dearth of creativity and investment focused on creating contemporary content for bandwidth-constrained users has only widened the educational divide for the digital “havenots.” VITA’s commitment to bring tailored content to bandwidthconstrained users is embodied in its approach to content for VITA-Connect. Through page-level annotated web indexes, a focus on text-based information resources and collaboration with a like-minded community of content providers for shared access to their own libraries and databases, VITA is creating an information portal tailored to low-bandwidth users in the VITA-Connect network as well as the many more with direct but limited online access. Working with our

VITA’s efforts to improve access to information for bandwidth-constrained users through the VITA-Connect portal will be limited unless other content providers recognize the opportunity of low-bandwidth systems to reach this critical audience. Everyday more and more individuals in the developing world gain access to the Internet – but it is usually at the low end of the connectivity spectrum, not the high end. To reach this large audience, educators and national and international development organizations serving the poor should invest in a wide range of locally appropriate, affordable and sustainable technologies based on a careful analysis of user needs, culture and context. Content providers need to recognize the special challenges and opportunities represented by the under-served poor and develop tailored material to allow them equal access to the opportunities offered by the information age. For more information about VITA-Connect contact: Mark Ganter, Volunteers in Technical Assistance, Suite 710 1600 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22209, USA, Tel: 1.703.276.1800 ext. 17, email:

Of the many applications for VITA-Connect, distance education for the rural poor is among the most promising.

2 3

4 5


Wavix, Inc. is a U.S.-based, commercial company providing remote data collection and e-mail services through inexpensive two-way satellite communication systems. VITA’s Webmail server is being developed thanks to a generous grant from the World Bank’s infoDev program. Requires a computer equipped with a WorldSpace multi-media card. Broadcast programming on the WorldSpace Learning Channel requires a separate agreement with the WorldSpace Foundation. Purchase price for hardware and software is $3,000. Costs of licensing by local regulatory authorities will be added to the cost share. In most instances these can be waived or greatly reduced given VITA-Connect’s humanitarian, non-commercial purpose. VITA is exploring the use of standards and design techniques developed for the visually impaired to aid in the development of content relevant to low-bandwidth applications.

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Digital Satellite Radio

for International Development
Rose F. Tchwenko Manager, Institutional Resource Development WorldSpace Foundation*

A quiet revolution is taking place in Africa. In communities across the continent, people are listening to programs about HIV/AIDS prevention, micro-enterprise development, environmental conservation, child survival and youth development, women's rights, general health and nutrition, and conflict resolution. These programs are 'first voice,' produced by Africans for an African audience. The listeners recognize the voices as their own, and realize that the ideas and solutions are from communities like theirs, from people who have shared and understand their experiences and particular circumstances. For many of the listeners, it is the first time they are hearing information that is specifically targeted to meet their needs. Inadequate communications infrastructure and the lack of resources to access the information superhighway isolate these communities. Thanks to innovative digital satellite radio technology, they are able to participate knowledgeably and with confidence in the new global village.

The Technology
A geo-stationary satellite, AfriStar™, of the WorldSpace system orbits over Africa. Comprised of three beams, AfriStar™ covers every inch of the African continent, the Middle East and parts of Southern Europe (Figure 1). It broadcasts to portable digital receivers equipped with satellite dishes the size of teacup saucers (Figure 2). The audience hears crystal clear CD-quality sound without static or interference. The receivers run on batteries or electricity and have been adapted to use solar power. They can pick up the satellite's signal at any location in Africa and the Middle East, no matter how remote or isolated. When connected to a computer using a special adapter, they operate as a modem for the transmission of web-based multimedia data from the satellite to the computer.

dium that combines the possibilities of satellite technology and the steadfastness of radio. This new technology would reach the estimated 4.6 billion people in developing communities in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean with potentially life-saving information. This gave rise to the WorldSpace digital satellite radio network, a system of geostationary satellites that broadcast exclusively to the developing world. In 1997, WorldSpace Foundation (WSF) was founded to carry out the mission of empowering disadvantaged populations through education and knowledge building. Endowed with 5% capacity on the satellites of the WorldSpace system, WSF produces and delivers noncommercial, social development programs to technologically isolated communities in the developing world. It collects locally produced content from community-based NGOs, media organizations, national and international development agencies, and other content providers, and facilitates the placement of receivers within target communities.

WorldSpace Foundation
In the 1980's, African entrepreneur Noah Samara recognized the power of radio as an important tool for reaching populations in the developing world with relevant information. Still, traditional AM/FM radio's effectiveness is susceptible to geographical and meteorological interference and even the most powerful transmitters have limited range. In Africa, very few radio stations reach beyond major urban centers, and rural communities get only trickles of information from fledgling community broadcasters. Concerned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa and inspired by the proven power of knowledge to change the course of history, Noah Samara sought to develop a new me-

Reaching the Target Audience
The target populations of WSF's programs in Africa are mainly the 'poorest of the poor.' They cannot realistically be expected to buy state-of-the-art digital receivers when most of them live on less than $1 dollar a day. Yet, they have the greatest need for the information that WSF produces. In order to ensure that the programming reaches these populations, the foundation has developed and promotes a policy of 'one receiver reaching many ears.' Following this strategy,

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WSF places a receiver with a community-based partner such as an NGO or a service agency and encourages the partner to organize coordinated listening groups within their constituencies. The listening groups are modeled after the great oral traditions of the African people, which have been found to be effective in the promotion of learning. Each listening session is followed by a discussion of the program content during which the participants are encouraged to analyze the information for its usefulness to their daily lives. In addition to coordinated listening groups, WSF places receivers with community broadcasters and allows them to download its programs for rebroadcast on AM/FM. Many broadcasters translate the programming into local languages before rebroadcast. For instance, the Community Information Center (CIC) in the village of Bankilare, which is the poorest community in Niger and the second poorest in the world, downloads WSF programs for rebroadcast in the local dialect. These programs are the CIC's only source of information outside of Bankilare and its immediate vicinity.

costs. The WSF Multi-Media Service transmits texts, images, audio and video via satellite to the user's computer. It is a reliable, cost-effective mechanism for the dissemination of large volumes of time-sensitive multimedia data by international and regional agencies to field workers and partners in areas where access to e-mail and the World Wide Web is unreliable at best. Using the WSF Multi-Media Service, meteorologists, disaster relief workers, and rural extension workers receive up-to-theminute climate information, including dynamic satellite imagery and sophisticated charts, from the RANET, a project developed by the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) in collaboration with the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Doctors and community health workers get the latest articles from major medical journals provided by Boston-based HealthNet/SATELLIFE. Community extension workers in East Africa download training manuals and visual learning aids published by the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN). And, community broadcasters receive the latest news about the region from the United Nation's Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN).

Africa Learning Channel (ALC)
Currently, WSF programming through its flagship audio service, the Africa Learning Channel reaches an estimated audience of six million Africans in 50 countries. Launched in 1999, the ALC is a one-of-its-kind audio service dedicated to the broadcast of noncommercial - and commercial-free information to African communities. It is an electronic fireplace, a forum for Africans to exchange ideas with other Africans and share solutions to common problems. The programs on the ALC comprise one-hour magazine style segments compiled from content collected from African NGOs and media producers. They cover a wide range of topics with particular emphasis on HIV/AIDS education, which constitutes about one-third of all ALC programming. The programs are broadcast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Looking to the Future
With the launching of the AsiaStar™ satellite over Asia and the Pacific in 2000, WorldSpace Foundation is beginning to expand its audio and multimedia services to the region. Beginning in early 2002, WSF, in collaboration with the South Asia Foundation (SAF) and the Rainbow Partnership Organization (RPO), will launch a pilot project in seven countries in South Asia for the delivery of multimedia content to learning centers in rural areas. The audio service for Asia and the Pacific is still in the planning stages. In Africa, WSF continues to develop new programming on the ALC and is looking to create an indigenous language channel in the West African region in partnership with the Panos Institute. The foundation is always forging new partnerships with community groups and broadcasters for the placement of receivers and organization of coordinated listening groups in an effort to reach at least 10 million Africans by the end of 2002.

Canal EF
WSF shares its capacity on AfriStar™ with the Francophone Agency, an intergovernmental organization of Frenchspeaking nations around the world, for the broadcast of French-language programming via the agency's audio channel, Canal EF.

Harnessing the Internet
In addition to the ALC, WorldSpace Foundation provides a unique service to its partners that delivers web-based multimedia data to target audiences in regions with little or no Internet access due to poor infrastructure and/or prohibitive


For more information about WorldSpace Foundation, please visit the web site at or contact the author at

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A Multi-Media Approach for Enhancing Learning and Teaching Shafika Isaacs1 “I learned how to use the Internet at school and how to do research using the Internet …My research has been on the French revolution, its causes and what happened afterwards. I have also learned to work on collaborative projects with other learners where we used the Internet to work on our projects like the one about women in traditional marriages from different cultures.” Sophia Nansbuga, 18 years old, at SchoolNet Africa launch, November 2001 “There is no email and Internet at my school. I learned about it from my friend. I use the computers at my school to write letters and my exercises using MS Word.” Analina Macatane, 16, at SchoolNet Africa launch, November 2001

ICTs in African Schools:

Analina Pedro Macatane is a Grade 9 student at Fransisco Manyanga High School in Maputo Mozambique. Analina’s school is one of the very few in Mozambique that have computers – in fact, one of the 13 computerized schools out of the 7,000 in the country. Analina says that they have 5,000 students at her school and 16 computers. They had Internet access at the school as well as a school homepage. But the high price of the telephone bill meant that they couldn’t afford to pay to maintain the Internet. Sophia Nansbuga, an 18 years old Grade 10 student at Nabisunsa High School in Uganda, on the other hand, speaks of how she uses the Internet at her school, how she regularly sends email to students from other countries, how she used the Internet to conduct research for her school projects on the French Revolution, and for collaborative projects with other learners at the school on female genital mutilation in Uganda. However, at her school there are 1,200 learners and only 10 computers in one computer lab. These two girls told their story at the recent launch of SchoolNet Africa. SchoolNet Africa is an African learning network of “SchoolNet” organizations which are promoting education through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in up to 23 African countries, in partnership with a range of global, regional and local organizations. A SchoolNet is an institution that facilitates the distribution of computers to schools, connects computers to the Internet, provides helpdesk support to schools, facilitates training of

teachers in the use of ICTs and furthers the integration of education content and curriculum through the use of ICTs.

The Technological Landscape in African Schools
ICT penetration in schools in Africa remains extremely limited. Access to ICTs remains highly uneven within countries and across the African continent – an extension of the developmental disparities that have characterized the region for decades. Table 1 provides a cursory glance of a few African countries where schools with computers are shown as a proportion of the total number of schools.

Table 1: Computer Penetration Ratios at Schools in African Countries, 2001 Country Number of schools 28,798 32,000 35,000 1,519 7,000 Schools with computers 5,000 10,000 500 60 20

South Africa Egypt Ghana Namibia Mozambique

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South Africa has the most developed economy in Africa, the highest teledensity and hence the highest degree of access to ICTs relative to the rest of Africa. And yet, the disparities even in South Africa remain significant. Of the approximately 29,000 schools, only 5,000 have computers and of these, a fraction has Internet access, despite the increase in initiatives to get schools online in the country. The main obstacles to Internet access for schools are: • • • • Lack of infrastructure in general and network infrastructure in particular, High telephone costs and high cost of Internet access, Limited expertise, and Lack of an enabling policy environment

uted to the decline in the school dropout rates. Also student enrollment increased from 720 in 1997 to 850 in 1999. Similarly, SchoolNet Namibia is currently testing the use of wireless Ethernet bridges with high gain antennas to link schools to a central wired node, which allows for connection of ranges up to 60km. Evidently, much of the technologies that will work on a larger scale are currently being tested and schoolnets are exploring innovative options that will work under conditions of scarce resources.

Learning Outcomes
The experience of African learners using new ICTs shows that there are positive learning outcomes. Sophia, for instance, tells of the advantages of having access to the Internet at school - how it has widened her horizons, and allowed her to claim the Internet space for her own learning experience. SchoolNet Namibia shows fine examples too. SchoolNet Namibia emerged from a competition organized by the Namibian National Museum, which involves children computerizing paper-based insect records. The competition, Insectathon, is now a central activity of SchoolNet Namibia. In total, 31,020 paper-based insect records of the National Museum, representing 152,751 insect specimens were computerized by schoolchildren from 48 different schools during the regional and final events. Most of these children had never seen a computer before the competition.4 The winning team from Usakos Junior Secondary School will go to Washington, DC, USA in April 2002, to undertake, among other things, a mini-insect@thon at the world-renowned Smithsonian Institute. Similarly, ThinkQuest International, a web-development competition for learners between the ages of 12-19, have over the past three years, had a number of participants from 12 different African countries, two of which have established national ThinkQuest programs, SchoolNet South Africa and the Regional Information Technology and Software Engineering Centre (RITSEC). One of the winners in 2000 was a 17-year-old from Nigeria whose family spent half its monthly income to encourage her to learn about the Internet.5 In Mozambique and Uganda, collaborative projects on topical issues have been one way of encouraging learners to use computers. In Mozambique, learners from different schools have worked with one another, even though they do not have access to the Internet. Thus, despite the slowness of the diffusion of the new technologies in African schools, where they have been tried, there is at least anecdotal evidence of positive learning outcomes. Through computer-related competition programs in

Similarly, in schools where there are computers available, they range from one computer in the school to computer laboratories of up to 40 computers. They would also range from used and refurbished computers to new Pentium IIIs. This disparity also leads to uneven access to the technologies. In some cases, only principals use computers, in other cases only teachers do. Access to computer labs by learners remains very limited. Where learners do have access, it is limited to Grades 11 and 12. 2 A few schoolnets such as SchoolNet South Africa and SchoolNet Namibia have also developed schoolmail, an email system for learners and educators. Many have also developed school home pages. Some, like SchoolNet Cameroon and SchoolNet Namibia, and to some extent in South Africa, are exploring the use of wireless solutions particularly for schools that are outside the electricity grid. At Myeka High School in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, the school uses a solar panel system to access electricity to power the school's computer laboratory.3 (See Figure 1)

According to the principal of Myeka High, solar electricity has led to the acquisition of world class electronic learning equipment such as computers, a TV and VCR, an overhead projector, linkages to the Internet and useful educational websites, and a copier/printer. The technologies have had a positive learning effect on both learners and educators. They encouraged a culture of learning and teaching and contrib-

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particular, African learners appear to be motivated to participate and they acquire skills in research, collaboration, team work, and, in some cases, like with ThinkQuest, interaction with learners between different countries, thereby creating opportunities for cultural awareness and tolerance.

• • •

Multimedia Options
New ICTs should be utilized to complement older styles of learning, particularly in situations like in Africa, where we are challenged to reach large numbers of learners and educators. Much of the experience of schoolnets thus far has been on the technological side: installing computers and connecting them to the Internet. An approach with a stronger educational focus will have to consider utilizing varied technologies. SchoolNet Africa’s collaboration with the Learning Channel Campus, a commercial enterprise in South Africa whose vision is to develop multi-media platforms most suited to local conditions, teaches that the use of both old and new ICTs works most effectively in reaching large numbers of learners. A multi-media platform is what works most effectively, one that takes account of local capacities and languages. Thus in additional to chalk and talk, a spectrum of technological options are available. • • • Community Radio with dedicated education programs for learners and educators; Local media, whereby educators use their own resources in their own languages at the local level to supplement the absence of textbooks; Print media that take the form of newspaper supplements targeted at both learners and educators. This has been extensively applied in South Africa and is now being tried in Nigeria;

School TV – dedicated time for curriculum-related teaching; CD ROM's and video– a myriad of educational software packages based on school curricula and available on CD-ROMs; and Online curricula such as .

In South Africa, the spectrum of technologies outlined above is being tried, and the process has begun in Nigeria.

SchoolNet organizations, with one or two exceptions, have only scratched the surface in using ICTs among a few learners and educators. They nevertheless demonstrate the potential that new technologies may provide in enhancing learning and teaching. There is, however, a dearth of knowledge on the experience with the use of ICTs in schools and the pedagogical value they add in an African context. Generating experimental knowledge on how to change the shape of learning and teaching remains crucial and is one objective that SchoolNet Africa hopes to achieve.

1. Isaacs, S. and Sibthorpe, C. (2000): Report on School Networking in Africa Workshop, IDRC. 2. Isaacs, S. and Broekman, I. (Eds.) (2001): Whetting the appetite for ICTs in African Schools, IDRC. (to be published) 3. 4.


Shafika Isaacs is currently the Executive Director of SchoolNet Africa, a pan-African NGO headquartered in South Africa. For more information contact Ms. Isaacs at or check out their website:

Isaacs, S. and Broekman, I. (Eds) 2001: Whetting the appetite for ICTs in African Schools, An evaluation of schoolnet projects supported by the IDRC, IDRC (to be published).




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Destined for the Dumpster, Outdated Computers Bring Hope and Progress to Disadvantaged Communities
John Thomas, Executive Director, The CURE Network, Inc.

Imagine this…
The time is the late 20th century. The place, the United States. Millions of computers, once the coveted, highly expensive, and indispensable tools of industry, are now rendered obsolete. Faster, better and cheaper computers soon arrive to replace them. Companies, whose vast fortunes were due to these outdated relics, eagerly abandon them for the new generation of powerful personal computers now emerging. This brave new world, once limited to an elite minority, now paves the way for thousands of small businesses, schools, and middle-class consumers, as they too join the high-tech boom that marks one of the most spectacular technological achievements of humankind. While this sounds like the happy ending to a great adventure story, it’s really only the beginning, because with the birth of this new technology comes the death of the old. Consequently, dumps and landfills, already swelling with disposable diapers and other modern conveniences of postconsumer waste, now become vast graveyards for tons of CPUs, circuit boards, hard drives, monitors, mice and keyboards that make up the post-modern wasteland of the late twentieth-century. The real happy ending to this story is made possible only by resurrecting and breathing life back into these old machines and re-distributing them back into the community and into the hands of persons who need them the most – children, low-income families, and persons with disabilities, just to name a few. And yet, there is an interesting twist to this tale. When the personal computer was first introduced in the United States, few people envisioned that it would evolve from a scientist’s tool, to a household appliance that would one day be as commonplace as the television, now in virtually every household, but decades earlier was a luxury afforded only by the rich. Like all emerging technologies, the computer was a young person’s tool, but the world was still very much dominated by the tools of the past. Indeed, civilizations were built and destroyed without the help of a PC, and post-World War II

America was an era marked by great industrial feats – all without the aid of the personal computer. So when PC’s brought about the dawn of the information age, the world was still very much driven by the people, pace and process of the past… and herein lay the problem. How does one raise funds, volunteers, and rally public support in order to give a computer to a disadvantaged person, when food, clothing and shelter presented much more pressing needs? This was the problem I faced in the early 1990’s when I founded a nonprofit organization to do just that. The CURE Network was created for the purpose of providing computers to persons with disabilities so that they could use them as an educational and rehabilitation tool, and to communicate with one another for support and self-help via e-mail. The World Wide Web had not yet been made available in order to make the Internet user-friendly and mainstream, so we developed our own small online network. The first computer we found was lying next to a dumpster. CURE members and volunteers got together in their homes to repair and distribute these discarded PCs to each other. Through our online network, a community of hope was born. Yet, despite the efforts of those who built this self-help program, public support was a challenging hurdle to face for a number of years. When approaching potential donors, I was often asked, “What does a person with a disability [a poor kid, a homebound senior] need a computer for?!” This was a fair and reasonable question. Why give a person a computer when the person needed more basic things? Our belief was that if you provided disadvantaged people with the same tools (albeit a bit older) that mainstream society was using to create a new era, then you would have a person who was more likely to catch up, join in and succeed in this rapidly changing society. To not do so was to run the risk of abandoning a segment of society that would fall seriously behind, thus creating a poorer and more needy class of citizens. Today they call this “bridging the digital divide.” It’s as true today as it was then. The happy ending to CURE’s story was that more and more people came to see unwanted and outdated personal comput-

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ers as useful tools for disadvantaged communities. Now that the PC has affected a whole new generation of users, public support becomes less challenging. After all, if we see the need for our children to own a PC so they can download homework and email their school friends, certainly those of us at the greatest risk in our community deserve no less.

How to start your own computer recycling program
All happy endings aside, the task of finding computers, repairing them and disseminating them back into the community can be challenging. Here are a few tips. First of all, you don’t have to know anything about computers to start a recycling program in your area, but you do have to have access to people who do. Your primary challenge will be to recruit experts in PC technology and motivate them into believing in your worthy project. One of the best places to look is at your local high school, community college, or university. These places will likely teach courses in computer technology. Ask the schools and instructors if they have a local computer club or user’s group where students meet to share technical information and enjoy the company of others with similar interests. If there is no such club or user’s group in your area, work with the school and community to create one. Schools, local places of worship and community centers are good places to host initial and ongoing meetings. With little effort, you can start a group if one doesn’t already exist. Advertising on the Internet is a cheap and efficient way to attract volunteers. For example, Yahoo ( hosts many clubs and groups of all types online for free. Check for online communities near your area and post messages to the group in your pursuit of people to help you locate, build, repair, store, and distribute computers and provide instruction. Make use of Internet search engines to their fullest extent. Search for keywords such as “volunteers” so you can locate services where you can advertise for the many types of tasks that you’ll need to get done in order to succeed. Not just computer enthusiasts and experts, but the many people behind the scenes who provide important organizational support that will be essential to your operation. These are people such as fundraisers, bookkeepers, administrative assistants, people involved in public relations, and others who will help be the liaison between you and the community, or what we called “outreach ambassadors.” In other words, you want those of your clients who were initially helped by you, and want to build a bridge between your organization and their local community.

personal computers you will seek. Pay careful attention to the advise that your computer experts give you. Personal computers are really made up of components such as the hard drive, motherboard, CPU, memory, case, power supply, keyboards, pointing devices and monitors. Your first task for your experts is for them to provide you with a list of minimum specifications for each of these components – and this list will change and should be updated regularly. This will enable you to focus on collecting only those components that they deem valuable and that they are likely to be able to use to refurbish the maximum number of computers as possible for distribution. Not every computer you will get will be working, but your computer repair department will be able to more successfully build a working computer from an assemblage of parts if they have been pre-approved by your computer experts.

Finding unwanted computers
Although our first recycled computer was recovered from a dumpster, your first may not come as easily depending on your location and the size of the population whom you’ll serve. There are several places you can begin your search. Local, regional and national government offices (depending on your country) probably make up the largest consumers of new computers and will have the most used equipment. We found here in the U.S. that many government facilities were renting warehouses to “store” their older PCs, which would eventually be destroyed. Since a new generation of PCs is developed about every 18 months, you can imagine how many computers are sitting unused in this manner. However, getting to them was difficult because this equipment belongs to the public. Giving them to private organizations was often difficult if not impossible and the bureaucracy involved in changing this system is very time-consuming and often fruitless. After the government, the next largest consumer of PCs is private industry. This is where you will likely find the bulk of your donations. Companies in the United States are given tax breaks and other financial incentives to donate used equipment to charity. If this does not exist in your area, you are still doing local companies the favor of removing unwanted equipment they may have to pay to haul off and (importantly) they benefit from the good public relations you will provide to them. Their incentive to give to you also includes the opportunity to be “sponsors” of your mission. This free publicity only helps to better their relationship with their customers and it’s your responsibility to see that they get plenty of credit and accolades for doing so in order to attract more and more company “sponsors” to follow suit. A smaller source of used PCs is your local computer retail or repair store. The store in your area may sell only new computers. If so, they can tell their customers to give their old

Organizing your mission
Once you have located or formed your group of computer enthusiasts, work with them closely in determining the set of technological standards that will determine what types of

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ones to you (particularly if there are tax or other financial incentives for them). Visit your local computer retailers and offer them free advertising space in your newsletter in exchange for referring their customer’s to you. If computers are scarce in your area, then it is likely you will be competing with the used computer market, which will make your efforts even more challenging. Finally, the consumer who is looking to get rid of his computer (because he discovered that he can’t sell it for anything near what he paid for it), is your final source. This is the least efficient means of collecting computers and you will often find these make up the oldest and least workable machines.

If you’ve gotten this far in the process, distribution will be your easiest task because there will always be more people who need personal computers than you will have to distribute. It will also be the most rewarding part of your task as you see the fruits of your labors come to harvest. To benefit the most people, you may want to consider distributing your computers only to places that serve the community (i.e., community centers, schools, places of worship, etc.) rather than to the individual himself. One way in which our organization has changed in recent years was to focus mostly on providing computer training to persons with disabilities, rather than doing both. Working closely with other organizations which only provide computer recycling services, has enhanced our outreach efforts many-fold. Forming similar symbiotic collaborations with other organizations in your area will similarly strengthen your own outreach efforts and pave the way for empowering the lives of many people. Many developing nations around the world are being changed by the personal computer now, like they did only a decade or two ago in the United States. Technology, however outdated in a rapidly changing world, is technology that benefits someone. The lessons learned by the struggles of many charitable organizations such as CURE don’t need to be repeated by other communities and developing nations who are now emerging into the information age. If the fastest computer on the block five years ago can make a difference today in the hands of a child who is struggling in school, or a person with a disability learning new job skills, then it’s truly a happy ending for everyone concerned. [For more information about how The CURE Network is using technology for persons with disabilities, please visit our website at]

Operating Systems and licensing issues
Depending on your area, the vast majority of PC’s you find will be running one of the earlier versions of the Windows Operating System. If you are getting your computers from companies, they are probably purchasing site licenses from Microsoft, so when they turn these machines over to you, they will not include an individual Microsoft license for each machine. Depending on current Microsoft policy or your arrangement with them, you may or may not be allowed to legally distribute these PC’s without the original Microsoft Operating System license, which will likely affect your entire computer inventory. This is a very difficult problem. On the one hand, by distributing a Windows-based computer back into the community, you are creating a future Microsoft user and customer by giving him access to their product – one that will likely be the only operating system he will use. Distributing a computer without an operating system does nothing to empower your client, and distributing one with a lesserknown public domain operating system won’t prepare him for a job in the Windows-dominated world of PC’s. Before you begin any computer recycling efforts, check with Microsoft and your local legal representatives. Editor's Note

There are several other NGOs that have been established to recycle computers to developing countries. Examples: Computer Aid International is based in the UK ( Since starting operations in 1997 it has provided 5,000 recycled computers to schools and community organizations in 33 developing countries. Afritech is a Canadian based NGO that also recycles computers from corporate users. Computers are provided free to schools. The WorLD Organization is a Washington based NGO (, spawned by the World Bank. They are able to supply used ex-rental machines from large computer manufactures (US specification) at a reasonable price. A major problem with old computers is lack of software to run them. NewDeal offers a software package that can be run on any computer from a 286 to the newest Pentiums. It is constructed in a way which allows very small application size and very fast performance. (See ) See also article by Sonia Jurich, "Recycling Computers: A Simple Solution for a Complex Problem," TechKnowLogia (May/June 2000).

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A Pilot Activity in Brazil
Vera Suguri Lourdes Matos Noara Castro, Ieda Castro Lurdes Marilene Jung Eric Rusten*

Many educators around the world are making extensive use of computers and the Internet to enhance teaching and learning. For over four years, the ProInfo program in the Ministry of Education in Brazil, in collaboration with teachers and multipliers1 across the country, has been seeking ways to help educators integrate these technologies into learning activities. Much of this work has focused on using a variety of basic software applications in school computer labs to enable teachers and students to develop interdisciplinary projects. To build on this solid foundation and to expand opportunities for using computers and the Internet in learning, Vera Lúcia Atsuko Suguri, a pedagogical coordinator at ProInfo, proposed to four multipliers, Lourdes Matos, Noara de Resende e Castro, Rosalva Ieda Vasconcelos Guimarães de Castro and Lurdes Marilene Jung, that a pilot project be developed to explore the pedagogical uses of Web-based chat. Together, the project team asked Eric Rusten, the Director of the US/Brazil Learning Technologies Network (LTNet)2 to create an easy to use Web-based chat environment in the LTNet web site that the team could use to carry out the Chat Pilot Project. This pilot, which took place from July to December, 2000, had three main objectives: • • • to test the use of a simple web-based chat tool in collaborative educational projects; to identify effective strategies for integrating the use of Internet chat into Brazilian curricula; and to learn what impacts, if any, that Internet chat may have

on teaching and learning and in carrying out interdisciplinary and collaborative projects. The following schools participated in the Chat Pilot Project: • • • • Ary Ribeiro Valadão Filho Middle School Center of Gurupi, state of Tocantins; Antônio Canela State School of Montes Claros, state of Minas Gerais; Jacob K. Neto School of Novo Hamburgo, state of Rio Grande do Sul; and Hilda Rabello Matta Municipal School of Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais.

This article discusses the technologies that were used in the project, describes the different project activities, presents an analysis of project results, and discusses the lessons that were learned from the Chat Pilot Project.3

Internet chat is a form of synchronous on-line communication that uses software to allow two or more people to engage in real-time discussions by typing. Unlike many Internet chat applications commonly used today, the chat software used in this pilot activity, Ralf’s Chat,4 was embedded in a web page in the LTNet web site. This made it possible for users to par-

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ticipate in synchronous discussion, or to chat, without having to download and install any special software. This software also saves a copy of the chat discussion as a log file. This log file, which proved to be one of the most important pedagogical tools of this pilot, was used by the project coordinators, teachers and, most importantly, by the students to reflect about the discussion after it was completed. A more detailed description of the importance of the log file is presented later. Participants in the project only had to have access to computers connected to the Internet and to use a recent version of Internet browser software such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator. The chat “room” is displayed in the user’s browser just like a regular web page. As with all forms of Internet chat, the software used in the pilot allowed people from different locations to engage in discussions by typing their messages. Internet chat allows people to remain anonymous if they choose and they often use nicknames or even take on new identities when chatting. These characteristics of chat are greatly responsible for chat becoming one of the most common and entertaining uses of the Internet. These same characteristics are also responsible for many educators believing that chat has little educational value. As mentioned earlier, an important aspect of the software used in this pilot activity helped overcome this concern by maintaining a digital record of the chat dialog, in the form of a log file, so that the project coordinators, teachers and students could study the text of the exchange after it was completed to reflect on aspects of the discussion, to identify errors of expression they may have made, and to expose questions for further discussion and research. The log file also helped teachers overcome one of the most challenging aspects of project-based education; identifying and responding to students’ needs. These log files were also used to plan future chat sessions and help to keep participating students from using rude or inappropriate language. This chat software is also available for free as a download from the Internet ( and because it is written in Perl, a programming language, it was easily modified so that all menu items and instructions were in both Brazilian Portuguese and English. Teachers and students who were involved in the pilot project did not need to buy or install any special software on their school computers. They only needed to have a connection to the Internet and recent browser software, either Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. Because the software runs on the Internet server and only text files are posted on the Internet, it is possible to participate in chat discussion using a basic dial-up Internet connection. The software is also very easy to learn to use. Participants only need to register a user name and password and then enter the room. There is a space to type their messages and then by tapping the return/enter key or clicking on the “post” button, the message appears in

the main part of the screen. Users can also change the color of the text they use to post their messages so that it is easy to tell the difference between the dialogues of different users.

!')&4* =(4'>'4'",* ?* 674"87"4* 23$4 +,"#*'7*@#9($4'&7$)*!8&; +,"#*'7*@#9($4'&7$)*!8&;"(4,
The pilot project focused on using Internet chat within the context of different educational projects and themes. This was done to test the effectiveness of Internet chat under different conditions and for different groups of users. To help evaluate the effectiveness of Internet chat, the pilot’s activities were organized into five main categories. It is important to note that these categories do not represent the only ways that Internet chat could be used in education. Other educators are encouraged to be creative in the use of chat and to apply this communications tool to their specific needs. The categories selected were: • • • • • Collaborative Discovery; On-line Seminars and Interviews; Professional Orientation; Professional Development; and Chat with Handicapped and Special Needs Students.

The rest of the article briefly describe each of these uses of Internet chat and assess the benefits from them for teaching and learning. Only one or two examples of a variety of chat activities are used to illustrate each category. Collaborative Discovery On September 6, 2000, a group of 14 and 15 year old students from the Jacob K. Neto School of Novo Hamburgo, Rio Grande do Sul, the most southern state of Brazil, met in a chat room with students from Antônio Canela State School of Montes Claros, state of Minas Gerais, a state in the center of Brazil (see map). Lurdes Marilene Jung and Lourdes Matos mediated this chat session. The focus of this chat was to allow students to explore the differences and similarities between the two regions of Brazil where the students lived. During their discussion, they compared the climate, vegetation, industrial production, life styles and traditional festivities. During this chat session the students of Novo Hamburgo became very curious about why the people of Montes Claros would celebrate a festival for Pequi, a fruit that they had never heard of. This sparked an animated discussion about Pequi and the importance of this fruit to the economy and culture of

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Montes Claros. In another situation, when the students of Novo Hamburgo mentioned that their economy was based on leather, a student in Montes Claros stated that the production of insulin was central to Montes Claros’ economy. Questions were raised about insulin that none of the students could answer and as a result, one of the Montes Claros students started, with his teacher’s help, eagerly to research about insulin. It is unlikely that the student would have been as eager or done as complete a job, if the teacher had assigned this research topic. This result illustrates how useful Internet chat can be in exposing students’ educational interests and topics for learning projects.

and the local school’s multiplier, Noara Resende Castro, decided to use the Internet chat to allow the students to have a virtual interview with experts in this field. A psychologist, Gilvane da Silva Terra and Vilma Borges de Moura Perini, a science teacher, from Gurupi, Tocantins were invited to join the students for this seminar. They had a very open and animated discussion and the psychologists and science teacher were able to provide the students with accurate and detailed information. This virtual seminar also allowed the psychologist and teachers to discuss other important topics such as the negative impact of early pregnancy on young women. Without using Internet chat, these experts would not have been able to collaborate with these students on this topic. It is also likely that in a face-to-face meeting, the discussion of this topic would not have been as open as it was with Internet chat. Professional Orientation In another example, 16 to 18 year old high school students from Antônio Canela School of Montes Claros, Minas Gerais participated in a chat with Professor Carlos Meira, the coordinator of a technical business course at the University of Montes Claros. This chat, which was mediated by Lourdes Matos, the multiplier at the Montes Claros NTE, focused on having the students learn about different career opportunities and the education required to prepare for those careers. This chat session provided the students with a rare opportunity to speak directly with a university professor about different courses, fields of study and related carrier opportunities. This provided the students with critical information important to making decisions about which courses to take and the challenges they would face at college. Presently, few students have access to this first-hand information through conventional channels. Internet chat allowed the professional to spend a little time from the convenience of his office to meet with a group of students. It is unlikely that a face-to-face meeting for this purpose would have been possible. Professional Development On November 1, 2000, teachers from three schools, Colégio Estadual de Gurupi, Colégio Bom Jesus and CEM Arizinho, Gurupi, Tocantins met in a chat room to discuss how interdisciplinary projects are developed using computers and Internet technologies. Noara Castro and Ieda Castro of Belo Horizonte and Gurupi mediated this chat session. The discussion focused on the important roles of interdisciplinary studies on effective learning. The teachers talked about different teaching methods that can be used when working collaboratively in an interdisciplinary way. During this chat, teachers shared their doubts, fears and experiences regarding work in interdisciplinary projects at schools that have computer labs.

Online Seminars and Interviews On October 3, 2000, a chat interview session, moderated by Lourdes Matos, took place between a group of high school students from Antônio Canela and Dr. Kátia Liliane a Psychologist at the Regional Superintendents office of Montes Claros. This chat session focused on student projects on early pregnancy among adolescent girls. Chat was used as part of the project because the teacher felt that the questions being asked by the students required more specific and scientific responses that she could not provide. A similar interview chat session took place on October 20 with 11 to 14 year old students at Hilda Rabello Matta Municipal School in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, and a team of specialists from Gurupi, Tocantins. The Science teacher at Hilda Rabello, Ms. Geralda Sueli da Silva, was developing a project with her students on Adolescent Sexuality. Early in this project Ms. Silva realized that the students wanted to have more specialized information about adolescent sexuality than she was capable of providing. To meet this need, she

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Chat with Handicapped and Special Needs Students One of the most remarkable chat experiences of the entire study occurred when one of the project coordinators, Ieda Castro, joined an ongoing chat activity. A group of students from Montes Claros was in the chat room talking with students from Novo Hamburgo. When Ieda joined their chat session, the students became curious about who she was and where she was from. As the discussion progressed the conversation became very animated and diverse and they all started asking specific questions about Gurupi, Tocantins and comparing conditions in their communities. Since this was an informal chat, the conversations were mingled with personal tastes and preferences; some spoke about courtship and the discussions flowed naturally and enjoyably. At one point, the multiplier from Montes Claros, Lourdes Matos, sent a private message to Ieda Castro, explaining that the Montes Claros students were special needs children with a mixture of mental, visual and hearing disabilities. This was a great surprise to Ieda Castro who later remarked that, “in spite of one of the girls having shown a lack of attention, nothing else seemed to be different from having a conversation with, normal people. I only imagined that I was chatting with children.” A few months after meeting the students in the chat room, Ieda visited Montes Claros to attend an international conference. At this time she visited the school and met the students with whom she had chatted. However, in contrast to the open and dynamic chat discussion, when she met the students in person they became very shy and spoke little. Also, since Ieda didn’t know sign language and the children were deaf they could communicate very little. This example illustrates the power of anonymous dialogue and chat discussion for people with disabilities. Soon after this chat session started, a deaf girl from Montes Claros began shaking. Lourdes Matos quickly moved to her side to see what the problem was. The girl explained that there was no problem, she had just become overwhelmed by being able to communicate for the first time in her life with someone who lived far away and she didn’t need anyone else’s help to communicate. Internet chat had provided a means for her to communicate equally on her own with children who were not deaf and who did not know sign language. Suddenly, opportunities for her to learn and share with others had grown from the confines of her home and school to the rest of Brazil and the world. In short, her worldview had been transformed.

other. The research coordinators also reviewed and analyzed the digital records from each chat dialogue to learn more about the dynamics of this environment. Even though the chat pilot did not use scientific control activities to compare with the chat sessions, the coordinators did compare the behavior they observed with the behavior of students and teachers in conventional classroom activities. Fondness and Friendship One of the things that impressed the participants in this project the most about all the chat sessions that took place during this pilot activity was the great expression of fondness and friendship that emanated from the on-line conversations even though most of the participants had never met each other. Initially, the project coordinators had expected the chat sessions to be dry and emotionless. From this it can be concluded that people participating in chat-enabled collaborative learning environments can share emotions as well as information and develop friendships as well as constructing new knowledge. Overcoming Disabilities Another important factor, observed clearly by teachers during the chat sessions, was related to the possibilities for deaf and other special needs students to overcome certain difficulties that they encounter when trying to communicate, especially at a distance, with others. The student’s teacher and the project coordinators were also surprised to learn that participating in the chat environment enabled the deaf students to gain a better understanding of how prepositions and articles are used in writing. When used in isolation, prepositions and articles have little intrinsic meaning, and deaf students have a difficult time understanding how these words should be used. During the chat, the students had a chance to see these words being used in written conversations and they started asking questions about them and discussing the usefulness of these words with the teachers and other students. This example shows how helpful guided chat activities can be in assisting students in becoming more reflective about language and the challenge of writing clearly so that others can understand. No Inhibitions Even though the people participating in the chat sessions were not completely anonymous, since they used their real names and everyone knew where each person was from, they did not see the faces of the other participants during the discussions. This situation allowed the participants to feel anonymous and discussions were less inhibited. This was especially true when younger students were talking with adults. Usually, students are relatively shy when talking with teachers and will rarely ask questions or talk about topics that may be considered as personal or controversial. In the chat

The project coordinators carefully observed the behavior of students and teachers and the way they related with each

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sessions, however, discussions were animated, open and free flowing. Students who usually exhibited very shy behavior in face-to-face situations were uncharacteristically candid and talkative. This allowed the open discussion of topics that might normally not be talked about. As a result, information and opinions were easily exchanged and all participants, even those who might be inhibited in conventional discussions, were able to communicate equally. Thoughtfulness and Accuracy Because the dialogues were written rather than spoken, the participants had to spend more time thinking about their questions and comments than they would in verbal discussions. They were also able to read what they had written and then edit their sentences and expand on ideas. This combination of factors contributed to discussions that were very thoughtful and meaningful. The focus on written communication also highlighted to the student participants the importance of good spelling and proper grammar. Internet chat is often characterized by a very relaxed approach to spelling and grammar. However, when used in educational environments, especially among participants from different locations, it is possible to focus students’ attention on the quality of their communication. Similarly, students became quickly aware of the need to describe things to other participants in the chat very accurately and completely. Since facial expressions, hand gestures and the tone of voice could not be used to help communicate, the participants were required to be more accurate in the use of written language. At the same time, students’ formulation and use of questions over the course of a chat session showed signs of becoming more focused and accurate. The Chat Pilot Project did not, however, investigate if the changes in the use of written communication used during chat sessions had an effect on students' overall writing skills. Teachers involved in the chat pilot commented that they consistently have difficulty getting students to write and students consistently complain when asked to do writing assignments. However, students were extremely eager to participate in chat activities where they had no choice but to write and to become concerned about the quality of their communication. Learning from the Past As mentioned earlier, the log file created during the chat session provided a digital record of the discussion that students and teachers could study on their own and as a group. The importance of the log file, especially to the students, surprised the project team. At one level, the students showed great pride when reviewing the log file with others and pointing out what they had written and what questions they had asked. At another level, students became very reflective when reviewing the chat log file and started to identify in-

consistent spellings and grammar. Many participating students, without being told by their teachers, quickly turned to dictionaries and other books to learn which spelling and usage was correct. And overall, they showed much greater interest in proper Portuguese. Studying the log file also helped the students discover topic areas that arose during the discussion, which they knew little or nothing about. This realization was often followed by a personal quest for additional knowledge and information—a quest that would have been unlikely if the teacher had assigned it. Connecting Diversity The pilot project also demonstrated the power of Internet chat in connecting people of different age groups and from distant locations. Experts and specialist who would not be able to visit distant schools for conventional face-to-face meetings were able to spend time from the convenience of their offices with students in distant schools. Similarly, teachers who have few opportunities to participate in professional development activities or to network with peers from different schools, discovered that Internet chat allows them to explore new educational ideas and practices and to share challenges and skills with colleagues across the country. Discovering Students’ Real Needs and Desires Internet chat was found to be a very effective tool to help teachers discover students’ interests, needs and problems. One of the cornerstones of constructivist education and project-based learning is that teachers should seek to respond to the real interests, needs and problems of students rather then impose their perceptions of need. Unfortunately, discovering students’ real needs and desires is one of the most difficult parts of effective project-based educational activities. However, as the coordinators of the Chat Pilot Project discovered, the students themselves naturally exposed their educational needs and desires as they engage in Internet chat discussions. And since these needs were preserved in the form of the log files, teachers were able to follow-up and guide student efforts to satisfy their natural desire to discover answers to questions and doubts raised during the chat. More Is Not Better The chat pilot also showed that the quality of discussions degrades if too many people participate. The pilot did not seek to determine the optimum number of participants in a chat environment, but it seems that if more than 15 people are actively chatting at one time quality suffers. It is possible, however, for part of a group of students to chat actively while the others observe and offer suggestions for what to type. Then partway through a chat session the students can

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switch control of the keyboard so that their partners can type. In Hilda Rabello Matta Municipal School of Belo Horizonte, for example, students are organized into groups that are named for the planets. Each group logs into the chat room under their planet name and the members of the group take turns typing responses and questions generated by group members. This not only makes it easier for participants to follow a chat discussion but it also helps students develop good teamwork skills.

that they can follow up with more thoughtful and detailed discussions on topics raised during the chat. This extended and expanded learning opportunities and strengthened relationships among participants. The pilot also showed that both teachers and students quickly learn to use the chat tools and greatly enjoy the dynamic discussions that occur. The pilot also showed that even with a slow Internet connection, chat could be done successfully, using the tools in LTNet. Also, when computers and Internet access are already available, Internet chat is essentially free. It is important to note that Internet chat is not a perfect tool and that it should not be used to replace face-to-face activities. Talking and meeting with people face-to-face has unimpeachable benefits that cannot be replicated in virtual environments. However, it is equally important to emphasize that Internet chat provides benefits that may be difficult or impossible to achieve in face-to-face engagements. There is still much to learn about how to use Internet chat in different educational environments, and how best to integrate this tool with other computer and Internet technologies and classroom teaching. This pilot project has only exposed the tip of the iceberg. As more and more teachers and multipliers across Brazil start using Internet chat as a routine part of education we will learn more about the pedagogical power of this exciting communication tool.

The Chat Pilot Project clearly demonstrates that Internet chat can be a powerful pedagogical tool that can definitely enhance teaching and learning in many different ways. Achieving the educational benefits of Internet chat, however, requires that educators carefully plan and moderate chat events. It is also important that teachers take a long-term perspective with using chat so students are able to follow up on topics that are exposed during early chat sessions. Chat becomes a more powerful tool when combined with other tools such as e-mail and a listserv. This combination of communication tools allows for more complete and in-depth discussions. For example, during a chat, questions and ideas are quickly raised that require more time and more writing to treat fully than is available during chat sessions. In the pilot project, the participants often exchanged e-mail addresses so

*,, ljung@cepic.tche,br.

Multipliers are education technology specialists who train teachers to integrate the use of computers and the Internet into daily teaching and learning, and coordinate and support ProInfo activities in Brazilian schools. Multipliers work in teacher training resource centers, called NTEs (Núcleos de Tecnologia Educacional) that are distributed across Brazil.


LTNet, a project funded by USAID and administered by AED, operates under the US/Brazil Partnership for Education. The LTNet project developed and administers a bilingual web site,, to help carryout its activities.

This article uses some information that was originally presented in a research paper on the Pilot Project, “INTERNET CHAT: AN EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITY” written by Rosalva Ieda Vasconcelos Guimarães de Castro and Eric Rusten.



This software was created by Ralf Gueldemeister and is available without charge as a download from the Internet. Because it is an open source CGI application, it is possible to translate the words used in the interface to Portuguese.

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Bridging the Digital Divide for Education and Health
Peter T. Knight1
If we are to believe George Gilder, bandwidth will be free, someday, perhaps soon.2 Right now it certainly is not, and Gilder made his prediction back in 1993. The cost of broad bandwidth, in many cases of any bandwidth, is prohibitive for many potentially valuable projects in developing countries. The Global Service Trust Fund (GSTF)3 would address the digital divide by making available bandwidth free or at below market prices for qualifying education and health projects in developing countries. Think of it as a voluntary international e-rate for education and health with conditionality to induce improved health, education, and telecommunications policies. The idea is to provide incentives for the development of educational and health content requiring broad bandwidth and better policies now in developing countries, with South-South and SouthNorth collaboration encouraged by making the required bandwidth free or close to free. The scheme could be phased out gradually as the price of bandwidth falls. The fund would come from two donor sources: telecommunications companies with underutilized bandwidth and organizations possessing financial resources. Funds would be allocated as grants to qualifying projects and as in-kind assistance with connections; bandwidth would be allocated inkind through a per capita income-stratified auction-like process. Conditionality regarding health, education, and telecommunications policies would apply for a country to be eligible to submit applications to the GSTF. This conditionality would be established through a participatory process involving major stakeholders.

The Global Service Trust Fund

Background and Rationale
There are still at least two billion people out of a global population of six billion that have major unmet needs in education, health care and water supply, sanitation, and nutrition. Many of these people are located in remote rural areas, with limited or no access to formal educational systems, health care, potable water, electricity, or jobs related to the new information economy. Even in urban areas, many people lack access to the Internet and its great potential to improve education and health. These deficiencies are core to what has been described as the “digital divide.” Conventional approaches to these issues such as trying to train new teachers and doctors cannot possibly meet the needs. In fact, there are more people to be educated in the next fifty years than have been educated up to this point in human history. Information and communications technologies cannot replace the need for teachers and health care pro-

fessionals, but they can expand and magnify conventional capabilities in powerful ways that are only now beginning to be studied and understood. The Internet, with its rapidly expanding and improving infrastructure, will be the main telecommunication media of tomorrow. It has been extended to most countries, albeit with slow-to-medium speed in most developing countries, even in large parts of the developed world. But the full potential for achieving revolutionary advances in education and healthcare in developing countries cannot be realized with the currently available information infrastructure and at currently prevailing market prices. Improved distance education requires much better ways of presenting information and of allowing learners to interact with facilitators to enable the learners to process that information into personal knowledge.

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At present most electronic distance learning takes place by one of two equally primitive programming and delivery modes. On the one hand, much instruction is primarily text and simple graphics delivered over the web and/or through email and its derivatives (electronic fora, bulletin boards, chatrooms). On the other, there is “room-based” or desktopbased videoconferencing, usually with relatively small groups involved and low production values so far as the video and audio are concerned. Both techniques allow significant interaction, but the quality of instruction suffers from the lack of high-quality audio and video. High-quality instruction is possible by broadcast television, with multi-million dollar production budgets having been deployed to good effect in some countries – for example Annenberg/CBP in the US, BBC/Open University in the UK, The Roberto Marinho Foundation’s Telecurso 2000 and Canal Futura in Brazil, and SCS and MINCS-UH in Japan. There have also been reasonably high-quality and effective programming produced in newly industrializing countries by the Ministry of Education and Central China Television for the Chinese National TV University, by the Indonesia teleeducation training center for the PALAPA satellite system, as well as high-quality audio tele-courses produced by the University of the West Indies and the University of the South Pacific. Today, narrow bandwidth systems and high telecommunications costs will not allow the use of streaming video and audio on a large scale in developing countries. Often telecommunications pipes get clogged even with heavy net use of more conventional kinds. Ironically, many audiences, even in developing countries, are “spoiled” by commercial television with high production values when it comes to attempts to promote tele-education course delivery. Thus audiences, even in developing countries, do not easily accept jerky movement, small windows, failing connections, and low production values. The quality of tele-lectures, video inserts and the like has to approximate that of high-quality commercial television. Nevertheless, high quality online courses at lower bit rate transmissions are also increasingly in production and more pervasively available. As for telemedicine, there is a proven need for highdefinition moving images, or at least extremely highresolution still images. Even with low-cost or free broadband connectivity between nations, the cost and pricing structure of telecommunications in many developing countries keep the cost of access to the Internet at prohibitive levels, and inappropriate policy and regulatory frameworks do not encourage efficient use of those public resources devoted to education and healthcare. Although many countries (including some developing countries) are now geared to establish broadband Internet, their initiatives are mainly domestic. There is no international or-

ganization that provides such a network across national boundaries, oceans, and continents for the use by non-profit organizations, e.g., tele-education, tele-healthcare, libraries, and local governments. This international gap is now a major cause of network congestion, and there is an urgent need to close it in a rapidly globalizing world society. In sum, what is needed is both high quality audio/video delivery and high quality interactivity. Although these terms will be understood and applied differently in various parts of the world, the objective of increasing quality, interactivity, and system throughput can be seen as a global objective for improving tele-education and tele-health services. A true revolution in distance learning and telemedicine requires high-speed access to the World Wide Web, and the flexibility to offer a variety of media. These might include two-way audio, full-motion video-conferencing up to MPEG 2 quality, television-quality netcasting, and high-resolution image transfer for tele-medicine. Such capabilities require medium to broad bandwidth. Developing countries need broadband Internet via international satellite and fiber-optic cable. The revolution in education and healthcare in developing countries also requires a more favorable policy environment – not just for telecommunications but also for education and healthcare. A key to bringing down prices to affordable levels is to establish national and international competition or at least flexibility in the provision of telecommunications, education, and healthcare services. Also rapid transfer of knowledge from developed to developing countries needs to be actively encouraged along with support for higher quality local educational program development.

Origins and History of the GSTF Proposal
The first draft of this proposal was developed by Dr. Takeshi Utsumi, Chairman of GLOSAS/USA with Dr. Salah Mandil of World Health Organization (WHO) and presented at the International Workshop and Conference on Emerging Global Electronic Distance Learning (EGEDL'99) held 9-13 August 1999, at the University of Tampere, Finland. It has been developed since then by a team led by the present author and including Francis Method, Joseph Pelton, and Takeshi Utsumi. Members of the team have made a series of papers and presentations in several countries including the United States, Brazil, Pakistan, and South Africa.4 As a result of the G-8 meetings held in Okinawa, Japan, in July 2000, important initiatives have been started to address these great needs. The Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society provides an important framework statement

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The satellite industry that has the technology that can most easily reach the isolated populations should seek to do its share to address this problem with innovative answers.
calling on G-8 governments to “foster an appropriate policy and regulatory environment to stimulate competition and innovation, ensure economic and financial stability, advance stakeholder collaboration to optimize global networks, fight abuses that undermine the integrity of the network, bridge the digital divide, invest in people, and promote global access and participation” and called on “all, within both the public and private sectors to bridge the international information and knowledge divide….” The report of the G8 Digital Opportunities Task Force (DotForce) formed to prepare a set of action proposals for the Genova G8 summit requested support for expanding “opportunities for training, education and knowledge sharing for people living in rural and remote areas through distance learning” and “the interconnection of education and research networks among developing countries and industrialized countries for instance through high-speed networks, twinning or bandwidth pooling….” The current proposal falls within the Okinawa Charter and the DotForce framework, though it cuts across several of the proposed DotForce action points.5 The satellite industry that has the technology that can most easily reach the isolated populations should seek to do its share to address this problem with innovative answers. INTELSAT has undertaken its Project Share and Project Access programs over the last 15 years. WorldSpace has set up a Foundation to support health and education activities. EUTELSAT, ASIASAT, INSAT, and the Chinese National Television University have provided important new satellitebased capabilities. Several satellite companies have agreed, in principle, to support the GSTF initiative that has been accepted as one of its first three projects by the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Telecommunications and Information (CITI) at its launch meeting in February 2000. More recently, at the infoDev Symposium held at the World Bank on December 5-6, 2001, José Maria Figueres Olson (Managing Director for the Global Agenda, World Economic Forum and former President of Costa Rica) made a proposal that contained many elements similar to the GSTF. The GSTF team is happy to work closely with him and any other individuals or organizations espousing similar ideas.

Finance and Organization
Expansion of high-speed broad bandwidth connections for education and health applications in developing countries would be financed by the GSTF. Funding should be sufficient to eliminate or greatly reduce the telecommunications cost for qualified education and healthcare applications in a significant number of countries and number of applications. This might be done by a voluntary international mechanism akin to the “E-Rate” now benefiting schools in the United States and the Brazilian “Fund for Universalization of Telecommunications Services”(FUST). In fact, many countries have used public policy tools of some kind to create a lessthan-market rate for education, health, and/or other priority applications. Another option could be to begin with free bandwidth for qualifying education and health applications, but raise it toward (expected to be declining) market prices in gradual steps. Under the current model of the GSTF, two separate contribution “funds” or “sources” would be established – an inkind bandwidth transmission source and a financial assistance source. The Coalition supporting the GSTF would include commercial and non-profit sources. These should include key international organizations such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the United Nations Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as multilateral development banks (The World Bank and the regional development banks for Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Central Asia). The Coalition would also include bilateral aid agencies, foundations, and companies contributing to the Fund as well as organizations contributing education and healthcare knowledge. The Fund could be administered in a variety of ways, but it should have a credible, well-organized, and financially scrupulous entity of significant international standing in charge in the disbursement of funds. The proposed Fund would be financed from a variety of public and private sources, which could include: • Overseas Development Assistance funds of countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Cash contributions from the profits of international financial institutions, such as The World Bank and the regional development banks. Cash contributions from foundations and companies. Contributions in kind from companies owning underused satellite transponders and/or fiber optic cable – for these companies, the marginal cost of making available underused existing bandwidth is near zero, but

• •

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providing it may build future markets for sale at (declining) commercial prices. The Fund’s bandwidth source might be allocated through a variety of means that might include an auction process to organizers of distance education and telemedicine projects in qualifying countries. The GSTF could function as a bandwidth aggregator itself or could work with commercial and non-profit aggregators through business arrangements to be established. The cash source might be used for grants to such projects, with rules favoring poorer countries and end beneficiaries, assuring a certain geographical distribution of benefits between regions, encouraging national initiatives to increase Internet access and encourage competitive provision of bandwidth, and so forth. Grants might also favor international knowledge sharing. All grants would be made through open competitive process. The cash source could also be used to purchase additional bandwidth from companies providing free bandwidth, giving an additional incentive for these companies to make in-kind contributions. These are only some preliminary ideas. The details, including the establishment of a pilot version of the Fund to test operational principles, need to be worked out during the next stage in proposal development.


Technology and bandwidth resources will not be made available by providers at the scale or the prices necessary to have a significant impact if there is not some assurance that: a) The resources will be put to good use on high priority public goods applications. b) The demonstration projects will be sufficiently well identified that they can be monitored and assessed. c) The GSTF approach is not so open-ended that it precludes the development of new commercial-rate markets for ICT technology and services.

At the same time, it is undesirable to burden the GSTF mechanism with complex conditionality criteria requiring substantial review and judgment by a board or governing body or with such detailed analysis and reporting processes that the mechanism becomes a policy-setting, standardsetting or technical assistance entity. To the maximum extent possible it is desirable to: • • • Set criteria that meet bright line eligibility standards. Limit criteria to those that are essential to GSTF allocation. Set standards that can be determined by entities other than GSTF.

GSTF funding would only be available for education and health projects in developing countries with telecommunications, education, and health policies meeting certain minimum standards. These standards, or conditionality serve as an incentive to better policies and as a means to limit and focus the application of GSTF resources. Three main reasons to establish this conditionality have been proposed by the GSTF team: 1. The essential justification for the GSTF is that important public goods objectives (development objectives) are going unmet because of lack of access to affordable broadband and related technology services. Support for the overall initiative requires that the resources be focused on entities meeting the public goods criteria. Financial resources will not be adequate, at least initially, to meet all needs. Unless some means is found to ensure resources are used for high priority and high quality applications they may be viewed as undesirable subsidies for less cost-effective applications without the public good characteristics meeting local allocation criteria for scarce public financial resources.

A more detailed examination of criteria for establishing conditionality is beyond the scope of this short article, but may be found on the Web at A major effort will be needed to further develop provisional criteria suggested by the GSTF team and to develop feasible arrangements for screening the applicants. Confidence in the relevance of the criteria, the technical validity of the criteria and the arms-length neutrality in establishing eligibility is essential.

Participation by the United Nations, the World Bank, Regional Development Banks, and specialized members of the UN family (UNESCO, WHO and ITU) as well as representatives of the technology providers and relevant specialized NGOs will be needed. 1. As early as possible upon securing the necessary funding, a working group should be established of four to six members designated by the above organizations to meet


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with GSTF organizers in a workshop to draft initial criteria. 2. Following the completion of draft criteria, each participant should vet the materials as necessary within their respective organization and with key officials in the focus countries. The purpose of this exercise is to refine the criteria, not to revise the GSTF mechanism or proposal. This process should be relatively short, perhaps one month, maximum two months. During this same period, GSTF organizers will need to begin preparation of necessary materials for dissemination and for application. It should be possible during this period to complete the graphics and the work plan for duplication and dissemination.


An additional workshop and decision meeting will be needed to reach agreement on the final set of criteria and the dissemination package for the initial set of GSTF applications. At least four pilot projects will be prepared prior to the launch of the GSTF.



Next Steps in the Development of the GSTF
The GSTF team is seeking funds to develop the conditionality along the lines set forth above, mobilize bandwidth and financial resources, prepare four pilot projects, find an institutional home for the GSTF, and hold an international meeting to launch the pilot version of the fund.


The author is one of the board members of GLOSAS/USA, President of Telemática e Desenvolvimento Ltda (, a Brazilian company with offices in Rio de Janeiro and Washington, DC and Partner in Knight-Moore Telematics for Education and Development (, a virtual firm with offices in Washington, D.C. and Rio de Janeiro. He may be contacted at

See Kevin Kelly, “George Gilder: When Bandwidth is Free, the Dark Fiber Interview with George Gilder,” Wired, 1.04 (September/October 1993), available online at or .

The GSTF (TM of GLOSAS/USA) proposal has been developed over the past four years by a team consisting of Peter Knight (; Francis Method (, education policy analyst, advisor to TechKnowLogia and to UNESCO, ; Joseph Pelton ( one of the board members of GLOSAS/USA, Research Professor with the Institute for Applied Space Research at the George Washington University ( and Executive Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Institute of Telecommunications and Information (; and Takeshi Utsumi (, Chairman of GLObal Systems Analysis and Simulation Association in the USA (GLOSAS/USA) and Vice President for Technology and Coordination of Global University System (GUS) (

Versions of the proposal may be found at, , and PowerPoint presentations of the proposal may be found at and The current article draws freely on this documentation.

All of the documents cited in this paragraph can be found on the DotForce website at

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ThinkCycle at M.I.T.
Sharing Distributed Design Knowledge for Open Collaborative Design
Nitin Sawhney, Saul Griffith, Yael Maguire and Timothy Prestero MIT Media Laboratory and MIT Ocean Engineering {nitin, saul, yael}, such problem domains. ThinkCycle1 is a student-led initiative at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that seeks to raise awareness, develop design pedagogy and collaborative tools to address critical design challenges by working closely with universities and organizations worldwide.

Creating a Culture of Socially-Conscious Design Innovation
How does one go about designing better water filters for solving the clean water needs of 1.3 billion people, simplified intravenous (IV) treatment devices for cholera patients in refugee camps, low-cost prescription eye-wear for communities in Africa or active response kits and temporary shelters for disaster relief? Critical design challenges in the environment and under-privileged communities have generally not been well addressed by either existing market mechanisms, academia or government organizations. We feel that such initiatives require diverse domain expertise (from doctors, engineers and practitioners), motivated design teams (perhaps based in universities and industry), and fieldexperience from both entrepreneurial and non-governmental organizations (NGO) working in such areas. This class of “critical global challenges” requires a new approach towards collaborative design, one, which embraces multi-disciplinary teams and contributions from participants in different institutional settings. In collaborative projects, the emerging design knowledge and process is rarely captured and shared among others. In the open source community, it has been argued that in many cases it is beneficial for the ongoing design to be exposed to public peer review and contributions from a wider community of experts. Ideally, such a process would lead to more rapid and innovative design iteration. Why is collaborative design around critical challenges not approached in this manner today? Is it because of inappropriate design tools or a lack of social awareness and political will on the part of organizations and institutions? We believe there is a genuine need both for designing novel collaborative tools and creating a culture of design innovation among institutions around

Open Collaborative Design: Capturing Design Knowledge in Social Settings?
Most engineering design tools have focused on highly specialized and formal approaches to support collaboration among members of a design team. The complexity of the tools imposes a high barrier for novice or casual users to participate in the design process. Often the focus is primarily on the design artifact, rather than on capturing the evolving rationale and social dialogue in the ongoing design. In multicultural settings, the diverse design perspectives and unintentionally embedded cultural biases are rarely captured. In this article, we propose the need for lightweight online design tools that support gradual problem formulation and design exploration mediated by ongoing dialogue among many distributed participants. Such tools must effortlessly capture design process, rationale and contributions, to make both the outcome and ongoing process useful and relevant to designers, domain experts and stakeholders. A design rationale is an explanation of the reasoning, tacit assumptions, design parameters, operating conditions, dependencies or constraints applied in the creation of an artifact or some part of it [Gruber93]. A design rationale may help justify why specific decisions were made and alternatives chosen in the process of design. It is argued that design rationale is helpful for both the original designers and others in reusing, modifying and maintaining the existing designs. It is also considered useful for designers to communicate and

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coordinate within a team over time or negotiate with stakeholders about a design in progress. However, engineers do not have strong incentives to document the rationale in their work due to the added overhead of capture. Gruber and Russell suggest that existing software tools for engineering design should be extended to provide easy capture or linkage to rationale explanations as a by-product of their usage. [Karsenty96] proposes an iterative approach to capturing design rationale, suggesting that it should be conceived of as an unfinished “document” that evolves over the course of a project through subsequent use of the rationale by others. One system, Answer Garden [Ackerman98] allows users to seek answers to commonly asked questions in an information database through sets of diagnostic questions. However, it also allows users to tap into the organization’s social network by routing queries on unknown answers to appropriate human experts (via email). This mechanism, hence, provides users and experts a means to grow a body of knowledge on the system over time, through the normal process of posing and answering questions. Recent trends in the “open source” movement suggest that many benefits can be derived from sharing design knowledge, and allowing an “open” evolution of design based on public peer-review and contributions from diverse participants. Eric Raymond [1997], in his landmark article characterizing the evolution of open source software like Linux, pointed out the importance of a large base of distributed users who help improve the design outcomes much more rapidly but also become indispensable co-developers, if “properly cultivated” during the design process. This “Bazaar view” of software development relies on the fact that each co-developer due to unique background and interests, views the problem with a “slightly different perceptual set and analytical toolkit.” This approach is particularly valuable in complex problem domains where expertise cannot easily be found in any one institutional setting, and a wider design exploration of many simultaneous design alternatives and approaches is necessary. With this view, we began to consider how one would create an environment that provides an Open Collaborative Design approach, particularly for hardware/product engineering challenges with a distributed community of interest. This framework has begun to emerge in the development of the ThinkCycle initiative.

nology for their communities and the environment. In the first few months, a proof-of-concept prototype for the online database was developed to serve as a demonstration of the core ideas. However, without an active user community the system lacked the appropriate structure and interface necessary for distributed collaboration. We also recognized that simply building a distributed software platform does not by itself create an environment of design innovation in such problem domains. To test and redesign this platform, we set out to create a novel design course at MIT, focusing on realworld problem solving. We felt that it was necessary to rethink design pedagogy to integrate a culture of collaborative design, multi-disciplinary fields and real-world exposure in engineering courses taught at universities. In Spring 2001, in consultation with Media Lab professor Mitchel Resnick, we ran a design studio at MIT appropriately titled "Design that Matters,"2 as a novel experiment to devise a pedagogical approach that would seed challenges and design solutions for the initiative. The studio brought together students from across MIT and Harvard, with notable speakers from around the world to focus on problems like access to clean water, human generated power, bilingual language learning, low-cost health treatment and adaptive eyewear. By nature this studio was developed to test concepts of distributed and collaborative design, where student teams must work with domain experts, NGOs and communities on real-world projects. The students documented the challenges, their ongoing design alternatives as well as the final prototypes. This studio was also used as the nucleus for developing the ThinkCycle web-based collaboration software. In mid-April 2001 one of the authors, Nitin Sawhney, began development of the current system with iterative feedback from students in the course. An early version of the system was introduced in May for students to document their projects online. Over the year, the system functionality has been extended with many performance improvements to make it a robust and usable collaborative platform.

ThinkCycle: Framework and Design Approach
The ThinkCycle Collaborative platform is designed to provide an evolving online space for discussing, contributing and viewing design challenges, emerging solutions and resources in diverse problem domains. Such domains include Cholera Treatment Devices, Human Power Generation, Emergency Relief Technologies, Rural Community Radio, and Arsenic Remediation. The nature of these domains requires participation from domain experts, stakeholders, designers and the general public. To support sharing of knowledge among such distributed communities, ThinkCycle provides a number of collaborative features on a web-based online platform.

The ThinkCycle Initiative: A Brief History
In March 2000, several graduate students at the MIT Media Lab proposed an initiative to enable "open source problem solving" among university students everywhere and communities in the developing world. A key part of the initiative was to create an online database of well-posed problems and evolving design solutions. This would be designed to facilitate exchange, raise awareness and harness the expertise of students towards real-world and appropriate design of tech-

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ThinkCycle Topics (e.g. Cholera IV Treatment Devices)
Participant Roles Creator & Editors Domain Experts or Stakeholders Design Teams Students, Designers and Contributors Peer-Reviewers Experts, Stakeholders and General Public Publish & Review Discussions Threaded Messages Dynamic Views Topic Notes Categorized Notes and Recent Postings


Categorical Notes Challenges, Concepts and Resources Publications Peer-Reviewed Papers Files and Images


ThinkSpace Process & Rationale in Design Teams File Mirror Archives

Figure 1: Model for knowledge sharing and collaborative design activities among diverse users. The system organizes problem domains as “topics” which serve as a shared working space for a community of interest. Topics consist of an online discussion board, shared filespace, categorical notes and publications. NGOs and domain experts typically contribute design challenges and resources posted as notes with online links and relevant images while design teams use the system to post iterative design concepts, technical notes, working files and images from ongoing engineering design. Other participants, including the stakeholders, innovators and the general public review the ongoing design in a topic while posting their own contributions. The topic creators serve as editors (initially) to setup the problem domain, and make suggestions to contributors when needed; however, no formal moderation mechanism is created on the system. When new topics are created, members of the ThinkCycle community are notified by email allowing members to review, join and contribute to it. Contributions within a topic are categorized as challenges, concepts, resources, technical notes, organizations and so on. These notes consist of short descriptions, along with online links, images and files attached. Users can also add detailed references to relevant books or articles as publications in topics. Publications can include reviews posted by any user. Subscribers to specific topics are notified whenever new content is posted. In addition, when users login to the site, the system displays newly posted items and messages since their last visit. Finally, all content on the system can be easily searched. Together, this set of functionality in an online distributed system, begins to provide a powerful platform for knowledge sharing and collaboration. Iterative refinement of the interface and better personalization and support for group activity should make this a more usable platform for distributed communities.

Case Study on Collaborative Design: The Cholera Treatment Project
We now demonstrate how one design team used the system in the Design that Matters course offered in spring 2001, to archive their work and collaborate on a problem domain related to cholera treatment. This inter-disciplinary design team consisted of three MIT engineering students (including one of the authors, Timothy Prestero), working closely with a local domain expert to explore design approaches for cholera treatment devices. This case study illustrates the design process, emerging design artifacts and outcomes of the project. However, we must note that the ThinkCycle system became available to the design team only in the last half of the design course. The key design challenge was to develop a novel low-cost IV drip flow control device that would facilitate rapid treatment of patients infected with cholera. Cholera is an acute intestinal infection, which if left untreated can lead to severe dehydration and death. The team began with a basic survey of cholera epidemics and how medical relief organizations currently handle such treatment, particularly in refugee camps where a large number of patients must be treated quickly. In this exploratory problem-formulation phase, the team archived some of the online articles, resources, organizations and established designs as categorical notes on their ThinkCycle topic. Based on their online discussions with domain experts and relevant literature search, the team developed four well-posed challenges for cholera treatment, which were clearly documented on the site. The team quickly moved into the design phase of the project, experimenting with existing IV drip measurement devices and their own prototype devices. They archived the flow-rate data results of their experiments as documents and excel

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spreadsheets on the ThinkCycle file-space, often sharing the uploaded documents with each other and the course instructors in this manner. The team now devised clear design constraints for their proposed devices based on their target users (medical relief assistants in developing countries), which included low cost, accurate flow-rates, ease of operation and simplicity of construction. In a series of group meetings the team came up with a diverse set of 7-10 concept alternatives, followed by concept sketches, detailed design specifications, prototype manufacture and experimental testing of the prototypes. Many of the design artifacts from this process, including sketches, graphs, CAD models and images were archived on ThinkCycle with annotated comments. In some instances, other students in the course and the local domain expert reviewed these artifacts and provided feedback to the team. The team now found that their nine working design concepts fell in three categories of increasing complexity, and began to evaluate the design constraints for each device based on the criteria proposed earlier. Designs that showed most promise included a modified roller clamp and a rotameter (an instrument for measuring fluid flow rates). These were more extensively refined and tested, while additional documentation regarding their design rationale and advantages/limitations was archived online on a separate website designed by the team. Finally, the team took their design sketches and working prototypes to consult with two doctors at the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Infectious Diseases. Both doctors had extensive field experience with cholera treatment. The team videotaped and summarized the discussion (both documented on ThinkCycle). The critical feedback from the doctors helped the team understand some of the real world constraints for practitioners and narrow their designs accordingly. They submitted their final paper for peer-review on the ThinkCycle publication library [Prestero01]. How should ThinkCycle be extended to support the team’s design activities? There is a need to support lightweight mechanisms for informal contributions and a more coherent view of the unfolding design process. We are currently developing design tools that provide shared spaces for members of individual design teams (within topics) to collaborate towards evolving design concepts. These ThinkSpaces serve as informal design notebooks for teams.

as packages running on top of the ACS services, including topic and notes categorization, content templates, publication library, peer-reviews and a custom search engine. An Oracle database is used to store and index all data for ThinkCycle. We also maintain a separate development server for prototyping and testing new applications and features. All content files in the Oracle database are extracted four times a day to a separate mirror server, which provides fast text-only access to archived files categorized by topics. The mirror archive can be subsequently placed on distributed servers around the world, for rapid access by universities and local users. This extensive infrastructure allows us to provide a robust and scaleable online platform for a large distributed community of potential users worldwide.

Related Online Initiatives
Here we outline some non-profit initiatives that utilize an online distributed approach towards knowledge sharing and problem solving. A number of initiatives such as Distributed.net3 and SETI@home4 set out to solve computationally intensive problems by utilizing a distributed network of computers. Many online sites exist for open source software developers such as providing means for tracking and archival of ongoing software projects. One example of open source hardware is the Simputer project,5 a non-profit trust to promote development of low-cost handheld devices for rural settings, initiated by the Indian Institute of Sciences in Bangalore, India. The World Bank recently created the Development Gateway,6 a shared knowledge base of reports and information on international development projects. Finally, a novel initiative for archiving indigenous knowledge is the Honey Bee Network,7 an online database with over 10,000 grassroots innovations collected from farmers in India. Prof. Anil Gupta at the Indian Institute of Management and Sristi, Ahmedabad [Gupta97] initiated it in 1988. ThinkCycle is distinct with its focus on open source collaboration around engineering design innovations for critical problem domains.

ThinkCycle System Implementation
The ThinkCycle online collaboration platform has been developed using an open source framework called the ArsDigita Community System (ACS). This consists of core services and software modules for managing content, versioning, permissions, user membership, messaging, and session tracking. The main applications for ThinkCycle are developed in the Tcl programming language with SQL queries,

Ongoing Work and Open Research Questions
Current initiatives in ThinkCycle are being led by a working group of graduate students and researchers across MIT, with support from faculty in various departments: ! “Development by design” Workshops: We organized an

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international workshop at MIT in July 2001,8 to bring together participants from NGOs, industry and academia. The goal was to create a dialogue on design issues for critical challenges in the environment and underprivileged communities. Based on the success of the first workshop, we plan to continue this event in Bangalore, India (2002) and Sao Paulo, Brazil (2003). Challenge Probes with NGOs: Packages are being mailed to 20-25 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with questionnaires and disposable cameras, in an effort to seed well posed challenges on ThinkCycle with real-world problems documented by them. Global Design Studio with Universities Worldwide: A pilot program of design courses is being launched in conjunction with 7-10 universities in Brazil, Costa Rica, Portugal, Kenya and India. They plan to adapt existing design courses or create new ones to incorporate part of the ‘Design that Matters’ approach and collaborate with local NGOs, industry and design teams at other campuses, using the ThinkCycle platform.

Field study of design interactions on ThinkCycle allows us to consider key questions such as: What formal and informal knowledge do designers and participants freely express in such a publicly accessible online forum? What technical affordances in the system influence active knowledge sharing among local and distributed participants? Under what social and institutional conditions do participants have greater incentive to share design knowledge? What conflicts arise due to intellectual ownership or need for privacy control among participants in diverse institutional settings? In actively collaborating with NGOs in developing countries, what will we learn about the effects of technology and resource disparities on transmitting ideas in general, and the collaborative design process as a whole? These questions should motivate and inform the design of future collaborative tools and pedagogical approaches. Finally, a range of design projects created on ThinkCycle may reveal the distinct conditions and problem domains that more readily support an open collaborative approach for engineering design innovations.

Ackerman, M.S. 1998. Augmenting Organizational Memory: A Field Study of Answer Garden. ACM Transactions on Information Systems, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp 203-224. Gruber, T.R. and Russell, D.M. 1991, 1993. Design Knowledge and Design Rationale: A Framework for Representation, Capture, and Use. Technical Report KSL 90-45. Stanford: Knowledge Systems Lab., Computer Science Dept. Stanford University. Gupta, A. K. 1997. The Honey Bee Network: Linking Knowledge-rich Grassroots innovations. In Development, Vol.40, No.4, pp.36-40. Karsenty, Laurent. 1996. An Empirical Evaluation of Design Rationale Documents. In Proceedings of CHI’96. Prestero, T. J., Height, M. J., Hwang, R. 2001. Rapid Cholera Treatment: Exploring Alternative IV Treatment Devices. Upcoming Proceedings for “development by design,” Workshop on Collaborative Open Source Design of Appropriate Technologies, MIT, Cambridge, MA. Raymond, Eric. 1997. The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Article available online.

1 The ThinkCycle initiative was devised by Media Lab graduate students Ravi Pappu, Saul Griffith, Nitin Sawhney, Yael Maguire, and Wendy Plesniak. The initiative has expanded with ongoing efforts from Tim Prestero, Ben Vigoda, Jason Taylor, Jesse Kipp and Amy Banzaert. Professors Mitchel Resnick and Bakhtair Mikhak provided guidance in the design studio. 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

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Getting a School On-line in a Developing Country:
Common Mistakes, Technology Options and Costs
Mike Trucano and Robert Hawkins

Answering the Question
At World Links, we have, since 1997 helped train teachers and students to make effective use of information and communications technologies to improve teaching and learning in developing countries around the world. As part of this effort, we have helped schools and community telecenters "get on-line," to establish a connection to the Internet, in a variety of circumstances, for a variety of purposes. This connectivity effort has been quite successful: 98% of schools have remained connected to the Internet. Because of this positive experience, groups, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, regularly approach us with a simple question: "How can we get our schools on-line and what will it cost?" Unfortunately, we have no one short, simple answer to this question, because there is none. We do, however, have a process for coming up with an answer, based on our experience in working in about 700 schools in over 20 developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. This article highlights some of the common questions we pose to help school officials in a variety of developing countries determine the technology costs associated with getting (and keeping!) their schools "connected." These questions attempt to identify why schools is seek to get on-line, and what they hope to accomplish. Answers to these questions help in identifying and assessing the technologies that they need, in creating a budget, and in negotiating with the myriad of vendors who are all-too-eager to provide these technologies to schools.

should do when assessing their connectivity options. Sounds so simple, yet many schools fall into this mistake. Connectivity seen as an end in itself Time and again, we have found that, at least initially, decision makers of all types and sorts -- community leaders, school officials, policymakers, teachers -- often see connectivity in schools as an end in itself. A typical assumption is that once computers are introduced and connectivity is established, nebulously defined "benefits" automatically follow. This short-term view often leads schools to budget insufficient amounts for recurrent costs, especially technical maintenance, training and human resource support. Thus, viewing connectivity as an end in itself can be a very costly assumption. And given the serious resource constraints and great challenges faced by almost all schools in developing countries, a very dangerous one. Getting a school connected is just the first step. Focusing only on the technology "What do you think of using [insert product name] in a school?" People interested in connecting schools to the Internet ask us this type of question on a daily basis. This is not surprising, as typically schools and decision-makers are bombarded with (often incomplete, biased and/or contradictory) information from vendors promoting their products for use in schools. However, these types of questions are not appropriate in the first stages of assessing connectivity options for schools. As everyone knows, computer technology changes - often and fast. Although it is essential to know the pros and cons of each choice, the initial focus of planning for a school’s connectivity should again be on what you hope to accomplish, not the specific tools that you will use to do so. Short-sighted initial focus on establishing connectivity, downplaying operating costs Almost all groups that approach World Links for advice on establishing connectivity acknowledge the importance of

Avoiding Common Mistakes
"We have $x to spend on connectivity -- what will this get us?" Before embarking on a journey of any sort, the first question is not typically "How much money do I have?" Rather, it is to determine where you want to go, and why. Then you figure out how to do it. On a general level, this is what schools

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recurrent costs and maintenance. However, in our experience, these costs tend to be systematically underestimated. These costs include such things as: ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! electricity; telephone charges; Internet access (assessed in a variety of ways: by minute, by hour, by data transfer, by time of day); web/e-mail hosting (disk space, data transfer); hardware/software maintenance and upgrades; paper; toner; reliance on proprietary hardware/software solutions; reliance on a single vendor; and, most often neglected, sufficient human resource support.

with teachers and students in other schools." "We want access to more up-to-date educational resources." "We want to provide students with basic computer literacy skills." And so on.

The "What" Question
Once schools are clear on why they want to invest in technology, we then move to the “what” question. Connectivity for a school or community can mean many different things. We start by asking, "Do you want students to be able to surf the Internet and send e-mail?" Of course, the answer to this question is almost always "Yes!" Then, in addition to vital issues relating to pedagogy and curriculum (that are beyond the scope of this article), we ask questions to help determine what exactly "surfing the Internet" and "sending e-mail" might mean for a school. Questions like: ! ! ! ! What web sites or on-line resources will students need to access? Do these resources change very often? How quickly will web pages need to be downloaded? What type of communication would you like to enable? (Between teachers, between students, between administrators and teachers, etc.) Who should be able to send e-mail? Who should be able to receive e-mail? How often does e-mail need to be sent/received? How many concurrent users do you want? How many total user accounts will you need? Will students be creating their own web pages? Will students be using a digital camera or working with digital images? Will students need access to on-line audio or video?

We have found that introducing the concept of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of computer-related initiatives can be especially useful to help illustrate the potential dangers of making this mistake, for this helps to focus attention on the operating costs of whatever connectivity solution is implemented. An illustration of the focus on start-up costs at the expense of on-going maintenance is the fact that most schools buy anti-virus software and then neglect to update it regularly (often, this effectively renders the software useless). Many of these schools then experience serious virus contamination and have no budget or know-how to resolve the problem. As daunting a prospect of providing initial connectivity may seem, success is a function of keeping a school on-line, not in getting it there.

Factors Influencing Connectivity Options and Costs
When working with education decision makers regarding costs for establishing an education technology program, we first establish the why (usually a long, iterative process, as greater exposure to technology helps to refine answers). We then move on to the what, where, who and when questions, which help to translate the general why statements into more specific, discrete needs that connectivity can be expected to fulfill in a school.

! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

The "Why" Question
We first try to open a dialogue, beginning with a few seemingly simple questions: "Why do you want to connect your school or community to the Internet? What function will Internet connectivity serve in your school or community?" Common answers familiar to readers of TechKnowLogia are: "We want our students to develop skills that will help them in the 21st century." "We want to be able to communicate

The answers to these (and many other) questions help to determine the types of technology needed to support a school's connectivity needs. Quite often, a connection to the Internet is not necessary to enable many of the activities that a school believes connectivity will provide! For example, decision makers are often quite surprised that, by using widely available, free and low-cost software tools (local web servers, proxy caching servers, off-line browsers, CD-ROMs, an email server on the local network), the "on-line experience" can be had with only a minimal (or no!) connection to the Internet. Particularly for schools with dial-up Internet access, World Links has worked very hard over the years to find technical solutions such as these to limit the amount of time (and associated telephone bills) that schools actually spend on-line connected to the Internet. Also, World Links has built on the technology platform for which the most expertise and knowledge exists in a particular school or coun-

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try. For instance some countries have developed peer-topeer networks while others have installed client-server networks. Some countries have implemented solutions using only 486 computers and Linux software, while others exclusively have Wintel solutions. Each decision however needs to be evaluated based on the basic question as to what students and teachers will do with the technology to improve teaching and learning in the classroom.

monitors. There will also be a need to train teachers and administrators on how to use the equipment; these types of human resource costs should be included in budgets related to Internet connectivity in schools. There is also a need for skilled labor to help install, maintain and upgrade the equipment. A select group of teachers and students can help with this process, but they too will need to be trained. In the World Links experience, too little funds are budgeted for technical training related to the general use, maintenance and upgrading of hardware and software in schools, with the result that equipment has a much shorter productive life than it should. As a general rule of thumb, we advise that basic maintenance services for a set period of time (usually two to three years) be included in the agreement with a vendor to purchase the equipment. An additional complicating factor is that technical support people often need to have a good command of English to be able to access support documentation. Often, a school will designate a technical administrator for its computer lab from its own teaching or administrative staff, and will pay for additional technical training for this person. This is a great idea, but also can be a dangerous use of precious school resources. Why? After the person has received this training, he /she often leaves for a higherpaying job elsewhere. The difficulty of finding and keeping qualified staff to manage the technical aspects of a computer lab has led many schools to outsource the technical maintenance of computer labs and connectivity to outside vendors, typically those vendors from whom they bought their equipment. Other schools have given students additional responsibilities and training to maintain the computers in the labs and run the network.

The "Where" Question
The “Where” question is essential because connectivity options and costs can vary greatly, depending on setting. Now, again, this might seem obvious. But many people who contact World Links are quite surprised at just how vast the differences are in costs associated with bringing a school online, depending on the school's location. A country's general telecommunications infrastructure and operating environment (see checklist at the end of this article) is an obvious determinant of costs associated with connectivity. Based on World Links initial feasibility reports that are conducted before initiating the program in a country, schools outside a local call or wireless connection to an Internet Service Provider simply cannot get connected. The costs of regional calls are simply prohibitive and the exchanges over which these calls must be placed are so antiquated in developing countries that data transfer is nearly impossible. Increasingly, World Links has had great success in implementing a variety of wireless connectivity solutions for schools, which in some circumstances can provide a higher level of faster Internet connectivity to larger groups of end users at a lower cost than a traditional dial-up solution. The cost, availability and quality of wireless connectivity can be impacted by a variety of additional factors, including such things as weather, distance from major cities, line of site to fixed transmitters and the type of land on which a school is built (flat, mountainous). Especially in developing countries, legal and regulatory issues often also greatly complicate the introduction of these types of solutions. Issues such as VSAT and spread spectrum licensing, spectrum management, interconnection policies, and international gateway regulations can greatly influence the options and costs for connecting schools with the most cutting edge wireless solutions.

The "When" Question
“When” do policy makers want to get started with this process? Costs change over time, often significantly. As most everyone knows, the rate of improvement and innovation in the computer and telecommunications industries over the last decade has been astonishing. One result of this phenomenon has been the steady decrease in prices for hardware, software and Internet connectivity over increasingly short time frames. At the same time, new technologies emerge such as scanners, digital cameras, software programs, etc., for which schools have no room in their computer and connectivity budgets. This dynamic -- decreasing prices coupled with new, unforeseen needs -- often puts great strains on a school's budget for computers and connectivity, and complicates the ability to budget for these costs over a period of more than one or two years. Moreover, the sequencing of a regional or national rollout can often confound education planners. World Links has discovered that it is important to begin with those champion schools that can provide a demonstration effect and have a vision and demand for use of the technology in their

The "Who" Question
“Who” will do this work? Finding -- and keeping -- people is a real challenge. Introducing computers and Internet connectivity in schools has a large human resource impact and can be a significant component cost of installing and maintaining Internet connectivity in schools. On one level, there may be additional needs for security guards and computer lab

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schools. As experience and expertise is developed, these schools can then act as hubs or centers of excellence for neighboring schools to help them with their connectivity and training issues. Moreover, these schools are often used after school hours, on weekends and during holidays for community access (including access by other schools) on a for-fee basis – spreading the recurrent cost among a larger user base. In this way many countries have begun to develop their national “schoolnets.”

" " "

Types/speed of lines available in country (is data supported?) Are there x25 or frame relay services available? Percentage of digital exchanges in the country

Competition in Telecommunications Sector
" " " " " "

Getting Started
Schools in developing countries, often woefully underfunded and overtaxed with responsibilities, are increasingly confronted with this new challenge: providing computers and Internet connectivity to their staff, students and communities. The variety of connectivity options available to a school can be quite overwhelming, especially with the emergence of new wireless connectivity options, and will most likely change quite a bit over time. However, unlike many schools in North America, Europe and Japan, schools in developing countries have no margin for error when attempting to assess the costs related to establishing and maintaining Internet connectivity in their schools. With scarce resources to commit to address great challenges, the decision to introduce computers and Internet connectivity in a school in a developing country is not a decision to be taken lightly. By first assessing their individual needs, however, schools can greatly increase the odds of making good decisions regarding their hardware, software, human resource and connectivity choices. By avoiding common mistakes and identifying goals and uses for the technologies in their schools before evaluating the technologies themselves, schools can be in a position of much greater leverage when asking local vendors to make bids to provide solutions that best match the needs of the school. Ultimately, the technology solution implemented in the school must meet the expected educational gains that Ministries of Education expect from this investment.

Open competition in Internet connectivity? Open competition in value-added services? Competition in fixed line service? Companies involved (by region, if appropriate): Competition in wireless service? Companies involved

Costs and Policy Environment
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What is the procedure for getting a telephone line installed? What is the typical waiting period for a new telephone line? What are the installation fees for telephone service? What are the fees for an additional telephone line? What are the monthly fixed charges for a phone line? Can the phone lines support data? What is the charge for a 3 minute local and regional call? What is the charge for installation of a 64 kps leased line over 10 km? 20km? 100km? What are the monthly leased line charges for a 64kps over 10km? 20km? 100km? What is duty on imported computers? What is the procedure to obtain a VSAT license? What regulations for establishing spread spectrum or other wireless connectivity solutions? Are there any other relevant policy-related implications for the World Links program?

ISP Information
" " " " " " " " " "

Technical Feasibility Checklist (A condensed World Links version)
General Overview of Telecommunications Environment
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Names of ISPs in the country and location of primary international link Capacity Speed of link to Internet Type of link to Internet Number of phone lines coming in Number of employees Wireless connectivity experience Nodes outside location of international link Communication software package Company reputation

Total number of lines in country Telephone lines/100 inhabitants

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Connectivity Costs
" " " " " " " " " " " " " "

Installation fee Monthly rate for unlimited dial-up Internet use Monthly rate for 64kps leased line use One hour of training per student in Internet basics Monthly rate for hosting web pages Monthly rate for hosting e-mail Number of users Number of private sector users Number of education sector users Are there any special rates for schools? What type of servers is the ISP running? What is the network software that is used? Do they support UUCP or gateway mail? What is the recommended platform for schools?

" " " " "

" " " " " " " " " " "

Equipment (include cost info)
" " " " " " " " " " " "

Names of local computer vendors Names of workstations that they sell and support Names of modems that they sell and support Surge suppressors that they sell and support Back-ups that they sell and support Ethernet cards that they sell and support Ethernet cable (cat 5) that they sell and support Printers that they sell and support (Deskjet, Laserjet) Other peripherals that they sell and support Network hubs that they sell and support Routers that they sell and support Generators that sell and support

of grades/levels, number of teachers, number of administrators, school fees) Location (city, region, urban/rural) Access to electricity (already electrified? reliability of electricity? distance to electric grid? generators?) Number of phone lines (type of phone line, who has phone lines) Can the phone lines support data? Number and type of existing computers (include information on network configuration, network cards, printers, UPS systems, modems, other peripherals, and software) How are existing computers being used? By whom? If not, how will they be used, and by whom? Why does the school want to participate in the program? Total number buildings on campus and number of floors Total number of classrooms in each building Is there a school library? (How big? Who administers it?) Total number of rooms to be connected Physical size of room to be connected Classroom quality (secure/safe, dry, dust-free) Electricity outlets Does the community on evenings/weekends use the school? Other relevant information

Human Resources
" " " " " " " " " " "

" " " " "

Network software that they sell and support Do they offer technical training on network management? Workstation software that they sell and support Is the software available in the local language? Do they offer training on computer literacy?

Individual School Information
" "

Names of schools General information about school (including number of students, gender, type of school, subjects taught, number

What languages are spoken? Is English spoken/understood? Teachers familiar with computers Champions in school (teachers, administrators, other) Students familiar with computers Administrators familiar with computers How did students/teachers/administrators develop their computer knowledge? Is there a school computer club? Are there any extracurricular activities? How are these activities funded? Is there a parent/teacher organization? If so, what do they do? Who would be responsible for administering/monitoring the computer lab? Are there special environmental concerns? (Water/flooding/humidity, wind, heat, crime, insects) Other relevant information

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Educational Computer System Maintenance and Support

Kurt D. Moses

Computer system maintenance and support, along with professional development (of teachers and administrators) are probably the most important factors in how well computers support educational activities. Computers, connections, or services that do not work cannot support educational purposes. Over the last 25 years, in both developing and so-called developed countries, we have learned some things about Maintenance and Support in an educational setting: • Maintenance and support are much more costly than originally thought. Keeping computers, connections, and the necessary supplies in place can amount to between 30 and 50 percent of the total initial investment in computer hardware and software. Most schools, be they primary, secondary or tertiary, will trade off service level and convenience for cost. Schools will often tolerate computers not working for weeks and months, because they have no money to fix them, in contrast with businesses that will not tolerate lack of computer functioning for more than hours or a few days at most. Some “gifts” to schools will actually be more costly to accept than to reject—because older or used equipment and software may require too much time, adaptation, and cost for upgrades to be useful. Most schools are not used to turning down “gifts” even when they are too expensive to accept. The rise of the Internet for educational purposes adds a further source of ongoing cost. Many early installations for computer laboratories or computer access in classrooms have not easily accommodated these costs. Even in countries with low labor costs, the cost of trained, available personnel to service computers and networks, and of training of staff to make good use of

computers, is really the largest single cost item of owning computers. Hardware continues to fall as a percentage of total cost of a computer system.

As more computers appear in schools throughout the world, new computer configurations and more comprehensive approaches to making them useful have been developed. One of the most important approaches, long used for assessing large computer installations is Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). This approach looks at computer related investments not only in terms of initial purchase, but all the costs associated with keeping the investment running and supported over the 5 to 7 year life of a computer system investment. The basic elements of computer system costs are: 1. Professional Development: these are all costs associated with training and retraining people to use a computer investment. Support: all costs associated with actually keeping the computers, software, and connections operating, as well as spare parts and other items for the computers. Connectivity: costs for Internet or Email connections. Software: all costs associated with initially obtaining software and then upgrading it to stay current. Replacement Costs: costs to replace computers and software--which have a working life—for most schools it is 5-7 years, for businesses it is 1.5 to 3 years. Retrofitting: the cost of modifying buildings, space, electrical wiring, and network connections to make it computer useful.


3. 4. 5.


In simpler terms, when one purchases an automobile, the cost for using an automobile is not just the purchase price, but gasoline, insurance, repairs, maintenance, and in some cases a driver. Similar operating costs are important elements of the cost of having computer systems. Typically, the more

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features a computer system has, the more maintenance and support will cost. Most school systems, anywhere in the world, are always struggling to meet their costs. Most school systems underbudget for these costs, thereby reducing the educational effectiveness of their computer system investment.

Computer Software and Hardware Maintenance
These are costs, largely tied to personnel, to “fix” a computer that does not work, or to repair software that may have become “corrupted” or does not operate. In many U.S. schools, where an ideal ratio would be one trained technician for every 150 users, the schools tolerate ratios of one technician to every 500-700 users. About 40% of recently surveyed schools in the U.S. frequently used teachers to provide the majority of their support. In many developing countries, there are no support personnel at all. Effective computer software and hardware maintenance in these countries hovers around 3-5% of the initial investment amount—even if the investment was donated.
For most situations, schools and administrators need to budget at least 15% of the original purchase price (even if donated) for software and hardware maintenance—and preferably 20% if they can afford it.

group. At times, if the schools can cooperate well, money can be saved by this method. Using a so-called “thin client” solution, where students and teachers are at terminals (not PCs) and all the computing power is centralized can reduce maintenance costs. Similarly, standardizing equipment and software can reduce maintenance and support costs—because fewer, different things will go wrong and people will become more adept at fixing routine problems.

Computer supplies can be extremely costly. They include items that might be called consumables such as paper (for printers), ink and toner cartridges for printers, diskettes or ZIP disks for transfer of data, and new virus software (either downloaded from the Internet or supplied via diskette to allow monthly or weekly updates of virus protection). The cost of supplies can be greatly affected by the exact equipment and software chosen and level of use. For example, laser printers costing about $1,200 use toner cartridges that cost on average $120/cartridge to replace and generally provide 10,000 pages or $.012 per page. Inkjet printers costing $100 use cartridges that cost $24-30/cartridge for 1,000 pages or about $.024 per page. When one adds color printing, the cost per page for cartridges increases about 3 to 4 times. Paper costs vary dramatically, from $.005 to $.02 per page, and higher quality printers require higher quality paper. Therefore, the produced cost of a single piece of paper from a computer laboratory might be over $.06 per page. In many developing countries, even if money were available, just getting the supplies is a critical issue. Hence there is often the need to stockpile supplies (requiring therefore, secure cabinets, lockable space, and administration). Storage media such as “floppy disks,” ZIP disks, CDs, or cartridges vary in price from $.20/floppy to $1.00/CD.

This amount needs to cover a technician at a minimum ratio of 150 users per technician (as opposed to 50:1 that many businesses use) plus costs of spare parts (keyboards, hard disks, mouse devices, computer monitors) and reasonable costs for getting around if the computer sites are separated. Additionally, depending upon the level of training, a portion of these funds can support a “Help Line” function—people located nearby that can answer computer related questions and possibly avoid a visit from the more expensive computer technician. What this supports? This level of support will mean that a computer or network system when “broken” will be inoperative for only days, rather than weeks or months. For administrative support within schools, it means that computers and systems will be inoperative only for hours and perhaps 2 days, rather than weeks. Some innovations? Some schools and school systems outsource this function to a private company or non-profit

Generally, schools need to budget at least 8-10% of original purchase prices for supplies to keep the systems going. The high end if heavy use is expected, the lower end if very little use is being made.

What this supports? Budgeting funds at this level means that computers and peripherals can be used for their intended purpose. In the case of using printers, it means that students can in fact make use of the equipment for instructional purposes. Upper levels of schooling, such as secondary schools and instructional programs in the sciences can make extensive demands on supplies budgets. Costs at this level can easily approach the cost of 30 textbooks in a school, so a school will definitely want to consider trade-offs.

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Some innovations? Many school systems charge students separately for supplies (thereby shifting costs to the student and the parent) but this has serious consequences when students are disadvantaged—which is the case in most of the world. Educational equity is strongly affected by these various “user fees” which are applied to defray the cost of operation.

Electricity and Utilities
All computer systems run on electricity. Often times the actual increase in use of electricity is not considered when “gifts” of computers are made. Typically, in many developing countries, there is insufficient electrical service to even support many new demands. Assuming that electricity is available, and reasonably reliable, the average modern desktop computer requires between 200 and 400 watts of power (the amount of power consumed by 3 to 7, 60-watt light bulbs). Laser printers require 800 to 1000 watts, with inkjet printers using 70 to 150 watts on average. Electricity costs around the world vary considerably--$.06/kilowatt hour in some places, up to $.22/kilowatt hour on certain Indian Ocean islands. At 10 cents per kilowatt hour, and using about 400 watts per computer, just one computer used 8 hours per day for 200 days per year will cost an additional $64/year in electricity. A laboratory of 20 computers without a network server will cost the school an additional $ 1,280 per year in electricity. If there is any cooling done for the computer laboratory (air conditioning or high capacity fans) electricity costs could be double or triple these values.
Depending upon the relative cost of electricity, schools need to budget between 4% and 8% of initial purchase price for annual electricity costs for each computer system.

These training components are directed at students, teachers and administrators—and are separate from professional development costs (costs to learn how to make full use of the computer tools for their professional task). Computer training includes: keyboarding skills (learning and practicing to type), operation of the computer (use of the devices and peripherals, navigating the operating system - such as Windows), and first level use of the computer in instructional settings—use of word processing and spreadsheet programs. Studies completed with various teachers have indicated that teachers need anywhere from 20 to 32 hours of computer training to feel comfortable with a new computer system. If teachers do not have any keyboarding skills, this amount of time could double. In many developing countries, this training is just not given and it is expected that teachers and administrators will simply learn from others. Often times, if no or poor computer training takes place, more expensive technicians need to become involved to fix simple problems. To help estimate costs, in parts of southern Africa, training costs of this type in medium sized groups are about $1.50 to $3.00 per hour, excluding means and transport. For 32 hours this means a cost of $48 to $96 per teacher or administrator for this most basic training. Student training costs could be even lower if done in larger groups and by less senior personnel from the teaching staff. In schools with high turnover of teachers, this training needs to be repeated at least annually.
In general, a range of 5% to 10% of original investment cost needs to be set aside each year for computer training. This is particularly true in the first few years of investment if no prior computer use has occurred, and it will be necessary to repeat training and provide some ongoing refresher training because of staff and student turnover.

What this supports? Primarily this level of budgeting for costs will support the actual use of computers. If electricity planning is not done, then schools will be in for very unpleasant surprises, usually cutting back other purchases or supplies just to pay the electricity bill. Some innovations? So-called “Green” or environmentally friendly computers and peripherals have been rapidly introduced. These computers and printers require less total levels of electricity (less than ½ of older models) and also go into a “sleep” mode where power consumption is further reduced. This can have a large effect on electricity costs particularly for large groups of computers.

What this supports? A level of basic computer knowledge so that teachers and certainly students can begin to make effective use of the tool. It will also ensure that the school gets full benefit from expensive technical resources by avoiding needless service calls or time wasting trips. Some innovations? Typing or keyboarding instruction can now be supported by simple software programs (Mavis Beacon, for example) as well as CD-ROM based programs. The same is true for introduction to basic computing and introductory courses for word processing and spreadsheets as well as the Internet. If teachers and administrators can use these instructional techniques, costs can be halved and they have the advantage of being used over and over again for no additional cost. Most of these self-instructional approaches do not require Internet connection, since the techniques change so little.

Computer Training
These are the costs associated with basic computer literacy and ability to use the core programs available on a computer.

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These are costs associated with linking one or many computers to a local area network or to a wide area network such as the Internet. Connectivity costs depend dramatically on the amount of “bandwidth” (how much capacity is purchased) and the local, regional, and national infrastructure. Adding Internet capacity to a school computer laboratory or into a classroom in the U.S. can add 14% to 20% to overall support costs. Connections into rural areas will generally be much more expensive than connections within urban areas. Connectivity costs also will vary dramatically depending upon how much connection is being used for the instructional program. Fairly constant connection, for Internet searches as an example, will raise costs considerably. Infrequent access for support of specific parts of the curriculum will often be much less costly (using “dial-up” connections for instance). These costs will be measured in, for example, $3 to $12/hour for connection for a teacher. Because of the wide variation in level of use and infrastructure costs, it is difficult to set a reasonable value. This portion of the estimated operating costs needs to be carefully worked out, often on a trial basis, within the specific setting. What is clear is that for any school, but particularly ones at the secondary and university level, reasonable access to the Internet is absolutely essential for a modern education, and will become increasingly so with each passing year. Some innovations? Internet access is becoming cheaper every year in virtually every country. Bandwidth available is rising geometrically, and more and more countries understand how to make it a part of their basic communications

infrastructure. With proper planning, schools will benefit from all of these commercial and public improvements. Technological improvements that are increasing capacity and lowering cost include: more use of satellite accessed Internet (traditional and low earth orbiting satellites), wireless terrestrial networks, more fiber optic cable in urban areas, and deregulation of Internet Service Providers.

Considering only ongoing Support and Maintenance costs, the needed annual expenditures (without a network) for a healthy education computer system can range from 30% to 50% of the initial investment in computer hardware and software. Even if these items are donated, an educational institution needs to carefully consider what it will require to keep this investment productive. Educational institutions all over the world have successfully and creatively used computer systems to enrich, revitalize, and reform their educational activity. The best ones have done it with good planning and the rapid inclusion of these very real additional costs into the annual budgeting. The majority of schools are getting less than they need for this Support function, and many “corners are being cut” because the advantages of computers and the Internet in instruction appear so obvious in the modern age…worth making the sacrifice. All too frequently, the sacrifice is being made by teachers—who are already asked to do a great deal more. The issue for education systems is not whether to integrate computers and connectivity into their educational programs, but how to do it effectively and at levels that yield a true educational benefit.

Several excellent references for medium to advanced educational computer environments at the K-12 grade school level include: • • • • • • “White Paper on Total Cost of Ownership” from the Consortium for School Networking, 2001. “A School Administrator’s Guide to Planning for the Total Cost of New Technology,” Consortium for School Networking, 2000. “Long-Range State Technology Plan,” State of North Carolina, 1996.

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The Costs of Computers in Classrooms:
Data from Developing Countries
Marianne Bakia,

Estimating the Costs of Computer Projects

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is a concept used among American businesses today to estimate what a computer is likely to cost over the life of the investment. It has also been applied to technology projects in education, although rarely to the unique set of circumstances facing developing countries. In the cost tables presented here, expenditures in four countries, Barbados, Turkey, Chile, and Egypt, are cited most often because it was for these countries that the most One of the interesting facts that emerged from this analysis is detailed information was available. The first two countries, that over time, countries appear to be purchasing computers Barbados and Turkey, are grouped together because the perin the $1,000 - $2,000 price range, despite decreases in comcentages are of total project costs. The estimates were deputer prices, holding computer power constant. Further, anveloped from the perspective of the central ministry. Estinual costs per computer also hovered in the $1,000 – 2,000 mates in the second two countries, Chile and Egypt, are from range, suggesting that initial hardware costs represent only a the perspective of individual schools, and so do not include centralized costs. Table 1: Summary of Cost by Project1 The analysis for National Estimates School-based Estimates these two countries therefore excludes Cost Category Barbados Turkey Chile Egypt central management (1998) (1999) (1995) (1998) and planning or Central Management 11% 2% N/A N/A monitoring and (planning and recurrent) evaluation. When Hardware 33% 31% 49% 24% percentages are in(annualized investment per school) ($150,000) ($ 6,800) ( $ 5,540) ($ 10,950) cluded, they are of Software 13% 6% 2% 2% these school-based (annualized investment per school) ($ 56,000) ($ 1,240) ($ 171) ($ 749) costs, not total projFacilities and Renovation 19% 5% 3% 7% ect costs. All esti(annualized investment per school) ($ 85,000) ($ 985) ($ 350) ($ 3,100) mates, unless otherwise specified, asConnectivity 10% 5% 10% 6% (recurrent) ($ 85,000) ($ 960) ($ 1,165) ($ 3,000) sume that the majority of computers Maintenance and Tech Sup 18% 42% N/A 4% are grouped in a (recurrent including personnel) single "laboratory" Professional Development 4% 2% 13% 29% or classroom. (annualized investment and recurrent) ($ 18,430) ($ 535) ($ 1,445) ($ 13,275)

issues related to computer use as an instrument of curricular reform. In most cases, computer technology was introduced for some combination of three purposes: to increase technology skills, to reform pedagogy and curriculum, and to increase access to resources and information. Despite these common objectives, the projects varied considerably in scope and scale, and as a result, in total and unit costs. Table 1 summarizes the allocation of costs by category as well as reports total costs per school, per student, and per computer.

Overview Total Costs


Total Annual Cost Total Annual Cost Per School Total Annual Cost Per Student Total Annual Cost Per Computer

$30,279,100 $ $ $ 451,930 646 1,938

$54,206,336 $ $ $ 21,685 32 1,280

N/A $ $ 11,215 56 N/A

N/A $ 45,045 $ $ 75 2,048

The projects presented here had compatible objectives; all addressed

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fraction of total, annual project costs. Clearly, a successful computer project must budget for additional costs beyond the price of hardware and software.

Discussion of Findings by Category
The following discussion provides further detail by cost category about how these costs were derived and the implications for these findings. The discussion highlights four main cost categories: hardware, software, connectivity and support and maintenance. (A more detailed discussion of these findings can be found at

computers in K-12 schools does not require state of the art hardware.2 While it has been conventional wisdom for several years to talk about the declining costs of hardware and computing power, evidence suggests that institutions consistently pay $1,000 - 2,000 per computer, at least over the last 5 years. While the computers being purchased today for $1,500 may be more powerful than the computers purchased 5 years ago for $1,500, off the shelf software applications often require newer hardware without providing measured educational improvements. Two alternatives to this dilemma are emerging although neither has been widely tested: software that takes advantage of lower-grade computers and "networked computers." Networked Computers. Some efforts are being initiated to use low-cost equipment such as Network Computers (NCs, also known as thin clients and dummy terminals). Network computers do not have hard drives, so are unable to store data or applications on the computer. Instead, NC users access through their local server or, in some cases, the Internet. NC's have three major advantages: • They cost less than personal computers. • They require very little maintenance or technical support since they are much simpler machines. • They do not need to be discarded and replaced by newer, more powerful computers every few years. Instead, upgrades are simply provided to the server. There are three main drawbacks to network computers. • There is need for more technically proficient network administrators, although fewer network administrators may be needed overall. • Processing speed of terminals are greatly reduced when network traffic is heavy, as is likely to be the case when a class goes to the lab for an organized computer session. • Should the server go down, all computers connected to the server lose almost all functionality, rather than just networked services. The impact of NCs on project costs is not yet well documented, although several projects are underway. A South African distance education consortium has started using Sun's NCs for its computer centers, and Sun also is working with a number of school districts in the United States to pilot their NC systems. Sun's NC is currently retailing at about $499 and can be leased in the United States for $9.99 per month with a 5 year contract. Student-Computer Ratios. The total number of computers purchased also influences the magnitude of total project costs. Student-computer ratios in developing countries differ dramatically. In Costa Rica, the reported average was about 53 - 73 students per computer, and in Chile the ratio was much higher with 68 to 137 students per computer reported

Equipment costs consume 17% - 49% of total project costs, NOT including servers and connectivity hardware, which are included under the categories, " Facilities and Renovation" and "Connectivity." (See Table 1 for a breakdown of hardware costs by project). Hardware costs typically include computers for students, teachers, and/or administrators, printers, CD-ROM's, and scanners. The largest proportion of these hardware costs is for student computers. Student computers specifically represented 14 32% of total project budgets. Perhaps surprisingly, this number is actually a bit lower than some estimates for schools in the United States. One might expect that the higher salary rates in the United States would take up a larger share of the budget and thus hardware would consume a smaller percentage of total resources than where salary rates are low. It appears that the much lower computer-student ratio in the United States, resulting from greater numbers of purchased computers, is responsible for driving up total hardware costs in the United States. A 1995 study of 8 hi-tech schools in the United States found that schools were spending 30 - 67% on hardware (Keltner and Ross 1995 as cited in Melmed, A. et al 1995). Should schools be prepared to replace a computer every five years? The rapid evolution and relatively short life of computers suggest that they become a line item in recurring budgets. The short life of computers and software also suggests that if computers are not available later in school-life, lower school investments are not likely to be valuable. Issues that affect the exact cost of hardware include functionality of hardware, how many units, and the configuration of units. The functionality of a computer -- processor speed, hard drive space, and memory -- affect unit cost of a computer. Age indirectly affects costs because older computers often have lower functionality. What kinds of computers are necessary for a given project depend on the type and intensity of use. High-powered computers cost more, although highpowered computers are not always necessary. Typical use of

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(Alvarez et al 1998). The range for in-country estimates depends on several factors influencing how computers are allocated. Where computers are provided centrally, laboratory size is often set at given increments. In the case of Chile, for example, 3 computers were offered to schools with under 100 students, 6 computers to schools with under 300, and 9 computers to all schools larger than 300 students. These computer-student ratios are not equivalent. Oftentimes, localities are expected to provide some computers, and in these instances, poorer and/or remote localities fall predictably behind. Thus, planners of large-scale projects should pay particular attention to addressing needs of poor and rural areas in order to encourage equity among K-12 schools. In Egypt, the planned student to computer ratio was 27 to 1 (computed from Secondary Education Enhancement Project PAD), and in Turkey the ratio is 40 to 1. Barbados planned on the lowest student-computer ratio at an eventual 3:1. See Table 2.

to centralized instruction, maintenance, and security. It has been argued that a centralized model does not encourage curricular integration among classroom teachers and so many valuable uses are lost. A 1995 McKinsey & Co. study found that a classroom model with a computer for every 5 students and a high-speed T-1 connection would cost about four times as much as a computer lab model in up-front investments and a little more than 3 times the per student recurrent cost. Project analysis in Egypt found that significant economies of scale were possible if larger laboratories were used. Increasing laboratory size to 22 computers from 14 resulted in 28% lower total per student costs and 35% less recurrent costs (Human Development Group Project Appraisal Document, p. 40, 1999). Beware of Donations. It is important to note that donated computers are not free. Donations are likely to generate expenses, although very little has been documented in this area. Many donated computers are likely to require memory and hard drive upgrades to run newer software. Such upgrades can be expected to cost between $50 - 500 per computer. Further, at least one country in Africa has charged as much as $200 per donated computer for Import Duties.

Table 2: Student-Computer Ratios in Developing Country Projects
Country Costa Rica Chile Turkey Egypt Barbados Jamaica Student-Computer Ratio 68-137:1 53-73:1 40:1 27:1 3:1 n/a

Software and Content
The intended uses of the computer will also dramatically impact upon software costs. A library of software resources can allow teachers greater flexibility in their use of technology. But hosting a wide range of software applications can increase not just the amount spent on software, but the amount needed for training and support as well. At one end of the spectrum, "freeware" (for generic applications) exists and much of it can be found on the Internet at little direct cost to potential users (except telephone charges for downloading material as they may apply in specific countries). At the other end, there is custom-made and/or specialized software. Specialized software, such as that for scientific purposes, is typically very expensive with some packages costing thousands of dollars. Similarly, software in languages other than English is more difficult to obtain. Countries interested in using computers in other languages may face linguistic hurdles, and thus incur additional costs for translation and new programming. Economies of scale can be realized by centralizing the storage of CD-ROM's and other resources in a central place, such as a library, for use by many classrooms or sometimes across schools. Jamaica, for instance, created "Software Centers," within a reasonable distance of several schools. The Software Centers were used for teacher training and as a means of trying out new software before local purchase. In the United States, experts had recommended that school systems allocate approximately $100 per student for software (President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology 1997). Schools typically fall well short of this figure,

In the United States, student-computer ratio has been consistently falling for at least the last 15 years from 125:1 in 1983 to 9:1 in 1996. There are few guidelines available to help determine optimal computer-student ratios. A general tendency has been "the more the better." Administrators can estimate the likely need for computers by assessing what students will do with computers, how long it will take them to do it, whether students will work alone or in groups, and the number of hours that computers will be available in a school day or week. Where only a few computers are to be deployed in a school, administrators and the library are generally the first recipients. Where these few computers are used for instructional purposes, they are generally used as presentational aids. In addition to the specific type and number of computers, how computers are configured will impact on cost. The choice is typically between a centralized, "laboratory" model and the more diffuse "classroom" model. Computer labs typically have from 10 - 50 terminals. They are well suited

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although Barbados estimates hit it precisely. Quality Education Data reports that the average school in the United States spent about $11.00 per student on instructional software in the 1998-1999 school year. Other research in the United States suggests that 10% or less of a school's technology budget is typically spent on software (Melmed et al 1995, and International Data Corporation ml ). Costs in developing countries for software appear to also fall within this lower range. See Table 1 for the total annualized per school software cost and software costs as a percent of annualized total costs. Per school estimates vary considerably; additional work will need to be done to determine the causes of such dramatic fluctuation. The software estimates are made of two types of investments: software for instruction and network, and server and other administrative software. Instructional software is usually a much greater expense than administrative software. In Barbados, investments in instructional software are expected to account for 9% of total expenditures, whereas in Turkey software expenditures are less than 1%. Turkey continues to investigate the costs of creating specialized software and appears inclined to rely on basic "office packages" and freeware at least in the short-term. Similarly Egypt and Chile software expenses are reported at around 2% of total project costs, or US$2,000 and $350 per school, respectively. Chile's program benefited from freeware, most notably "La Plaza" a graphical interface for mail, document storage, and other computer applications (Potashnik 1996). Budgeters and planners must also keep in mind the need for network software. Although smaller, administrative software costs are not negligible. Estimates for networking software also range considerably, from $700 per school (Egypt) to $16,000 per school (Barbados). No specific estimates for networking software were found for other projects.

age of physical plant and previous technology investments, [school size and computer student ratio] will determine the precise figure," (Taking TCO to the Classroom, available at Preparing a school for connectivity will often require renovations within a building. A building must have sufficient electrical capacity, from available power to number of outlets, adequate temperature control and ventilation, and security. These costs can often be reduced if they are considered when new buildings are being constructed. There is also a wide range of wireless solutions emerging, which could further reduce the burden of some wiring costs. Equipment costs associated with connectivity depend heavily on the type of connectivity made available to schools. Lowbandwidth connections are generally less expensive but by definition reduce the capacity of the network and how it can be used. Downloading materials in a slow network can be very costly in staff time. The California Department of Education has produced a document to help planners determine the level and costs of connectivity called "Going Beyond your Local Area Network" and is available at In Egypt, connectivity and telecommunications equipment cost an estimated $4,600, or $1,200 in annualized costs per school, and 3% of total school costs. In Barbados, where budgeting was done for the entire national project, $8.8 million was planned for networking equipment, or $2.3 million in annualized costs, and 8% of total project costs. Although these figures were not reported by school, it appears that about $34,000 in annualized costs was budgeted per school. Telephone companies charge for the use of a telephone line in many countries, even for a local call. Thus schools will be paying two different types of charges: one for the use of a telephone line and another for Internet service provision. Where telecommunications are still operated by monopolies, these prices can be quite steep. The additional cost of the telephone line can dramatically influence total costs. For instance, in Turkey, a single, dedicated telephone line per school is likely to cost $80 per month, resulting in an estimated $2,400,000 per year (or 4% of total annualized project costs). The World Links Project in Ghana reports that schools are paying an average of about $86 a month per school in telephone dial-up charges for the Internet in addition to an Internet subscription fee of $100 per school. Planners in contexts such as these must think carefully about how many telephone lines per school are needed and balance cost and performance issues. Strategies to provide low-cost Internet access are emerging. Some costs may be mitigated, at least in the short term, during the bidding process. For instance, firms supply free Internet service for one year as part of an arrangement in Turkey. Further, the major investment necessary for access--country gateways and university nodes---already exists in most countries.

All of the projects included funds to connect computers within a school and to connect computers across schools through the Internet. The costs of connectivity rely heavily on three factors: the cost to prepare a building for connectivity, the costs of equipment and installation, and recurrent connectivity charges. Some of the costs necessary to prepare a building for connectivity would also be necessary for computer projects that did not have connectivity -- such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning, as well as security and power requirements. We group them here under one heading because they are often inter-related. "Several studies [in the United States] have projected the cost of building local area networks and wiring classrooms to the Internet to be roughly about $500 per student per year. However, many factors, including the

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Wireless is also emerging as a viable solution. Wireless systems can be terrestrial, when radio frequencies are used, or by satellite. High-speed data-links can cost less than $2,000 for a simple point to point connection over a mile or two, and these links can cost less for lower-bandwidth (IDRC 1999). Cost-components of a wireless system include: capital costs, recurring costs, and usage costs. IDRC (1999) offers the following checklist to "ensure the success of a project including wireless:" • • • How much traffic needs to be transported? How reliable does the link have to be? Are there any other potential users of the system in the area that can help defray the set-up or operating costs? What are the characteristics of the terrain where the equipment is to be used? What is the required distance of the link? Is a license required?

Teacher Association) is typically to raise funds for computer up-grades, computer personnel, and supplies. In both Chile and Costa Rica, "parents and other private individuals or locally-based companies have provided telephone lines, air conditioning, and other equipment free of charge to the schools" (Alvarez 1998, p. 9). In addition, students have contributed to basic trouble-shooting and can be trained to participate in the upkeep of computers. "The Chilean computer program has encouraged schools to appoint older students with a special interest in computers as 'monitors' or computer assistants" (Alvarez 1998, p. 15). Inadequate support costs schools too. A detailed cost analysis was undertaken in Fairfax County, VA. "Fairfax County is a large district in the suburbs of Washington, DC, with 155,000 students and 26,000 employees. It calculated that if every teacher spends at least one hour a week trying to fix their own computer problems, that equals 307 full-time equivalent positions, at a cost to the district of $15.3 million in lost teaching time. In addition, if 5 percent of teachers are regarded as 'technical wizards' by their peers, and are asked to provide 1.5 hours a week of informal support, which equals 23 full-time equivalent positions, at a cost of $1.2 million. Thus, the district concluded that its 'hidden' costs for technical support could amount to an estimated $16.5 million" (, ).

• • •

Support and Maintenance
Once computers are installed in schools, users will need regular support. Also, hardware and software will require regular maintenance. The number of support staff required depends on several factors, including the number of computers, the number of software applications, and the ability of users. Schools and ministries have often been innovative in the way they provide support and maintenance. In Chile, engineering school faculty from a nearby University largely provided technical support. Maintenance costs were estimated at 10% of equipment costs, or 9% of the total annualized budget per school. Turkey has included maintenance in its hardware bids. Bidding vendors have budgeted for between 3 and 7% of total hardware costs over a 5-year contract. Similarly, a flat rate of 5% of equipment costs was budgeted for maintenance costs in the Barbados project. No information was available regarding how these funds would be deployed. In Egypt, maintenance costs were anticipated at 4% of total costs, or $300 per machine per year. Again, no information was available regarding how these funds would be deployed. Jamaica estimated that $25,220 was spent to maintain computers in 23 schools over two years, or about $550 per school per year. Students and their parents also have a role to play in maintaining equipment. For instance, the role of the PTA (Parent

Two main conclusions are apparent from the review of data. First, hardware is not like other capitol goods because it has a much shorter life span than typical capital goods. As a result, hardware should appear as a line item in schoolauthority budgets. Next, while little guidance is available, it is clear that hardware is just a fraction of the total costs of computer projects. Budgeting authorities must be aware of these hidden costs for computer projects to be successful. Policy-makers everywhere need more solid information about models of technology deployment in education and their related costs. The apparent paucity of good, comparable data on donor financing of technology projects and their impact suggests a fruitful area for future donor collaboration. Research activities ought to seek answers to three primary questions: What are the investment and recurrent costs associated with the use of learning materials in formal education systems around the world today? How are these costs likely to vary across regions and countries at different stages of development? What do we know about the relative costeffectiveness of learning materials in particular settings?

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Alverez, Maria Ines, Francisca Roman et al (1998). Computers in Schools: A Qualitative Study of Chile and Costa Rica. Education and Technology Series: Special Issue. Washington: The World Bank. Becker, Henry J (1994). Analysis and Trends of School Use of New Information Technologies, report prepared for the Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress, Washington D.C. Burns, P.K. and Bozeman, W.C. (1981). "Computer-assisted instruction and mathematics achievement: IS there a relationship?" Educational Technology 21, pp. 32 - 39. Cobbe, J. and Steven Klees (1998). Edutech 2000: An Economic Assessment. Prepared for the Inter-American Development Bank. Consortium for School Networking (1999). Taking TCO to the Classroom: A School Administrator's Guide to Planning for the Total Cost of New Technology. Washington: Consortium for School Networking. Dwyer, D. (1994). "Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow: What we've learned," Educational Leadership 51, pp. 4 - 10. Education Week on the Web in collaboration with The Milken Exchange on Education Technology (1998). Technology Counts '98: Putting School Technology to the Test. Available at: Harrington-Lueker, D. (1997). "Technology Works Best When It Serves Clear Educational Goals: Putting learning first is the key to using technology effectively." The Harvard Education Letter, Vol. 8, No. 6. November/December. Human Development Group, Middle East and North Africa Region (1999). Project Appraisal Document on a Proposed Credit in the Amount of SDR 35.8 Million (US $50.0 Million Equivalent) to the Arab Republic of Egypt for a Secondary Education Enhancement Project. Report No: 18923-EGT. Washington: The World Bank. International Research Development Centre (IDRC) (January 1999). The Wireless Toolbox: A Guide To Using Low-cost Radio Communication Systems for Telecommunication in Developing Countries - An African Perspective . Available at: Kulik, J. "Meta-Analytic Studies of Finding on Computer-Based Instruction," in Technology Assessment in Education and Training, ed. E. L. Baker, and H.F. O'Neil, Jr. (1994). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Levin, H.M. and Meister, P.J. (2000). Cost-Effectiveness Analysis: Methods and Applications. California: Sage Publications. Levin, H. M. Glass, G. V. and Meister G. (1984). Cost-effectiveness of Four Educational Interventions. Project Report 84 A11. School of Education, Stanford University, Stanford CERAS. Melmed, A. et al (1995) "The Costs and Effectiveness of Educational Technology" California: RAND. Available at: Potashnik, M. and Douglas Adkins (1996). Cost Analysis of Information Technology Projects in Education: Experiences from Developing Countries. Education and Technology Series: Vol. 1; No. 3. Washington: The World Bank. President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology: Panel on Educational Technology (1997). Report to the President on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States. Washington, DC. Puetz, J. (September 1996). "Wireless Internet and Multimedia Connections." Republic of Turkey, Ministry of National Education (1999). Policy Paper for IT Component of Basic Education Program. Turkey. Software & Information Industry Association (1999). A Second Decade of Technology in K-12 Schools: 1990-2000. Available at: . Wolff, Lawrence (1999). "Costa Rica: Are Computers in School cost-effective?" TechKnowLogia: International Journal of Technologies for the Advancement of Knowledge and Learning. Vol. 1, No. 2. November/December 1999. Available at . Wright, Cream (2000). Issues in Education & Technology: Policy Guidelines and Strategies. London, Commonwealth Secretariat.
All currencies were converted into US$ using exchange rates that were either the average exchange rate for the year of expenditure or a current exchange rate for on-going, recurrent, or contemporary expenditures. Using the ingredients approach specified in Levin (1983), inputs for each project were specified, and then market prices were associated with each item. Capital and other investment costs were annualized at a rate of 10%. While 10% might appear high for many countries, it is becoming a somewhat standard proxy in the field of cost analysis. 2 The World Bank has compiled generic procurement specifications for hardware at Although not education specific, the pages may be helpful in that they "contain equipment specifications that World Bank borrowers can use in preparing bidding documents for procurement under World Bank guidelines. They also contain direct links to the offerings of the IT industry. As equipment specifications and product life cycles are quite short in the IT industry, we propose that the industry commits to review the generic specifications and suggest changes that may be due from time to time. The industry will have the option of adding links to sites where Bank borrowers can find information on actual offerings for each product category and price ranges (for budgeting purposes)."

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Virus Protection and Security: What Is It and How Do We Respond?
Compiled by Glenn Strachan

Along with the arrival of virtually universal telecommunications and networking, organizations and end-users have developed a tremendous sense of unease about network security issues. The growth of extensive inter-company communications, wide scale intra-company networking, and universal Internet access have also heightened awareness of the possibilities of unwelcome intrusions and attacks upon internal networks. Although much has been said about network espionage, hacker attacks, and other high-profile security issues, the most profound cause for concern comes not from high tech security probes and intrusions, but from the widespread promulgation of viruses. According to recent surveys, viral infections represent the great majority of all security incidents, and have created tremendous problems for businesses of all sizes. The number of known viruses surpassed 50,000 in August 2000. A large majority of those (74%) are parasitic viruses (attacking “.exe” or executable files). Second are macro viruses (19%) and 7% is boot sector viruses. In May 2000, 88% of reported infections were due to macro viruses, 9% due to parasitic viruses and only 3% due to boot sector viruses. The number of new viruses discovered every month continues to increase. Sophisticated virus attacks have been known to paralyze major computer networks (example, Microsoft, Yahoo, various Banks) for hours and even days, destroy financial information and confidential records, “bring down” desktops and their files for days and weeks, compromise passwords and access codes, and almost completely erase poorly protected hard drive files—thereby requiring expensive and timeconsuming reconstruction or recovery efforts. In academic settings, untrapped viruses have paralyzed email networks for days and disrupted routine administrative support operations.

Entry Points for Viruses
Following are the entry points for viruses that any organization can understand, and create some form of protection strategy to combat.

An overwhelmingly large proportion of infections today is caused by infected email attachments. The ease with which a user can click on an attachment and launch an application is a significant factor in the spread of email-borne viruses. If the email content is sufficiently inviting (e.g. 'kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me.') and the visible attachment extension sufficiently innocent in the eyes of an average user (e.g. LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs text files cannot carry an infection, can they?), the temptation for a user can become overwhelming. The danger of infection through attachments is, of course, not confined to email. Newsgroup postings are also capable of carrying attachments and the number of new infected attachments currently discovered by automated newsgroup scanners is around 10 per day.

World Wide Web
The web is crawling with sites carrying virus-infected material. Desktop access to the web is not only technologically possible but also viewed as 'expected' in today's workplace. Downloading potentially infected files is too easy. Several

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organizations have, however, found that providing physically separate PCs to access the web is a much better arrangement. Not only is the web physically separated from the company's main network, but employees tend to waste much less time 'surfing' non work-related sites, since it is obvious when they are not seated at their desks.

tiveness of gateway scanning is still high. This will steadily decline in the future.

Using anti-virus software on servers to scan centrally held files has several advantages over trying to scan the servers from a workstation. First, network traffic is minimized since the scanning process runs locally on the server. Second, any virus stealth mechanisms are not effective since the virus is never 'active' on the server. Most organizations deploy antivirus software to scan their servers at regular intervals, usually during periods of low user activity.

Floppy Disks and CDs
The use of floppy disks (called “stiffys” in Europe and southern Africa) has decreased radically with the advent of networks, but most PCs still come with a floppy drive fitted as standard. Three percent (3%) of all infections are due to boot sector viruses, which are launched easily from floppy disks…Clearly, floppy disks are not dead (yet). CDs (especially magazine cover CDs) have also been shown to be relatively frequent virus carriers.

Virus scanning on the desktop is probably the most important part of the three-point scanning strategy. Even if the virus penetrates the Internet gateway scanner by arriving in an encrypted email; even if the server scanner (which does not scan email) does not catch it; it can be caught at the desktop before it is allowed to infect. It is often the case that keeping desktop anti-virus software up to date is one of the hardest tasks faced by the system administrator. This is especially the case on the desktops not permanently connected: such as laptops with docking stations.

Anti-virus Software Deployment Points
There are three main points where it makes sense to deploy anti-virus software: on the Internet gateway, on servers, and on the desktop.

Internet Gateway
The Internet gateway is the point that connects the Internet to internal institutional or company networks. It is a good place to install anti-virus software that will check incoming and outgoing email attachments. The main advantage of using anti-virus software on the gateway is that infected attachments sent to multiple email addresses will generate a single virus alert (on the gateway) instead of multiple ones if the infected email is allowed to get through to the desktop. The main disadvantage of using anti-virus software on the gateway is the slower speed of emails through this bottleneck. One of the biggest emerging problems of using anti-virus software on a gateway, which is important to bear in mind, is the increasing use of encryption. There is no point in checking encrypted attachments since viruses will be safely hidden inside the encryption envelope. At the moment, only relatively small numbers of emails are encrypted and the effec-

Anti-virus Software Administration
Since the effectiveness of anti-virus software in use today depends on frequent updates, it is very important that effective tools are available to deploy, upgrade, and administer antivirus software throughout the organization.

Updates over the Internet
Automatically updating anti-virus software over the Internet is an attractive (zero workload) concept for system administrators. It does, however, have deep implications for the overall security of the organization since it effectively outsources the control and the decision-making process over what software gets installed on the company network to the anti-virus software supplier. Few organizations are happy

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with this, preferring to place a human specialist in the loop. The specialist can then decide what, how and when to deploy the updates. Any new software can also be tested before being deployed company-wide.

Having company-standard software installations, possibly supplemented by disk imaging software, can be very helpful in restoring infected workstations.

The administrator of a large anti-virus software installation needs the tools to communicate with the anti-virus software effectively (admin->software->admin). The software needs to be kept updated (admin->software) while the administrator needs regular feedback, both virus and non-virus related (software->admin). Three main techniques are used to distribute updates over the company network: push, pull and combined push/pull. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and the decision on which is best will depend heavily on the network structure, speed of connections, network usage patterns, etc.

Enterprise-wide virus protection demands a comprehensive and uniform plan, with: • centralized approach and control, • automated processes, • user transparency (or at least minimal interference with users), • statistics reporting, and • support for multiple platforms, protocols, and file types. Virus protection is as much a strategy or an attitude as it is a collection of information and related software. Effective deployment of enterprise-wide anti-virus software requires ongoing effort and vigilance, and reflects the growing complexity and proliferation of the lines of communication within and between organizations in today's world. Although experts with arcane knowledge and powerful software must support an anti-virus strategy, the ultimate responsibility for maintaining a virus-free enterprise ultimately rests on the network administrator. Countries that have a limited number of trained personnel to support the security needs of companies and institutions run the greatest risk of exposure to an ever-increasing array of destructive viruses. It is paradoxical that as Internet access works its way to more distant points, it brings with it the possibility of virus destruction not present in the early stages of computerization, when there were only isolated, nonconnected computer systems throughout the developing world. Because of this, organizations must take this threat seriously, and be prepared to spend the resources (both human and financial) to ensure against virus destruction. Even a small amount of money spent to provide for an effective gateway and centralized scanning of files on a network or a single computer system would go a long way towards protecting any organization from the loss of data.

Recovery from Virus Attack
Should the unthinkable happen and a virus manages to penetrate all the defenses put in its path, the user must have effective procedures to be able to contain the infection on as few PCs as possible, as well as restoring these PCs to their pre-infection state. This is a relatively complex subject with no easy solutions. Such virus penetration usually occurs when the anti-virus software used does not recognize a particular virus. Cultivating a good relationship with the anti-virus software supplier and knowing that they will jump in an emergency is an important factor in the company's anti-virus strategy. Dealing with a virus that has been allowed to enter an institution or company will be orders of magnitude more expensive than the cost of any anti-virus software. The main expense will be time, since it will probably be necessary to visit every infected workstation to perform the disinfection and its restoration to the pre-infection state.

Excerpts from "Deploying Enterprise-wide Virus Protection," produced and published by

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Tu Intelligent Tutoring Systems
Gregg B. Jackson1 "Consider again the example of books: they have certainly outperformed people in the precision and permanence of their memory, and the reliability of their patience. For this reason, they have been invaluable to humankind. Now imagine active books that can interact with the reader to communicate knowledge at the appropriate level, selectively highlighting the interconnectedness and ramification of items, recalling relevant information, probing understanding, explaining difficult areas in more depth, skipping over seemingly known material..." (Wenger, 1987, p. 6)

From Computer-Assisted Instruction to Intelligent Tutors
It is often observed that various industrial production processes are often two, three, and even ten times more productive than they were 100 years ago, but education--even in developed countries --is no more efficient. A new breed of instructional engineers hopes to change that by applying artificial intelligence to computer assisted instruction. Computer assisted instruction has been around for fifty years since the commercialization of mainframe computers. Initially, it was comprised of instructional text with interspersed multiple-choice problems. All students worked their way through the same text and problems. It had two modest advantages over textbooks. Immediately after responding to a problem, the student would receive feedback or his/her answer and the student’s progress was automatically recorded for the teacher to review. (Thomas, undated) It was very expensive at the time, because of the high cost of computers, and the results were often only little better than classroom instruction. Today’s instructional engineers are developing “intelligent tutoring systems” that aim to optimize learning by drawing upon three bodies of information: domain expertise, pedagogical theory, and characteristics of the individual learner. The domain expertise usually includes facts, relationships, procedures, common misconceptions, skills, and the strategies used by those who are expert in the domain. Pedagogical theory indicates the ways that learning is generally most effective for given types of knowledge or skills. The characteristics of the learner include proficiency with the domain expertise, misconceptions about the domain, confidence in their abilities, personal interests, and learning proclivities.

(Ong and Ramachandran, 2000, Urban-Lurain, undated; Woolf and Regian, 2000) An intelligent tutoring system generates customized instruction, problems, hints, help, and feedback, drawing upon these three databases. It usually updates the three databases as a result of the learner’s responses, thus allowing adaptation to the learner’s needs as the tutoring progresses. It usually keeps track of error rates and sometimes even response delays. The transition from early computer assisted instruction to intelligent tutors has involved two related paradigm shifts. The early instruction was usually based on behaviorist principles while the latter is usually based on cognitive science. In addition, the former tended to focus on developing recall and discrete skills, whereas the latter focuses on the application of complex skills. (Urban-Lurain, undated)

Examples of Intelligent Tutors
The “Mathematics Tutor” of Beal, Beck and Woolf (1998) teaches students how to solve word problems that make use of fractions, decimals, and percentages. The domain expertise classifies problems by the mathematical operations, by subskills required to solve them, and by complexity. As the student works problems, the tutor records both success rates for various operations and subskills and the time needed to solve problems. It selects subsequent problems that are predicted to challenge the student moderately and likely to be answered within a desirable time. The desirable time will be relatively short for students who are not very proficient, lack confidence in their abilities, or give up readily, but will be longer for students with high proficiency and confidence.

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More than 40 variables are used in selecting the problems, hints, and help provided to an individual student. Lajoie and Lesgold’s (1989) “SHERLOCK” trains Air Force electronic technicians to diagnose problems in a complex device used to service the avionics of F-15 jets. The SHERLOCK computer screen presents a depiction of the device, schematic diagrams of the electrical circuits, and system documentation. The tutor “creates” a fault in one or more of the circuits of the device, and asks the trainee to locate the problem. The trainee selects the circuit diagram he or she thinks should be tested, marks where the probes of the diagnostic equipment are to be placed, “activates” the equipment, and receives simulated readouts. After considering the readouts, the trainee decides whether there is a fault in that tested part of the circuit. The process is usually repeated many times, attaching the probes to various circuits, until the trainee determines the location of the fault. If the trainee is clearly misdirected or proceeding inefficiently, the computer provides feedback and guidance. In addition, whenever the trainee wants help, the computer will provide it. SHERLOCK sequences the various simulated faults in a manner to optimize each trainee’s learning. The “Cardiac Tutor” of Eliot and Woolf (1994) trains medical personnel in advanced cardiac life support techniques. It consists of a screen-based simulation of the patient’s ECG trace, blood gases, and vital signs, and a tutor that provides clues, spoken advice, and feedback. The domain database and the student characteristics database are used to present cardiac problems likely to optimize a given student’s learning. The simulated patient presents indications of various cardiac problems, and the student selects various interventions to correct the problem and save the patient’s life. At the end of the simulation (the patient either dies or is stabilized), the student can review the entire simulation and his or her responses, receive a critique of the correct and incorrect responses, and request more information about the presented cardiac problems and appropriate interventions.

lar computer assisted learning and by 55 percent in studies of three intelligent tutors. An evaluation of SHERLOCK found that the average novice technician needed only 20-25 hours of use to achieve the troubleshooting proficiencies of senior technicians with years of experience. (Lesgold, 1994). Its efficiency is attributed to the speed with which the simulations can be worked, to the “intelligent” sequencing of problems designed to optimize learning, and to the fact that some of the simulated problems are so infrequently encountered in actual work that some senior technicians have never encountered them. An evaluation of the Cardiac Tutor found that it facilitated learning at about the same rate and quality as when a student works one-on-one with a physician expert in these techniques. Obviously that one-on-one training is very expensive and difficult to arrange in small communities.

What is the Catch?
If intelligent tutors are so smart, why haven’t they taken over computer-assisted instruction? There are two main answers. First, they require more computing power and speed than was available in microcomputers until a few years ago. Second, they are many times more complex to design than conventional computer assisted instruction, and that has made them far more expensive to develop. More than a decade ago Rosenberg (1987) warned that intelligent tutors tended to be developed by computer scientists without consulting teachers and students. He also noted that many of the tutors had not been rigorously evaluated, if evaluated at all. There are now some notable examples that avoid both of those problems, but the state of the art is so complex that multi-person, interdisciplinary teams are necessary to develop the tutors. (Ong and Ramachandran, 2000) “Authoring tools” were developed a decade ago to ease and speed the development of conventional computer assisted instruction, but the quest for general purpose authoring tools for intelligent tutors has proven far more difficult. Most efforts to date have either focused on one broad field of knowledge, have had limited capabilities, or have been difficult to learn. Tom Murry’s “Eon” (1998) is one of the most recent authoring tools and has been used to prepare intelligent tutors in subjects as diverse as science and Japanese language, but its use has required a collaboration of the subject matter expert and experts in the use of Eon.

Do Intelligent Tutors Work?
It is well established that individual tutoring is often dramatically more effective than group instruction. How about these new computer-based intelligent tutors? In a recent analysis, Woolf and Regian (2000) found that 233 studies of regular computer assisted instruction without “intelligent” adaptations to the learner's needs increase learning by an average of .4 standard deviations which is equivalent to raising performance from the 50th percentile to 65th percentile. On the other hand, three intelligent tutors raised performance by an average of 1.0 standard deviations, which is equivalent to going from 50th percentile to 84th percentile. These authors also found that learning time to mastery of objectives deceased by an average of 29 percent in 55 studies using regu-

Prospects for the Future
Faced with a prospect of dumb tutors or intelligent tutors, most learners will opt for the latter. Computer assisted instruction will almost certainly become more “intelligent” in the future. The computing power needed for many applica-

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tions is already widely available. The biggest hurdle is the difficulty of developing intelligent tutors. There is growing demand for computer and Web mediated learning, and intelligent tutors have great potential for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of such instruction. There will surely be advances in the authoring tools that ease the development of intelligent tutors, just as there have been advances in all other areas of application software. Some computer scientists are now striving for simple-minded intelligence that would be easier to develop and perhaps only marginally inferior to full-fledged intelligent tutors.

There are at least two other recent developments that might substantially affect intelligent tutors. Some developers are striving for tutors that could be easily adapted by teachers, in the hopes that this will make them more attractive to those who control classrooms. Several developers are working on Web-based tutors, and authoring tools to ease the development of such tutors. Further advances in information technologies may open other possibilities.

Beal, C. R., Beck, J., & Woolf, B. (1998). Impact of intelligent computer instruction on girls' math self concept and beliefs in the value of math. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, 1998. Eliot, C., & Woolf, B. (1994). Reasoning about the user within a simulation-based real-time training system. In Proceedings of the fourth international conference on user modeling, 121-126. Lajoie, S. F. & Lesgold, A. (1989). Apprenticeship training in the workplace: Computer-coached practice environment as a new form of apprenticeship. Machine-Mediated Learning, 3, 7-28. Lesgold, A. (1994). Assessment of intelligent technology. In E. L. Baker and H. F. O’Neil (Eds.), Technology assessment in education and training. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Murry, T. (1998). Authoring knowledge based tutors: Tools for content, instructional strategy, student model, and interface design. Journal of Learning Sciences, 7(1), 5-64. Ong, J. & Ramachandran, S. (2000, February). Intelligent tutoring systems: The what and how. ASTD Learning Circuits. Retrieved 11/24/2001 from Rosenberg, R. (1987). A critical analysis of research on intelligent tutoring systems. Educational Technology, 27(11), 7-13. Thomas, E. (undated). Intelligent tutoring systems (ITS). Retrieved 11/24/2001 from Urban-Lurain, M. (undated). Intelligent tutoring systems: An historic review in the context of the development of artificial intelligence and educational psychology. Retrieved 11/24/2001 from Wenger, E. (1987). Artificial intelligence and tutoring systems: Computational and cognitive approaches to the communication of knowledge. Los Altos, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. Woolf, B. P. & Regian, J. W. (2000). Knowledge-based training systems and the engineering of instruction. In S. Tobias & J. D. Fletcher (Eds.), Training and Retraining: A handbook for business, industry, government, and the military (pp. 339-356). New York, MacMillan.

Gregg B. Jackson is Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Education Policy Program at The George Washington University.

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Open Source Software: No Free Lunch?
Eric Rusten & Kurt D. Moses

Is Open Source Software a savior for cashstrapped schools and national governments?

One of the most hotly debated topics in the field of educational technology today surrounds the question of whether it is better for school systems to use open source software (OSS) or commercial software products. There are no simple answers to this question since they involve policy, commercial, technical, and educational concerns. This article will not attempt to provide just one simple answer. Rather, we will highlight the more critical elements that are important to consider when deciding whether or not to use open source software in educational computer systems.
the computer code and redistribute it to others. Linux, part of the family of UNIX-based operating systems is one of the most popular open source software used for operating systems (the master programs guiding computer operation). While other open source software, such as BDS and Berkeley UNIX are well known, Linux, supported by such groups as Caldera Systems, MandrakeSoft, Red Hat, and SuSE, is now at the center of the open source debate in education.

Com Education Tends to Lag the Commercial Sector
An important factor for educational computer investments is that, with rare exception, education follows the ebb and flows of the commercial sector—often making its investments after commercially developed products have matured and the cost structure has reduced to below commercial levels. Education historically takes advantage of the mistakes and the investments that the commercial sector has made on newer products and then makes adaptations and uses suited to its own purposes. On rare occasions, the education sector commands such a large part of the initial market that it actually spawns computer solutions—but usually not for long.

Linux, The Center of the OSS debate
Depending on how one calculates, studies have shown that Linux is the first or second most popular operating system software for Internet servers--accounting for about 30 percent of all web servers. Microsoft Windows NT, a commercial product, accounts for about 50 percent of the market of web server software by IP address and 24 percent of the market by domain names. Studies have also shown that Linux’s popularity for Internet servers is growing faster than any other server operating system. Linux is also becoming increasingly common on servers in corporate and university computer networks. In contrast, however, Linux is rarely used as a client operating system (on the end terminal or PC at the user’s desk). Only about 4 percent of client or end user computers use Linux compared with over 87 percent of client systems using some version of Microsoft Windows operating system software. The primary reason for this is that there are very few software applications, such as word processing, that can be used on computers running Linux. The exception is WordPerfect’s and Sun’s StarOffice’s application suite (now called OpenOffice since it was released as an OSS application). Recently, technology planners for pre-university school systems have shown increasing interest in the potential of using Linux on their computer systems. Because of the growing importance of Linux and its exemplarity as Open

The Function & Uses Are the Key Basis Tech for Technology Decisions
For education in particular, the functions to be supported and the needs of end users are the most important factors in making technology decisions. If the software and hardware solutions do not ultimately serve the teaching and learning process, then even “inexpensive” investments can be very costly, educationally. If key educational programs cannot be used on computer systems with “free” software, then “free” could actually become very expensive. Similarly, educational uses and needs for computers are different from those of corporations—and decision making about technology choices needs to reflect these differences.

Open Source Software Defined
Open source software is software usually available on the Internet that people can freely use and run without cost or restrictions. Users of open source software can also modify

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Source Software, this article will focus its discussion of OSS in education around the question of using Linux.

In Support of Open Source Software
Proponents of open source software (OSS) often emphasize the technical benefits of using this category of software as well as the low or negligible initial costs to acquire the software. In addition, people who use OSS highlight the fact that using OSS is free from the constraints of complex licenses that control how commercial software can be used. The technical benefits of OSS are generally discussed in terms of the software’s reliability, performance, scalability, security and its open code. The best way to evaluate the cost issue surrounding OSS is to look at the total cost of ownership (TCO). TCO assessment seeks to evaluate the range of lifetime costs involved in acquiring, installing, configuring, supporting, maintaining, training users, using, and upgrading the software. Using Linux as an example of operating system software used on servers, each of these technical considerations and the TCO question will be briefly described below.1 • Reliability: A variety of comparison tests between Linux and other server software applications have shown that servers running Linux crash less often than servers running Microsoft NT as well as other commercial and OSS operating systems software. The higher reliability ratings for Linux are often explained by the fact that developers working in different server environments can modify Linux’s source code to optimize the software for specific hardware platforms and diverse systems, thus improving Linux’s overall reliability. Taking advantage of this feature of OSS obviously requires a high degree of sophisticated technical expertise, a level of skill that is not often present in poorer and smaller schools and school systems. Performance: In comparison tests, Linux has also been shown to be the best performing server operating system in comparison to Microsoft NT and other commercial and OSS applications. Again, this higher level of performance is explained by Linux’s open software code that enables people with the needed skills to optimize the •

software for a specific platform and configuration. It is important to note that the results from performance tests are very sensitive to the overall conditions surrounding such tests and specific computer configurations. Scalability: Because Linux’s code can be optimized for different size platforms, it is said to be more scalable than Microsoft NT. Also, Linux can be used on a wider range of computer platforms than any other operating system. The combination of these two factors makes Linux a far more scalable operating system than many alternatives. Institutions can use Linux on a small computer system and expand the system while continuing to use Linux with no loss of performance or reliability. (At the corporate level, Linux suffers some on scalability measures compared to other Unix products.) Security: Even though it is difficult to quantitatively determine if one software package is more secure than another, there is a general consensus that Linux is more secure than Microsoft NT, primarily because of the large number of developers around the world working to identify and correct security problems. One measure of the security of Internet server software involves the number of web sites that are broken into by hackers and defaced. Studies of defaced web sites show that “most defaced web sites are hosted by Windows, and Windows sites are disproportionately defaced more often than explained by its market share.” (David A. Wheeler, 12/3/01) Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): Determining the total life-time cost involved in purchasing, supporting, configuring, training users, upgrading and using software is difficult. Underlying assumptions, the local technical and market environment in which software is used and the availability and cost of computer technicians with the necessary skills easily influences TCO calculations.

As shown in the tables below, Linux and other open source software usually have significantly lower initial costs than commercial operating system software such as Microsoft Windows 2000. (Wheeler, 12/3/01)

Microsoft Windows 2000 (Sample U.S. Retail Prices) Operating System Email Server RDBMS Server C++ Development $1510 (25 client) $1300 (10 client) $2100 (10 CALs) $500

Red Hat Linux $29 (standard), $76 deluxe, $156 professional (all unlimited) included (unlimited) included (unlimited) included

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Microsoft Solution Company A (50 users) Company B (100 users) Company C (250 users) $69,987 $136,734 $282,974

OSS/FS (GNU/Linux) Solution $80 $80 $80

Initial Savings by using GNU/Linux $69,907 $136,654 $282,894

Many businesses have saved thousands or millions of dollars by switching from commercial server software to Linux and other open source applications. Much of these savings are possible because these companies have the technical staff needed to install, configure, locate or develop drivers required to use peripherals, track and install revisions and patches (small packets of code developed to solve problems and enhance the software), develop and modify applications, and provide on-going technical support. In most cases, it appears that a vast majority of businesses that switch to Linux and other OSS only deploy this software on servers and not on end user client systems. There are three main reasons for this limitation in how Linux is deployed in institutions: • As mentioned above, there are few client software applications available that can be used on Linux or other OSS operating systems without using special software emulators; Few end users are familiar with using Linux and providing the needed training to large numbers of end users often is very expensive; and, The lack of end user skills translates into significantly higher costs to support and maintain Linux on large numbers of distributed client computers than is need to support Microsoft Windows or Apple’s Mac operating system software.

modifications and additions to major OSS applications such as Linux. However, as the popularity of Linux grows and the number of programmers in countries around the world who work on Linux increases, the potential for serious problems caused by the lack of centrally controlled standards will likely increase. This may eventually result in the evolution of Linux into versions that are incompatible with each other. Decisions to use Linux must carefully consider problems and costs that may result from having to maintain and support OSS in a dynamic and changing environment.

When is Free Software the More Expensive Choice?
Proponents of using OSS in educational computer environments often emphasize the fact that OSS is “free” and that the savings of money from not having to purchase operating system software is a sufficient reason to use Linux. Unfortunately, this argument is seriously flawed. Operating system software only accounts for about 5 to 8 percent of the total cost of buying a client computer system. In contrast, the ongoing costs to train teachers to integrate technology into teaching and learning and to support and keep computer systems running from year to year can be many times greater than the original purchase cost of the computer. In many cases, school systems will spend in two years as much for operations as was spent initially to purchase and install a system that is expected to last for five years. As mentioned above, it is therefore more important to carefully consider the TCO of educational computer systems when evaluating the real costs of using different types of operating system software. An important feature of TCO studies is that they need to be customized to the unique conditions and circumstances of the school system and country where the computer systems will be used. The results of a TCO study carried out in one country will most likely be significantly different from a study carried out in another country. Even within countries, TCO studies can be significantly different. It is also important to emphasize that TCO studies carried out for corporations cannot and should not be used to justify purchase decisions for educational systems. There are special and critical differences between the needs and uses of computers in education and corporations. Governments and schools decide to invest in computer systems for schools because they believe that using computers

• •

Software Standards and OSS -Bene One Person’s Benefit is Another’s Loss!
One of the important benefits of OSS, especially for programs as popular as Linux, is that software programmers around the world are free to modify the source code (the core instructions for operation) and develop new features. This results in a high level of creativity and, as mentioned above, is partly responsible for making Linux more stable, scaleable and secure than competing programs. The open source development environment that is responsible for the many benefits of OSS is also responsible for one of the major challenges facing OSS; the lack of centrally controlled standards that stop the release of poor software code and prevent different modifications from causing software conflicts. To address these problems, the OSS movement has developed an “honor code” and volunteer groups that police and certify

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and the Internet in schools will result in important educational benefits for their students and teachers. At a minimum, these benefits include ensuring that students gain the computer literacy skills they will need to find employment and perform well in post-secondary education. More importantly, educators seek to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools by integrating the use of technology. Buying and installing computer systems in schools is a necessary condition for realizing these potential benefits. However, simply putting computers in schools is not a sufficient condition to ensure that education will be improved. The most important factor in realizing the potential educational benefits of technology is how teachers and students use computers and the Internet in learning activities. Consequently, the most important COST factors in TCO studies of technology in education are linked to the use and application of technology to teaching and learning. Therefore, when evaluating the use of OSS in education it is essential to assess how different software decisions will effect how teachers and students use technology. Human Capacity Development Considerations: The largest and most important investment in educational computer systems is building and strengthening the capacity of teachers to integrate the use of technology in to their teaching routines. Building this capacity requires a long-term investment in training and on-going pedagogical support. In Brazil’s ProInfo program,2 for example, over 40 percent of the program’s budget was dedicated to initial teacher professional development and training. In addition to the initial investments in building teachers’ computer literacy skills and an understanding of sound pedagogical uses of technology, ProInfo staff at the federal, state and local levels have made significant and continual investments in building teachers’ confidence to use computers and the Internet in their teaching. Program staff, teachers and schools involved in ProInfo have also invested significant time and resources in developing successful project-based learning strategies that make effective use of computers and the Internet and which are starting to have important impacts on the quality of student learning. The financial value of these investments in the educational capacity of the trainers, teachers, students and schools involved in ProInfo are several hundred times greater than the initial cost of the computers and several thousand times greater than the cost of the operating system software used on these computers. The momentum of the ProInfo program is now accelerating the process of enabling more and more teachers across Brazil to learn to use computers and the Internet and to integrate the use of these tools into their teaching. It has taken over five years to reach the point where there is a critical mass of teachers and schools actively using technology in teaching and learning that is now driving the process forward at an exponential rate of growth.

If the government of Brazil were to develop a TCO model to evaluate the costs of switching from a Microsoft Windows operating system for client, end-user computers that are currently used in schools to Linux, they would have to include the costs of rebuilding the skills and confidence to use computers in thousands of teachers across the country. Similarly, it would be necessary to account for the costs of not having students use computers in schools for several years that would result as teachers without needed skills and confidence would stop making effective use of computers in their teaching. It is likely that the costs associated with these human capacity development losses among trainers, teachers and students would be several thousand times larger then the savings realized by using Linux rather than Windows on client systems. Technical Support Considerations: Even though the human capacity development cost factors discussed above are the most important elements of a TCO calculation for education systems, they are not the only ones that need careful consideration. One of the lessons from Brazil’s ProInfo program is that technical support to keep school computer systems running and to help teachers implement their learning projects with technology is essential. Without this support, small technical problems can prevent effective use. More importantly, the lack of support can cause teachers to not use computers for fear that they experience embarrassing problems that they cannot solve. A shift from Windows to Linux would require states, municipalities and schools to spend thousands of dollars and years rebuilding the technical support capacity essential to making effective use of computers in education. Matching Skills to Needs: Windows is the operating system used on 80 to 90 percent of all client computers in business, government and the non-profit sectors of the economy. If students were to use computers in schools with Linux, some would likely not gain needed skills and experience with Windows that perspective employers would demand. Therefore, TCO calculations for education systems considering Linux would need to consider the costs that students and companies would likely incur to train workers to use Windows. Educational Software Applications: The lack of educational software applications that can operate on Linux and the loss of current investments in Windows applications that could not be used on Linux would also need to be considered in TCO calculations. Furthermore, many schools, especially those in developing countries, have very small budgets to purchase additional software for their computer systems. A shift to Linux would make some current investments useless and replacing the software with versions to run on Linux, if available, would drain scarce resources. Also, some critical applications, such as software used in special needs educa-

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tion, is not presently available for the Linux operating system and a shift to Linux could prevent some students and schools from making any use of their computers.

Concluding Considerations for Com Educational Computer Programs
When considering the technical specifications of educational computer systems, especially regarding the use of OSS, it is critical that the primary goals and objectives of such systems – significantly improving the quality and equity of teaching and learning – must remain the principal focus of decision making. If decisions to use OSS are made for short-term or immediate cost savings, it is possible that the long term costs, both financially and educationally, may become excessive. As described above, the development of TCO models to assist decision making must be developed to reflect unique local realities and include the significant hidden costs associated with building the capacity of educators to effectively integrate the use of computers and the Internet into routine teaching and learning. At the same time, the definite benefits and advantages from the strategic use of OSS should be used in educational systems. Because there is little quantitative information about the use of OSS in educational computing systems, it could be very useful if universities, government agencies, NGOs and the private companies would plan and carryout pilot projects, in collaboration with schools, to evaluate the use of OSS, especially Linux, in school computing environments. Such pilot projects could evaluate the impact and potential cost savings of using Linux in specific school, local and national environments. The results from pilot projects could then be used to both assist education planners in making decisions about how to use OSS in schools and to encourage the development of OSS applications targeted at the needs of education. Clearly, the OSS movement will continue to grow and provide new options for educators—in part as an outgrowth of the benefits accruing to the commercial sector from OSS. Educators will need to follow and participate in these developments to ensure that strategic benefits for teachers and students can be realized. Just as with the first introduction of the PC to supplant the mainframe computer, in the near future the answer to the question, "Is Open Source Software a savior for cash-strapped schools and national governments?" becomes more obvious.

Optimizing Investments in Educational Computer Systems
Even though it may be far too costly for educational systems to consider using Linux or other OSS programs on client or end user systems, education planners can likely discover how to benefit most from using OSS by mirroring how the corporations and businesses have capitalized on the benefits of OSS. As described above, the dominant use of Linux in corporations is on Internet servers followed by running Linux on office network servers. Since servers are usually set up and maintained by skilled technicians, it becomes less of a problem to train them to install and maintain a new operating system. However, care should be given to evaluate which level of school networks should use new server software that is not well known by technicians. Schools in smaller communities with a few technicians skilled in the use of Unix or Linux may incur greater support and training costs than they would save from using the OSS options. This situation will differ from place to place. For example, in Namibia there are more computer technicians and companies with Unix/Linux skills than those with Microsoft Windows NT skills. Therefore, it may make economic sense for schools to use Linux for their servers than to use Microsoft products. In Brazil, however, the opposite is true. Technicians skilled in Unix/Linux operating systems on servers are only present in relatively low numbers in the largest cities and universities. If investments are being made to build completely new educational computer systems in schools with no legacy systems, then the TCO model will likely favor OSS when used strategically. With completely new educational computer systems, the issue of losing past investments in training and software will likely not exist and it can become economically beneficial, in the short and long term, to consider implementing Linux or other OSS at the level of Internet and school network servers.


Much of the information about the technical aspects of Linux was extracted from David A. Wheeler’s excellent article, “Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS)? Look at the Numbers!” (12/3/01). ProInfo is a national program in Brazil, started in 1997, that works in partnership with state and local authorities to establish a network of teacher training and technology resource centers across the country, build computer labs in public primary and secondary schools in all states, and train thousands of trainers and teachers to integrate technology into all aspects of the curriculum.


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This issue offers a selection of web sites that deal with current innovations and future trends in information technology.

Selected by Sonia Jurich

Trends in technology This web site, from the Center for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching (CALT) at Anne Arundel Community College, has a series of links to sites describing new technologies. The links are divided into: General, Commentaries (online journals), bandwidth, convergence, appliances, hardware, software, peer to peer, speech and translation, and open sources. It has also a list of books on technology. Most of the information is dated 1999-2000 but still relevant. The Millennium Project The Millennium Project of the American Council for the United Nations University “is a global participatory futures research think tank of futurists, scholars, business planners, and policy makers who work for international organizations, governments, corporations, NGOs, and universities.” The site collects information about technology and its impact on human life throughout the globe. This international perspective, in contrast to most sites on the topic that focused only on the highly industrialized nations, makes the site worthy of note. It includes scenarios for the future and articles about technology and society. Future Technologies This section from PC Magazine online describes future trends in technology that, like many futuristic proposals, must be considered with care. The Future of Network Technology for Learning This site includes a variety of papers commissioned by the Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology and also invites the reader to express his or her view of the topic. Technology An online journal from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) presents articles on current and future technologies. Registration is free. The journal has sections dedicated to information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology and others. The December 2001 issue has an article discussing the next generation of computer interface.

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Virtual Reality History, Applications, Technology and Future This is a paper by Tomasz Mazuryk, Michael Gervautz of the Institute of Computer Graphics and Algorithms, Vienna University of Technology. Although it is quite old in technology years (1996), it provides the non-expert with a clear and in-depth analysis of virtual reality that is worth reading. The page also contains the address for the Institute, the different research areas being pursued and a list of research reports on technologies for the future. MagPortal .com The site is owned and operated by Hot Neuron LLC, an R&D company for software and Internet development. The site is divided into many sections, one of which is about “Science & Technology/Future Trends.” It reproduces articles from different journals and magazines, including Scientific American, Smart Computing and PC World, on upcoming technologies and their social impact. Look for the category Science & Technology, and then Future Trends. Advanced Computer Technology Website This site describes a number of innovations in computer-related technologies, including hardware, software, and the Internet. It also has links to the Microsoft Research website and to Nanozine, an online magazine dedicated to research on nanotechnology. IBM Journal of Research and Development This online journal is dedicated to research beyond computer-related technology, but from time to time presents articles of interest on this topic. Volume 44, no. 6 is dedicated to microprocessor designs with articles, such as: “Bandwidth problems in high-speed networks,” “The next generation of Power PC processors,” and “A performance methodology for commercial servers.” Volume 44 no. 3 is on information technology and includes articles on future trends in storage, semiconductor and display technologies. One section of the journal is dedicated to new patents. The articles are written by and for experts. Intel Technology Journal Another online journal dedicated to research in technology, Intel does not limit articles to its own research and products, although they predominate. The Q3 issue (August 2001) is dedicated to (and written by) women who are at the forefront of technology development. The issue has an interesting and easy to read ethnographic research on the use of technology. Q1 issue (February 2001) is about microprocessors and, of course, the diverse Pentium product – old and new. Preparing for the end of the year holidays, the November issue is all about the new generation of smart toys. Education World – Technology in the Classroom This site, dedicated to teachers, provides information about new software that helps teachers enhance their lesson plans or manage their multi-task jobs. It is dedicated to elementary and high-school teachers.

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Technologies for Education: Looking into the Future
Sonia Jurich
Futurism is a dangerous exercise, threatened by too many unknown and uncontrollable variables, human unpredictable behavior being one of them. Yet, in our need to control the uncontrollable – environment, life, and future – human beings have tried a variety of devices to predict the future, from reading the shape of tea leaves, to talking to gods, to using complex probability equations and well-educated guesses. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are among the topics that have energized and defeated futuristic statements. Within half a century, computers lost their place as esoteric tools of a few “initiated” and became a child’s toy. From metallic dragons that required large and carefully refrigerated rooms, computers shrunk into flat briefcases carried around by even the most delicate damsels. On the other hand, education has changed little. Indeed, for more than a century, children have gone to schools, sat in classrooms, and worked under the supervision of more or less trained adults. Although specific content has somewhat changed, reading, writing and mathematics are still the central areas of learning, as they were 200 years ago. The interaction of these two apparently opposite forces – one based on continuous change and the other relying on tradition and continuity – is the futuristic challenge that this article attempts.

The New Generations of Computing

A 1996 article mentioned the following technologies “that will change our lives:” on-line banking, fax modems, edutainment (educational/entertaining) software, scanners, high capacity disks (100 megabytes zip disk), the Internet, and cable modems, which were announced as “coming soon.”1 One small part of this prevision was not realized. On-line banking, although popular, does not appear to have significantly changed the way banks work. Most of the list, though, sounds like an archaeological treaty. It is now almost impossible to find 100 megabytes zip disks in U.S. stores. CDs have taken their place. One line of the article stated that “systems are being developed now that will allow you to safely make purchases over the Internet.” Many of us would swear that we have been shopping on the Internet for most of our lives, rather than five years. Computers that respond to human voices were objects of a comic scene in one “Start Trek” movie. In the scene, the engineer from a distant future tries to talk to a computer under the puzzled face of the 20th Century engineer. However, 20th Century users already are familiar with voiceactivated computers. On the other hand, a computer with fears and revengeful feelings, as Kubrick envisioned in his movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” is fortunately still a vision. With few exceptions, most computers are dumb machines that do what they are commanded to do, and whose behavior seems less human and more like that of a donkey, stopping at the most unexpected moments, with total disregard to the owner’s needs, anger and despair. We must recognize though that the claim of computers as dumb machines will be soon part of the technological nostalgia. Research on “intelligent” systems started about 30 years ago with the ambitious goal of understanding human mental abilities and translating them into machine behavior. Neurologists and psychologists have teamed up with computer experts and engineers to decipher the roles of perception, emotions, and cognition in problem solving and other complex thinking processes. Linguists are helping decode how language works to gather, manipulate and transmit information. This knowledge is being used to create a new generation of machines, or Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, which have the ability to perceive problems, find solutions and learn from mistakes. A few years ago one of these machines – IBM’s RS/6000 supercomputer, nicknamed “Deep Blue” – defeated the best player in the world in a game of chess, a game that requires the ability to plan ahead and make inferences about the opponent’s behavior.

Artificial Intelligence

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AI systems are being used in aeronautics, space exploration, medical research, computer games, speech recognition, Web search agents, and many areas of industry and commerce. The systems are still very expensive, limiting the use to large corporations and powerful research centers. As it happened with other areas of computer-related technologies, the costs of AI systems will certainly come down as their utility and popularity increase. Laboratories are one of the many environments where AI systems have become an essential component. Their speed, accuracy and ability to undertake very complex tasks simultaneously make them an essential helper for research and production. Classrooms equipped with “intelligent” computers may be the next generation of school laboratories. With the help of these sophisticated machines, students will be able to conduct real experiments, rather than the poorly performed repetition of meaningless tasks that characterized our personal experiences in school labs (not to mention the killing of innocent frogs for no good reason). Through Web connections, students will learn directly from real scientists, and become research assistants in the process. Using less sophisticated equipment, projects like GLOBE are already making these important connections between classroom and real life research.2 AI systems will enable schools to participate in larger and more complex projects, thus eliminating the dichotomy between schoolwork and real life work.

Natural Computing

Another area of research on “intelligent” computers is natural computing3 – systems that can perceive and interpret commands through voice, gestures and movement. The goal in this case is to produce machine interfaces that mimic the natural ways human beings use to communicate. The system presents multi-modal interfaces that include speech recognition software and embedded cameras. The cameras transmit images to a central process that interprets the movements through a system of complex algorithms. Natural computing suggests a future of active classrooms, where children move around, interacting with each other and with the machines in a flawless way. Each student may have his or her computer-pal, no bigger than a wristwatch, with which they talk, share confidences, in addition to doing complex mathematical modeling. Writing may become as awkward as carving runes in stone, or part of an artistic repertoire, like the art of calligraphy in China and Japan. For children and youth with disabilities, these machines open new possibilities of a more productive life, where many of today’s limitations will become minor obstacles.

Intelligent Rooms

For researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, isolated machines capable of intelligent behavior are no longer the goal. Their research has taken them to intelligent spaces or IR (intelligent rooms).4 Different from traditional computers, which maintain a one-on-one interaction with the user, these rooms will handle multiple users with different demands sharing the same environment. When entering the room, the users will interact with a multi-modal Help System that provides information about the room’s resources and guides the user on how to utilize these resources. The room will be equipped with a number of sensors and other audiovisual hardware and software with high computational power and dynamic capability to adjust their operation to the preferences of diverse users. A special infrastructure (Metaglue) enables the multi-user, multi-spatial functioning of the room. Systems of coordination manage the interactions among the elements, and respond to the users’ demand. A system of information retrieval connects the room to the web. Among the sub-projects related to the IR is SAM, which aims at providing an “expressive and responsive user interface” to the room. If not in 2001, but a little later, H.A.L. will no longer be the fruit of a genial movie director’s imagination, but the doorman of a new world.

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New Technologies For Old Education?

As machines become more complex, so does the workplace. In the 18th Century, most jobs would require a little more than some reading and writing skills. In the beginning of the 20th Century, the requirement included the completion of elementary school. By the middle of the Century, good jobs in industrialized countries demanded at least a high school education. Now, in the United States, a person without some higher education cannot expect to find a job that pays a reasonable wage. The pressure for more and in-depth education is mounting. Countries must find ways to educate their populations or miss the opportunity to become part of the modern world. The school of the future may be a very different enterprise – global, streamlined, efficient, and most of all, focusing on higher-order thinking skills, rather than basic knowledge. Countries that have no resources to build schools and train teachers may rent “education hours” from non-profit organizations dedicated to bring the highest level of education to any place in the world. Basic education can be provided through intelligent machines, able to understand questions, respond to students’ emotions, and do multiple tasks at one time. Since machines do not get tired, nor charge more for more work, there can be an increase in school days, weeks and years to accommodate a system of shifts. This system will make it possible for more students to be educated without the need for building more schools or hiring more personnel, the two largest expenses in education. Science classes will be provided by renowned scientists who interact with thousands of youth dispersed in hundreds of computer-centers across the world. Students in any part of the globe will be able to learn a variety of languages from native speakers living in distant places, or look at the stars through virtual telescopes, and conduct laboratory experiments in coordination with astronauts in space. Except for the teacher-machine, technology already permits most of these proposals. Due to the economies of scale, the proposals are cost effective and results may prove excellent, since the students will interact with exponents in their fields, rather than poorly trained teachers. Indeed, the technological advances of the last century have given educators the ability to offer curricula tailored to each individual student, move the classroom to where it is needed the most, and break the barriers between the classroom and the world.5 However, even in highly industrialized countries, the potential of ICTs for education is yet to be realized. In most countries where students have access to computers, including the United States, they remain extraneous to the classroom, used mostly for word processing and introductory courses on computer use. Although virtual schools are multiplying, they present no threats to traditional schools.

Are We There Yet?

It is not necessary to read tea leaves, talk to the gods, or conduct complex equations to understand that educational systems will have to change. As computer-related technologies penetrate every aspect of society, and education becomes a priced commodity, schools will have to break with tradition to respond to the demand for more and better education. We know that the future of technology is limitless due to human intelligence and innovation. But will the future of education continue to be limited due to human tradition and inertia?


McKinght, Rich (1996). New Trends in technology that will change our lives. Available at 2 For information on this project, see “Learning by Doing Science: Two Internet-Based Cases” in TechKnowLogia, March/April 2001. 3 For more information, see 4 Information on Intelligent Room (Project e21) can be found at 5 A more in-depth discussion on this topic is found in Haddad, W. & Jurich, S. “The potential of technologies for the enhancement of science and mathematics teaching and learning,” TechKnowLogia, March/April, 2001.

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Virtual Journey, Real Learning
Arati Singh,1 Dr. Eric Rusten,2 and Vera Suguri3 RiverWalk: Making a Splash at the University of Michigan
The RiverWalk Project is a collaborative activity in which students and teachers from six countries—including the group of Brazilian students mentioned above—research and share information about rivers in their communities. The project was born out of a desire of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport to develop an international education program on rivers. This Ministry asked the Interactive Communications & Simulations (ICS) group at the University of Michigan’s College of Education to develop an online program to foster education about world rivers. With Japanese government funding and support from the University of Michigan, Jeff Kupperman and his colleagues from the ICS group launched the RiverWalk project in November 2000. Visiting the multilingual RiverWalk website4 allows one to access the results of project and problem-based learning, as well as an integrated set of easy-to-use tools for publishing work and carrying out discussions. The website features student-published tours (mini-websites) presenting projects about their local rivers, accompanying discussion boards, virtual backpacks that allow participants to take and synthesize material from each other’s online tours, online mentoring from staff at the University of Michigan, and a downloadable manual. Currently, funding from Japan makes it possible for schools to participate free of charge. While many web tours are publicly accessible, some portions are password protected. Some of the big questions RiverWalk students are encouraged to explore include: • • • What does it mean for a river to be “clean” or “polluted?” What happens when countries or communities compete for limited water sources? What needs to be done to gain benefits from rivers while preventing their destruction?

International educational technology initiatives are beginning to produce exciting stories demonstrating the impact of computers and the Internet on student learning. A key element to the RiverWalk-Brazil “success story” featured here is an equitable partnership between actors in Brazil and the United States. The essential players from Brazil include teachers and students in eleven schools and Vera Suguri, a pedagogical coordinator with the Ministry of Education. Key partners in the United States include Eduardo Junqueira and colleagues involved in the RiverWalk initiative at University of Michigan’s Interactive Communications & Simulations group (ICS) and Eric Rusten, who directs the U.S./Brazil Learning Technologies Network (LTNet) project at the Academy for Educational Development (AED). This partnership forms the scaffold for RiverWalk-Brazil, an interdisciplinary project that enables Brazilian schoolchildren and teachers to become scientists, activists, and reporters on their physical environment. Described below are the two main thrusts of the project: The RiverWalk online publishing and planning forum for students (developed by ICS), and an online professional development and collaborative learning environment for Brazilian teachers involved in RiverWalk (developed by Vera Suguri and Eric Rusten on LTNet).

Evolution of Walk-Brazil


Imagine…Naoko, a twelve-year old girl in Japan, wanders through the Internet and stumbles upon an online account from a group of Brazilian youth trying to save their local river. As Naoko explores the digital photos and journal-like text that the children published, she gets a glimpse of the cultural, economic, and ecological issues that their town faces. She learns about washerwomen who unintentionally pollute the river with their detergent, and about how the children attempt to solve the problem by publishing river education booklets and encouraging the city council to build a public laundry. Naoko begins thinking about the river that flows by her own neighborhood…

One RiverWalk partner, Vera Suguri, captures the project’s potential impact with the following observation:

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For students to learn about conservation, it isn’t enough to talk about the problem, show the situation via TV and videos, or by providing information in a traditional manner. Working with projects like RiverWalk, the students become active participants. Teachers and students decide together about what river to study and how to study it… In one school, students took a field trip and interviewed local fishermen who had lived on the river's banks for over two decades. The reality of river dependence was seen and felt. After viewing other schools’ projects, our students realized the extent of river problems in our country as well as others.

Brazil Dives In with Something New
Students from Japan, Taiwan, the U.S., Canada, and Israel were already participating in RiverWalk when Eduardo Junqueira, a Brazilian journalist studying5 at the University of Michigan, began recruiting schools from his homeland to join the project. Junqueira asked Vera Suguri from the ProInfo program6 in Brazil’s Ministry of Education to help identify and encourage teachers from fourteen public schools to join the RiverWalk project. The fourteen schools were strategically selected to represent the diverse economic, geographic, and cultural diversity of the country and to ensure the inclusion of Brazil’s major rivers. The common thread among the selected sites is that each has a highly motivated teacher leader and access to Internet technology in the school or at a local computer resource lab (NTE) developed under the ProInfo program. With RiverWalk, Suguri saw an opportunity not only to get Brazil’s schoolchildren and teachers involved in an international, cross-curricular educational technology project, but also to develop a meaningful, web-enabled form of professional development for the teachers within and outside the project. To enable this professional development, Suguri brought in the U.S./Brazil Learning Technologies Network (LTNet), part of the U. S. Agency for International Development-funded LearnLink project at AED, to help develop a web-based collaborative learning environment (AAC - Ambiente de Aprendizagem Colaborativa). The AAC in the LTNet website, while separate from the RiverWalk website, advances RiverWalk’s goals by providing an environment for professional development tailored for the Brazilian teachers involved in RiverWalk. The additional benefit of the AAC is that it is completely accessible to anyone, whether or not they are officially involved in RiverWalk. ProInfo’s Suguri sees this feature as a way to model good professional practice and to help teachers who are just beginning to use technology learn to develop and participate in collaborative projects. Moreover, the site is accessible to researchers and environmental specialists to allow them to

Step-by-step instructions for teachers participating in the professional development RiverWalk community developed by LTNet and ProInfo contribute to the schools during the learning process. Regarding this feature, Suguri comments, “It is not usual for teachers and students to accept contributions from outsiders during the learning and teaching process. I think that this aspect is very innovative. Through the AAC, this collaboration is achieving a larger return on the investment of the work of the eleven8 participating Brazilian schools than would be possible without the AAC.” A visit to the teachers’ collaborative AAC gives one a taste of the sometimes messy process involved in adopting new learning technologies. The AAC's webfolio offers four questions to guide teachers as they plan activities and share the project’s process:9 • • • • What do we know? What do we want to learn? What did we learn? How did we do it?

To help teachers explore these questions, the AAC also provides the following technologies: a listserv, chat rooms, a photo gallery, and a user-friendly webfolio where teachers upload text and graphics. Teacher trainers from two of the schools, Lourdes Matos of Montes Claros and Noara Resende of Belo Horizonte were selected by Suguri to be madrinhas (literally, godmothers) or activity coordinators for

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the teachers in the other sites. The madrinhas were trained, mostly online, to use the technologies in the collaborative learning environment by LTNet staff in the U. S. and by Suguri in Brazil. They in turn trained the rest of the participating teachers to use their environment. The culture of the AAC is marked by teacher autonomy in decision-making, while maintaining a highly cooperative work environment. According to Suguri, teachers weren’t obliged to follow any pre-determined structure. They decided what river to study, number, grade and level of participants, who would be interviewed, what places or institutions to visit, the size and feature of their own project, etc. How-

ever, it is not uncommon for teachers with higher computing skills to assist those with less experience, for teachers to send encouraging e-mails to each other, or to bounce ideas off of colleagues online.

Rowing Together
According to one project developer, the dynamic learning that RiverWalk nurtures requires “many actors.” It was reported that without a balanced human and technical infrastructure, the project would have suffered. Table 1 delineates the roles of each of the partners in the RiverWalk-Brazil project.

Table 1: Roles of Partners Partner
Teachers and students at the eleven participating schools in Brazil and their related resource labs (NTE’s) RiverWalk-Brazil coordinator Eduardo Junqueira and staff at ICS at the University of Michigan’s College of Education Vera Suguri, a pedagogical coordinator at ProInfo in Brazil’s Ministry of Education.
• • • • • • • • • • •

Collaborate and publish work on the RiverWalk website and the teachers’ collaborative learning environment (AAC). Organize educational activities and field trips to explore their rivers. The teacher trainer/coordinators at the ProInfo NTEs provide technical and logistical support to the schools. Developed the RiverWalk framework and website ( Provide a common space for Brazilian schools to present their work in an international forum. Facilitate and coordinate day to day communications. Build trust with Brazilian teachers. Used ProInfo’s network of NTE’s and participating schools to identify participants for the project. Facilitates communication among teachers, encourages active participation and coordinates project efforts. Brings innovation and pedagogical input into the project, including co-designing the teachers’ AAC. Gives a national presence to the project by presenting it at conferences and building relationships with important national and local stakeholders. Developed and maintains the AAC where teachers collaborate as they implement the RiverWalk project ( Brings technical and pedagogical innovation to the project. Acts as a strong equitable partner with Brazil’s Ministry of Education. Companies, forestry organizations, museums, families, and nongovernmental agencies lend support to the project in a variety of ways—from making lunches for student field trips to serving as subject matter experts for students and teachers.

Eric Rusten, Director of the U.S./Brazil Learning Technologies Network (LTNet), part of LearnLink at AED

• • •

Local Brazilian communities

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A Strong Current
“REAL” Rivers


Grabinger (1996) presented a Framework of Rich Environments for Active Learning (REALs). It can be used to evaluate the educational elements of the RiverWalk project. RE-

ALs emphasize the social components of learning, as well as the authenticity of the context in which this learning takes place. Analyzing both components of RiverWalk-Brazil in the REAL framework helps show why this particular project has more pedagogical muscle than many similar endeavors. Table 2 shows how RiverWalk-Brazil exemplifies the six attributes of REALs.

Table 2: Application of REALs to RiverWalk (Technology tools are in bold blue)
Attributes of REALs Examples from ICS’s STUDENTfocused RiverWalk framework
Cross-curricular connections encourage deep learning. For example, measuring the effect of droughts on rivers can include math (e.g., measuring river depth) and social studies (e.g., analyzing economic impact). Easy to use publishing tools and simple moderated discussion boards allow students to focus on content synthesis rather than on technical tasks. Students work in virtual workgroups to identify, analyze, and/or resolve river issues in their own communities, much like scientists, government agencies, and concerned citizens do. A virtual backpack feature allows students to borrow graphics, sound, and text from others’ web tours to include in or help inform their own web tours.

Examples from ProInfo’s/LTNet’s TEACHER-focused Collaborative Learning Environment (AAC)
The webfolio allows teachers to instantly publish text and graphics on the Internet to create mini webpages that document the process of the project. The “add a comment” function provides a forum where others can articulate the new connections their colleagues’ webfolio page helps them make. The questions and concerns teachers express to each other and to peer trainers (madrinhas) via e-mail discussion lists and chat are based on real, simultaneous classroom experiences. Analyzing and discussing each other’s webfolios helps teachers reflect on and devise strategies to improve their own learning

Constructivist influences: People learn by making connections between old and new knowledge, indexing and making generalizations from new knowledge, and developing common understandings of new knowledge through social interaction. Authentic learning contexts: Learning that takes place in an authentic, non-simulated context is relevant to students’ lives, can develop richer cognitive connections, and support collaboration. Student responsibility and initiative: Students participate in intentional, goal-directed learning, reflect on their work, and develop metacognitive skills. Cooperative learning: Students work together to solve problems, and take on multiple roles and work through difficulties. Generative learning activities: Students actively use tools to investigate problems and seek solutions to problems. In these situations, students are often codesigners of instruction with teachers. Authentic assessment: There is a focus on process as well as product in student learning.

The workgroup interface, discussion boards, and “virtual backpack” give students multiple ways to lend their expertise and support each other in the learning process. The Internet allows students to freely search other external online resources in their quest for excavating important river issues.

The online medium captures and preserves students’ published web tours as well as their participation in online discussions.

Chat events give teachers the immediate back-and-forth conversation they need, while the listserv provides a convenient way to send questions, share results and schedule other online activities with the group. The site contains a variety of resources, including instant publishing tools that help teachers take ownership of the environment and generate ideas, as well as links to other sites that support their online experimenting and exploring. The online medium exposes the teachers’ learning process, thereby making it easier to evaluate their level of participation and professional growth.

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Where the Oar Touches the Water
The following collection of quotations from project participants helps illustrate what it is like to be part of RiverWalkBrazil.

When explaining why it was important to have a broad spectrum of Brazilian schools involved, Rusten states: By enabling different types of schools to participate, more innovation is possible. One teacher, for example, used what we called “scooter net” to enable her students to have their content published in the RiverWalk website. After the students created their narratives and selected images for their tour, the teacher drove her scooter to the NTE in a nearby city and uploaded the files to the website and printed copies so that her students could see the results of their effort. The message is: ‘You don’t have to be from the capital; you don’t have to be rich to be involved.’ Project madrinha Noara Resende, who serves as a trainer and facilitator for teachers, makes an observation on the role of local support for RiverWalk: Other important partners are the school directors and the students' parents. Many of the directors reacted positively and got the whole school community involved. Many of the parents have sent me thank you messages, and even want to see some of the student work published on the Internet. Everyone’s collaboration makes it easier for teachers and students. Project madrinha Lourdes Matos comments on the importance of evaluation in RiverWalk-Brazil. A final evaluation will assess student learning, and help students and teachers reflect on the process, as both parties are responsible for the knowledge produced during the course of this project.

Teacher Growth
Eduardo Junqueira, the coordinator-mentor for RiverWalkBrazil, said that when the Brazilian teachers were first approached about the RiverWalk project, The teachers were very proud to join the project, but very scared that they might not succeed. They asked, ‘Are you sure I can do this?’ I told them, ‘If we don’t try, we’ll never know.’ They slowly started trusting. They had experiences in the past with foreign partners; in some cases they had bad memories. How did I gain their trust? I answered their e-mail, gave feedback, tried solving their problems. Once trust was established, they started their projects. One teacher shared her perceptions of her own skill growth during the course of the project: When I started participating in the RiverWalk project, I didn’t know even to type, and now, I am learning to scan pictures, to navigate in the Internet and many other things in computing. One teacher, commenting on the impact of RiverWalk participation on him and his students, states: Participation brought great advances in the teaching and learning process and helped develop the ecological consciousness and citizenship in our students…When I showed the RiverWalk project to the city council, they were very embarrassed with the pollution of the River Jaguaribe and tried to justify [overlooking it].

Student Growth
Junqueira describes students’ initial reactions to the project: Students said, ‘Wow, so now we have the opportunity to interact with students across the country. They can see the results of our work.’ The other thing is, they loved the field trip to rivers. There are animals, there are trees, they have each other, they have a picnic. Many are from poor schools, so they don’t do this very often. One teacher for at-risk students observed that: This project had elevated the self-esteem of the kids because they realized that they could do the same work as others. Their pictures and research are on the Internet, so they are “important citi-

Programmatic Issues
LTNet’s Director, Eric Rusten shares some light on critical elements contributing to the effectiveness of the teachers’ collaborative learning environment (AAC): The AAC used for RiverWalk was not entirely predetermined. Teachers could request changes. Being responsive to participant needs and suggestions builds a strong sense of ownership and helps sustain enthusiasm and project momentum.

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zens” who are contributing to the future generations. Two teachers, Maria Sakete of Campo Grande and Sergio Barreto from Ceara, commented how the project tied in with thematic topics: "...the students had raised some questions around the bridges. In this opportunity we studied "volume and proportion" exploring the concept or mass, capacity, extent, size and mass." Finally—and perhaps most importantly—are the chat excerpts from participating Brazilian school children themselves, below: …Now, we are concerned with pollution issues, and before throwing trash away on the street, we will think first. …If the trash from here goes there, the trash from there comes here. Indirectly, we are helping to preserve Sao Francisco River because our school has collected 10,000 disposable bottles, which surely would have gotten there through Velha’s River. It was great to visit the river because it helped us to raise questions and learn more on subjects which before the visit, we didn’t really care about.

“Through RiverWalk-Brazil, our schools have opened the windows to the world,” states ProInfo’s Vera Suguri. This project demonstrates that forming and using partnerships are integral to this type of educational innovation. Many times, information and communications technology can bolster learning environments such as RiverWalk. However, while technology can help learners do things that may have been impossible earlier, technology does not automatically improve learning partnerships. Only people can do that. Brazilian Schools Participating in RiverWalk-Brazil Manaus - Amazonas E.M. Carlos Gomes E.M. Armando de Souza Mendes Jaguaribe - Ceará E.E.F.M. Cornélio Diógenes Brasília - Distrito Federal PROEM Montes Claros – Minas Gerais Escola Antônio Canela E.E. Capelo Gaivota Campo Grande - Mato Grosso do Sul E.M. Barão do Rio Branco - Pólo E.M. Oito de Dezembro - Pólo Campos - Rio de Janeiro C.E. Dom Otaviano de Albuquerque Tapera-Rio Grande do Sul E.E Oito de Maio Belo Horizonte - Minas Gerais E.M. Hilda Rabello Matta

Grabinger, S. R. (1996). Rich Environments for Active Learning. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook Of Research for Educational Communications And Technology (pp. 665692). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Macmillan. The Rivers Project 2001. (2001) RiverWalk Guidebook [Online] Available: RiverWalk Project website. (2001) [Online] Available: U. S./Brazil Learning Technologies Network’s Collaborative Learning Environment for RiverWalk. (2001) [Online] Available:

The RiverWalk project is funded and supported by Japan's Ministry of Land, Transport, and Infrastructure; the School of Education and Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan; and the Spencer Foundation. Brazil’s ProInfo program is funded by Brazil’s Ministry of Education. Local NTEs are funded by local, state, and municipal governments. AED’s U. S./Brazil Learning Technologies Network (LTNet) is funded by the U. S. Agency for International Development. Special thanks to RiverWalk developer Jeff Kupperman and RiverWalk-Brazil coordinator/mentor Eduardo Junqueira for their contributions to this article.

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TV - Escola

Brazil’s Ministry of Education ProInfo

Web Sites

Park Rang-

RiverWalk Project Univ. of Michigan

11 Public Schools: State & Municipal Special Needs NTE’s: teacher training and technology resource centers Libraries

State Secretary of Edu tion Government Offi i l Family & Local Community

Municipal Secretary of EduLTNet AED USAID



A graphic representation of all the actors involved in RiverWalk-Brazil.

1 2 3 4 5 6

Acting Director, Academy for Educational Development Technology Center, AED Director, US/Brazil Learning Technologies Network, AED Pedagogical Coordinator, ProInfo, Ministry of Education Brazil Junqueira was a visiting student with the University of Michigan Journalism Fellows Program at the time.

ProInfo is a national program, started in 1997, that works in partnership with state and local authorities to establish a network of teacher training and technology resource centers across the country (NTEs), build computer labs in public primary and secondary schools in all states, and train thousands of trainers and teachers to integrate technology into all aspects of the curriculum.

7 8

Initially, Junqueira and Suguri recruited fourteen Brazilian schools to participate. During the project, three of the schools stopped participating. The first three questions are based on the KWL technique developed by Professor Donna M. Ogle at National-Louis University. Junqueira had originally asked teachers to answer these questions on paper, and it was later suggested that putting them in a public online format would benefit all teachers in and outside the project.


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Digital Opportunity: USAID’s New IT Initiative
Mary Fontaine Academy for Educational Development

In late fall, 2001, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a major information and communication technology (IT) initiative. The Digital Opportunity through Technology and Communication program, known as the DOT-COM Alliance, represents one of the country’s latest and largest foreign aid commitments to closing the digital divide.
cant experience and expertise in both IT and international development. Within the Alliance, three consortia each focus on a critical IT area: dot-GOV on policy and regulatory reform, dot-ORG on access and applications, and dot-EDU on education and learning systems.

The year before, USAID established IT as a cross-cutting Agency theme, stating that “enabling more widespread participation and empowerment in the global information society is an important development result in its own right.”1 DOT-COM joins a series of USAID-supported IT programs designed to increase access of developing countries to IT and the potential opportunities it provides. Indeed, in celebrating its launch, those involved in the program announced it as “DOT-COM: The potential to change everything.” The program’s scale, scope, and focus are broad. Geographically, the program will be implemented worldwide, with core funding coming from USAID’s Global Bureau Center for Human Capacity Development (G/HCD) and the Office of Women in Development (G/WID). The program also crosses all sectors—education, economic growth, women in development, agriculture, trade, health, environment, and telecommunications/e-commerce policy. Its three critical IT areas of concern are: promoting policy and regulatory reform, increasing access and applications, and using IT to strengthen education and learning systems. The program’s resource base is also broad, especially its human resources, implementation expertise, and partnerships. Indeed, The DOT-COM Alliance unites a large number of leading businesses and nonprofit organizations with signifi-

The DOT-COM program for policy, called "dot-GOV," undertakes assessments and provides training and technical assistance on telecommunications and electronic commerce policy and regulatory reform. Ranging from IT policy development and impact assessment to media law and ecommerce trade policy, dot-GOV’s purpose is to help developing countries reform and restructure telecommunications and Internet policies so as to increase access for all populations, including underserved minorities, women, and the rural poor. Led by Internews, dot-GOV is implemented and administered by a team of organizations with expertise in this area, including the Center for Democracy & Technology, Computer Frontiers Incorporated, Associates for Rural Development, and the University of Maryland. Bolstering the core team are nine additional resource partners plus private sector companies, all of which make up the dot-GOV consortium.

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The DOT-COM program on education and learning systems, known as "dot-EDU," provides technical assistance and institutional support for the use of IT in learning systems. With a focus on improving quality, expanding access, and enhancing equity in learning systems, dot-EDU develops and implements IT-assisted applications of digital and broadcasting technologies. Some of the interventions dot-EDU undertakes include training for administrators and teachers, facilitating online learning in schools, developing multimedia curricula, establishing school-to-work centers, and designing educational management systems. The Education Development Center (EDC) leads the program, with the Academy for Educational Development (AED) as its primary partner and an array of private sector companies, universities, US PVOs, and regional institutions as its implementing partners.

Winrock International, as well as a host of resource organizations from universities, NGOs, foundations, and the private sector. dot-ORG also runs the DOT-COM Secretariat, which works to “connect the three dots.” Facilitating coordination among the three programs is among the Secretariat’s key functions, as is synthesizing and disseminating experience, lessons learned, and successful strategies for USAID and external audiences. Building on the strategies of the African Leland Initiative, the worldwide Internet for Economic Development Initiative, and the Global Communications and Learning Systems (LearnLink) Initiative—major US IT programs—the DOTCOM Alliance undertakes pilot projects and works with USAID missions around the world to apply IT tools to help achieve strategic objectives in virtually any sector. These activities may involve all three of the DOT-COM groups or some combination of the three. In addition, each member of the DOT-COM Alliance conducts pilot projects in its area of expertise. Throughout, DOT-COM places emphasis on gender equity and collaboration with private sector IT firms. Indeed, USAID’s Women In Development (WID) office is a major contributor to the program, and private sector companies make up a significant number of the resource partners. Together, the DOT-COM Alliance provides USAID with access to fifteen grantee institutions and over 75 resource partners available to work on IT-for-development efforts. By bringing this wealth of expertise to bear on reaching out to the under-served, it is expected that, at the conclusion of the five-year activity, DOT-COM will have caused a significant bridging of the digital divide.

Also in the DOT-COM Alliance is dot-ORG, which focuses on IT access and application. dot-ORG implements pilots and provides technical assistance and institutional support to increase access to and use of IT around the world. Ranging from expanding connectivity for voice and data to promoting useful applications and building end user capacity, key work in this area includes extending infrastructure, improving “off grid” connectivity, ensuring ISP/telecenter business viability, training users, and supporting local content and applications development. Led by the Academy for Educational Development, dotORG’s primary partners include the Educational Development Center (EDC), Research Triangle Institute (RTI), and


USAID’s revised Strategic Plan 2000

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