The Government of Guyana has just announced the allocation of a $222.9 million contract to the private sector firm Digital Technology for the supply of computers and accessories to secondary schools throughout the country. $222.9 million is – as we say in Guyana – ‘a pretty penny’ and it would have been useful if we were able to secure more details about the contract itself like exactly what sorts of computers and accessories Digital Technology will be supplying under the contract; the time frame for execution of the contract and the warranty arrangements associated with the contract.
The allocation of computers to schools, through gifts and grants of one sort or another has now become commonplace in Guyana and sometimes one wonders whether the advancement of the schools’ Information Technology curricula takes place at a rate that corresponds with the rate at which computers are distributed to schools.
Another point that should be made has to do with the kind of environment in which the use of computers in schools can be optimized. Education Minister Shaik Baksh was reported in yesterday’s Guyana Chronicle as saying that the laboratories should be completed by the beginning of the new school year. It is of course entirely inconceivable that those secondary schools across the country that are scheduled to receive new computers can possibly have a laboratory by the time school opens early in September, so that despite Minister Baksh’s bold pronouncement, one assumes that for a time at least the computers will be housed in a less than ideal environment.
Then there is the question of power. Whether or not all of the schools that have been identified to receive new computers have electricity; reliable electricity or any electricity at all, which is an essential prerequisite for the creation of a computer laboratory. What is certain is that some of the schools listed to benefit from the project – like some in the North West District – do not have what one would describe as reliable electricity supply so that except those schools with this particular deficiency are being equipped with special power-generating equipment, there is every likelihood that the computer equipment will be vulnerable.
And of course there is always the likelihood that those secondary schools that are the beneficiaries of computers will inevitably become a target for thieves given what we know about the security regime that applies at state schools across the country.
If no one is suggesting that equipping schools with computers does not offer better prospects for an IT-literate school population, this particularly large computer supply contract for secondary comes perhaps as a surprise in the ‘season’ of the One Lap Top Per Family and raises the issue of whether or not we might not be in for a proliferation of computers – and far too few IT teachers in the months ahead. More than that there is a certain validity in the question as to whether or not what now appears to be a ‘more computers’ policy does not simply amount to the kind of costly window dressing that might well turn out to be a less really worthwhile investment.