Edubuntu in Ghana

In issue 14, we interviewed O’Reilly Open Source Award recipient Elizabeth “Lyz” Krumbach. Recently Lyz went to Ghana to help deploy donated Edubuntu computers in area schools. She shares what her team learned from the experience.

Computer Reach; Beth Lynn Eicher,

 

FREE Software Director of Computer

 

Reach; and me, a Director at Partimus

 

[4]) left for Ghana.

 

Over the next two weeks, our advance

 

team met in Ghana with key leaders and

 

representatives from Google, Ashesi University

 

College, Ghana-India Kofi Annan

 

Centre of Excellence in ICT, USAID, the

 

Accra Linux Users Group, the City Waste

 

e-waste recycling center, and other organizations

 

to develop relationships and

 

strengthen the success of this initiative

 

(Figure 1). Beth Lynn Eicher also attended

 

the Free Software and Open

 

Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA)

 

meeting, which happened to be occurring

 

while we were there.

 

Our trip began with a visit to the

 

Street Academy in Accra [5], which had

 

received a deployment of five Edubuntu

 

[6] laptops in March 2012. We met with

 

students and teachers of this school,

 

In October of 2012, I was part of an

 

exciting collaboration between Africa

 

ICT Right [2], an NGO in Ghana,

 

and Computer Reach [3], an NGO in the

 

United States, to begin a deployment of

 

100 computers running Edubuntu to

 

community centers and schools in

 

Ghana (West Africa).

 

Africa ICT Right aims to “uplift rural

 

communities in Ghana by providing educational

 

and technological resources and

 

training to empower the youth to improve

 

their lives and also bridge the digital

 

gap.” Computer Reach describes itself

 

as a technology outreach mission that

 

primarily serves the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,

 

area. However, the group’s activities

 

have also included hurricane-hit

 

areas in the United States and international

 

efforts in Malaysia, Africa, El Salvador,

 

and Nicaragua. These two organizations

 

recently teamed up as Computer

 

Reach was able to offer 100 Pentium 4

 

systems with at least 1G of RAM running

 

Edubuntu, an Ubuntu derivate packed

 

with educational programs, for deployment

 

in Ghana by Africa ICT Right with

 

funding from donors in the United

 

States. The organizations agreed to meet

 

on the ground in Ghana to begin deploying

 

the 100 systems, with plans sketched

 

out for future, larger deployments.

 

The collaboration began when Africa

 

ICT Right Executive Director Daniel

 

Kwaku Ganyoame reached out to Computer

 

Reach Executive Director Dave

 

Sevick to work together to ship the computers

 

to Ghana. Installation of PCs for

 

this deployment began in the spring of

 

2012, to prepare the systems to ship in

 

August so that they’d arrive in Ghana by

 

early October.

 

On the Ground in Ghana

 

On October 10, a US team (Dave Sevick;

 

Nancy Latimer, Education Director for

 

In issue 13, we interviewed O’Reilly Open Source Award recipient Elizabeth “Lyz” Krumbach [1]. Recently Lyz

 

went to Ghana to help deploy donated Edubuntu computers in area schools. She shares what her team

 

learned from the experience. By Elizabeth “Lyz” Krumbach

 

Delivering Edubuntu systems to Ghana

 

Road Trip

 

Desktop Edubuntu in Ghana

 

70 ISSUE 15 Ubuntu User www.ubuntu-user.com

 

©Steven Heap, 123rf.com

 

which serves less fortunate children.

 

Over the next few days, we met one-onone

 

with several teachers to review

 

Edubuntu’s educational applications and

 

games, and some of its basic administrative

 

tasks (Figure 2).

 

Next, we set off to visit the Evangelical

 

Presbyterian Church Schools in Ho, a

 

town in southeast Ghana, to check on

 

another previous deployment of

 

Edubuntu laptops. We met with school

 

leaders, and then technology teachers

 

joined us on Saturday morning for training.

 

Nancy Latimer and I developed training

 

for the schools on the ground in

 

Ghana. Although the training can be

 

adapted for other deployments, we catered

 

it to the needs of the schools we

 

were visiting and the standard Ghanaian

 

curriculum. Training continued during

 

our final days in Ghana with volunteers

 

from Africa ICT Right, who will continue

 

the training as the 100 systems begin

 

being deployed across Ghana.

 

During our stay in Ghana, we also visited

 

schools that currently do not have

 

the infrastructure to support computers.

 

ICT (information and communications

 

technology) is a required part of the curriculum

 

in Ghana, so schools that don’t

 

have access to computers can teach students

 

by explaining computer components

 

in class and using illustrated text

 

books (Figure 3).

 

Remember those 100 systems we

 

shipped to Ghana in August? They ended

 

up being stuck at

 

the port with some

 

customs issues,

 

but we eventually

 

got them out of the

 

port and into our

 

warehouse in

 

Ghana two days

 

before the US team

 

left Ghana. Because

 

of the shipment

 

delay, we

 

only had enough

 

time for a single

 

deployment, leaving

 

the rest of the

 

deployments to the

 

volunteers at Africa

 

ICT Right, remotely

 

assisted by

 

Computer Reach.

 

Lessons Learned

 

Our team learned several lessons about

 

deploying *buntu systems in developing

 

countries, such as Ghana:

 

• Explaining why we are committed to

 

free and open source software (FOSS)

 

is vital, as is having a solid agreement

 

in place to make sure the systems we

 

deploy keep this software installed.

 

The cost of the software has little

 

meaning in developing countries because

 

copying proprietary software is

 

common and intellectual property

 

laws are rarely enforced. The benefits

 

of FOSS must be explained in terms of

 

security, lack of viruses, easy access to

 

huge repositories of high-quality software,

 

and the benefits of teaching students

 

computer literacy instead of

 

teaching them how to use specific

 

software brands. Without explaining

 

why we chose Edubuntu and having

 

this agreement in place, computer

 

users might be tempted to install proprietary

 

software (such as the Windows

 

operating system), which we

 

saw happen to some systems in the

 

field.

 

• Application and system training is essential.

 

In addition to understanding

 

the value of FOSS, teachers must recognize

 

the value of the educational

 

software and learn how to incorporate

 

it into their ITC curriculum, as well as

 

science, math, geography, and other

 

lessons. Nancy spent a great deal of

 

time going through the games shipped

 

with Edubuntu, so teachers would

 

have a grade level, subject target, and

 

plan for using them in the classroom

 

(Figure 4). I put together desktop administration

 

documentation, which

 

helps get teachers and administrators

 

familiar with the core basics. We also

 

began shipping a collection of manuals,

 

including some full manuals for

 

OpenOffice and an edition of the

 

Ubuntu Manual.

 

• Always have a Plan B (which may

 

even turn out to be better than Plan

 

Figure 1: Meeting at Google office in Accra, Ghana. From left: Beth

 

Lynn Eicher, Dave Sevick, Estelle Akofio-Sowah (Google), Elizabeth

 

Krumbach, Nancy Latimer, Daniel Kwaku Ganyaome.

 

Figure 2: Nancy Latimer trained teachers at the Street Academy in Accra.

 

Edubuntu in Ghana Desktop

 

www.ubuntu-user.com Ubuntu User ISSUE 15 71

 

deployments. Many developing countries,

 

particularly those in southern

 

Asia and increasingly ones in Africa,

 

have serious problems with being

 

overwhelmed by e-waste that is polluting

 

their cities and potentially harmful

 

to people who live and work nearby.

 

We do not want machines being used

 

in this deployment to add to the problem.

 

We partnered with the City Waste

 

Group e-waste recycling center, a confirmed

 

eco-friendly e-waste recycler,

 

which partners with raw materials

 

buyers and firms in Europe who can

 

properly process some of the more difficult

 

and dangerous hardware. City

 

Waste Group also helps train workers

 

who collect scrap from the e-waste

 

dumps on how to handle the materials

 

to protect their health, and the group

 

works to help nearby children attend

 

school instead of working at dump

 

sites.

 

Conclusion

 

Serving the technology needs of developing

 

countries comes with many obstacles,

 

including financial, logistical, technological,

 

and social. The lessons

 

learned from the challenges faced by our

 

team trip to Ghana will serve these organizations

 

well as the collaboration continues

 

in the future. Volunteers from

 

Computer Reach will stay in close contact

 

with Africa ICT Right and other contacts

 

in Ghana to assist with deployments

 

remotely and arrange future hardware

 

shipments.

 

Plans are in the works to send another

 

team to Ghana in early 2013 to assist

 

with another computer shipment, to provide

 

ground support, and to serve more

 

schools. n

 

A).We quickly learned that in Ghana

 

things like time, deadlines, and schedules

 

largely have less value than they

 

do in the United States. Our plan initially

 

had been to complete the deployment

 

of the 100 systems, but the

 

unexpected shipping problems made

 

this goal impossible. Instead, the team

 

scrambled to create a backup plan to

 

visit existing deployments, to spend

 

time on training development, and to

 

solidify local relationships. In the end,

 

team members generally agreed that

 

Plan B allowed us to strengthen the

 

overall deployment. By spending time

 

on existing deployments, we have new

 

appreciation for the importance of system

 

training.

 

• Have an end-of-life plan in place for

 

the hardware. This may be one of the

 

less obvious lessons, but Computer

 

Reach is dedicated to this goal for all

 

[1] Interview with Elizabeth Krumbach:

 

http:// www.

 

ubuntu‑user.

 

com/

 

Magazine/

 

Archive/

 

2012/

 

14/

 

Interview

 

‑with‑Elizabeth‑Krumbach

 

[2] Africa ICT Right:

 

http:// www.

 

africaictright.

 

org

 

[3] C omputer Reach:

 

http:// computereach.

 

com

 

[4] Partimus: http:// partimus.

 

org

 

[5] Street Academy in Accra:

 

http:// thestreetacademy.

 

webs.

 

com

 

[6] Edubuntu:

 

http:// www.

 

edubuntu.

 

org/

 

INFO

 

Figure 3: A teacher uses a chalkboard in the ITC class for students at Rightway International,

 

which does not have computers yet.

 

Figure 4: Nancy Latimer leads a training session for teachers from the Evangelical

 

Presbyterian Church Schools in Ho.

 

Desktop Edubuntu in Ghana

 

72 ISSUE 15 Ubuntu User www.ubuntu-user.com

 

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11/20/2012