Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Google apps in Kenya

News that Google has signed a deal to provide Google Apps to universities in Kenya and Rwanda ( see and for details)

Interesting for two reasons:

1) it allows third world universities to provide a set of basic tools (search, mail, calendar, documents and spreadsheet) to students who may not have easy access to a pc on campus, and saves them the infrastructure costs of providing labs full of pcs and all the server infrastucture behind it, and supporting it. People with skills are valuable in the third world and can command larger salaries than universities can pay, which makes providing infrastructure expensive.

2) people no longer have to visit campus. E-learning is tremendously important in the third world for teaching large numbers of people the basic information (maths methods 101, and the rest) that they need to be able to study their subject fully and frees up teaching staff to teach the more difficult material that needs more interaction as well as freeing up resources such as classrooms and labs.

I have a personal interest in this as years ago when I was at York we had a support agreement with Nairobi to help them keep their student computing facilities up to scratch - my part in this was donating a word processing crash course that let them teach people wordstar in a day. My other interst of course is the idea that we work to providing students an execution enviroment which is accessed from whatever device they have access to allowing them to work and collaborate from anywhere.

Equally in my dealings helping UNAIS recruit staff to work on IT projects in the third world one thing stands out - computers are common in most countries. They may not be as spiffing as the ones we have on our desks but most of them are of a reasonable quality and can run a modern web browser - meaning that they can use google apps without problems and that students can use virtually any computer they come across - etends the life of older computers and means that three year old computers donated by the west to get round enviromental disposal charges can actually be used for something rather than just being boat anchors ...

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