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African Union, OLPC laptop plan faces hurdles

o Michael Malakata
24.03.2011 kl 17:43 | Computerworld Zambia

Although the African Union (AU) has sealed a deal with the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project to buy XO laptops for distribution in African schools, the project still faces funding and organizational hurdles.

 

Although the African Union (AU) has sealed a deal with the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project to buy XO laptops for distribution in African schools, the project still faces funding and organizational hurdles.

The two organizations have not yet worked out details of how the project is going to be implemented and how many laptops are expected to be distributed to schools in the region. The AU has not said how much it will be paying for the computers.

The AU itself has no money reserved for the project and is relying on donor funding and financial support from recipient countries in order to kick-start the project. Over the past few years, however, several African countries have ended up unable to buy OLPC laptops, despite various announced deals, claiming lack of funds. This has forced OLPC to turn to the AU, which has committed to buying the laptops and sending them to schools.

But despite a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the AU and OLPC, the AU has said details about how the project is going to be implemented and how many laptops are required have not yet been developed.

"We are just in the beginning of this long-term relationship. The details are yet to be worked out," Vera Brenda Ngosi, AU director of human resources, science and technology, told Computerworld Zambia this week via e-mail exchange.

A joint press statement by the two organizations last month said the agreement is valid for two years. During the two years, OLPC is expected to develop the laptops on a large scale for the project.

However, donor funding to the AU has been diminishing over the past years, with several information and communication technology (ICT) projects under the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) threatened with closure due to lack of funds. Donors claim the AU lacks proper accounting procedures.

Proposals for alternative funding have been revised several times after member countries of the AU failed to agree on funding for the organization. The AU has an annual budget of US$150 million, which goes toward various projects and organizations including the e-Africa Commission, responsible for the development of ICT programs including e-learning and e-school projects.

The AU's goal for the OLPC project is to enable a generation of children to think critically and connect with each other as well as to the world's body of knowledge in order to create the conditions for real and substantive economic and social development. The AU and OLPC will also work together to leverage the advantages of the XO laptops in transforming primary school education.

A business plan for how computers are going to be used in schools was drawn up by African ministers in charge of science and technology and communication two years ago. The plan has not been implemented due to a lack of computers in schools. However, Nepad wants all schools in Africa equipped with computers and connected to the Internet in order to access educational material that would be delivered to schools on a continual basis.

Keywords: Hardware Systems  Government  
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