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


©Steven Heap,


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




• 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 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






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




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




• 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.


















[2] Africa ICT Right:


http:// www.






[3] C omputer Reach:


http:// computereach.




[4] Partimus: http:// partimus.




[5] Street Academy in Accra:


http:// thestreetacademy.






[6] Edubuntu:


http:// www.








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




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