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Jeff-Lucas-Sam Responses: Issues abt Computers and Learning Centers (Derick: thoughts?)

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  • kaippg@earthlink.net
    Dear Jeff, Lucas, Sam, and All, Good commentary on the computers, and I would add a couple things: I do have a friend in Nairobi (a former GRASSUP partner),
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 20, 2006
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      Dear Jeff, Lucas, Sam, and All,
       
      Good commentary on the computers, and I would add a couple things:  I do have a friend in Nairobi (a former GRASSUP partner), who runs Interactive Learning Networks--affiliated with World Computer Exchange in the USA--and they provide computers to schools and learning centers, along with computer literacy classes and a connectivity package, as I understand it.
       
      It might be worth discussing with him, and also I can put you in touch with the head of WCE, w/whom you can discuss the challenges and questions you and we may have, such as Jeff has outlined below. Computer AID International is another great one, as Jeff mentions, based in the UK. The challenge is sometimes the shipping costs...and then import fees, unless there is a waiver in place for computers, which has happened in Kenya (because they are being used for educational purposes).
       
      I am now trying to source funds--or donated airplane space--for a shipment of computers from Spain to the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana, and having a tough time of it, as the fees for shipping are steep. It's also hard to find a shipping company which ships from Spain to Ghana...if you can find that out (ie for Ghana-Kenya-Africa), Lucas, and prices, that would be very helpful.
       
      There is also the issue of electricity generation, so we might consider solar panels, and this is where KCYP (Kibera) might come in, or perhaps there could be a fabrication project in Mbita. This might even be linked to GRASSUP at some point--Kennedy, what do you think?--as KAIPPG has long been interested in solar power, and I think the other parties too.
       
      By the way, Jeff, I have found a few names/orgs which might help with the import fees, through Adam Sulkowski, who I recently met (recall he did some work for you and met Fred Ouko of KCYP last year?). Will be checking this out as needed soon.
       
      I will send you Sam's proposal now, so you can take a look!  And thanks for your great thoughts, as always, Lucas!  I think it would be good to consider other forms of ICTs as well--like radio (Internet-capable radio in particular)--and also most definitely a training and repair component, though I do think repairs may be included with ILN's deal (I can check).
       
      If we do go a different, in-country, route for Sam and Mbita, we might still discuss your offer (Lucas) in the context of Cameroon and the refugee camp in Ghana I have previously mentioned, which has a computer training program and learning center all set up, just lacks newer computers...and also a repair aspect, which is why they need new computers (but w/out a repair program, the same cycle will repeat itself again and again). As Jeff points out, the machines alone are not the only issue, and this was also true for Actwid Kongadzem, which Franz has mentioned (Cameroon).
       
      In any case, thanks for all the thoughts and discussion, as this is a good part of what "holistic helping" is all about! Janet
       
       
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: 6/20/2006 7:42:35 AM
      Subject: Re: [holistichelping] Know

      Lucas,.

      Franz's comments regarding the project he tried to help (in was it
      Cameroon?) when put together are a cautionary tale for us. Kenya is not
      Spain for one thing....You dont have a lot of the infrastructure that
      Spain has in Africa and so maintaining a center becomes a lot more
      challenging.

      There's a whole economy/industry dedicated to used computers. I am not
      going to say I am well acqiainted with this but it is my understanding
      that it is best to ship these in bulk if you are going to do it
      yourself. It does not make sense to ship small quantities of used
      computers or even new ones to Africa. So we are talking really about the
      need to set up a distribution system and so the costs for shipping and
      moving them and if needed refurbishing them and installing software in
      them also need to be considered. Groups like Computer Aid provide the
      computers at relatively low cost.

      In terms of any project to ship 200 computers over there would be
      several things to consider:
      - Project sustainability - You want to make sure the computers are
      properly utilized and go to their desired locations.
      - Network development - With that many computers you would need a whole
      network of centers and so each one need to address the sustainability issue.
      - Ecological sustainability - Should we think of what is going to done
      with this computers when they break and can no longer be used? As more
      computers get sent over the Africa this may become more of an issue.
      - Condition of Computers - Those 200 computers need to be inventoried
      and what about upgrades, repairs and software installs.
      - Shipping details - A portion of a shipping container would need to
      purchased to ship these over and so research needs to be done to find
      the details about this process
      - Project documentation -It would be good to document every step well so
      that others following these steps would not have to reinvent the wheel
      so to speak. Maybe the documentation could be posted onto the wiki.

      So then the key thing - if we would actually decide to move on this -
      would be to sequence this as part of a larger proposal such as the one
      which I discussed with Sam in the other email thread. My view is that I
      would need to see certain sets of information about the specific centers
      these computers would go into and a demonstration of sustainability
      before I would do much work on this proposal. Or that this proposal
      would complement a more generalized and comprehensive funding plan.

      The point is that it does not make a great deal of sense to put a great
      effort to ship a bunch of computers into Kenya until and unless you
      have a concrete program or series of programs to direct the computers
      to. Possibly GRASSUP could form the backbone of this network? Still my
      concern would be that there needs to be computers and cash to properly
      fund these centers and trained staff to maintain and staff them.

      So then Lucas if we can spare some computers why cant we spare some cash
      to make sure they are used properly? A fundraising effort might be a
      great complement to this campaign to collect, process and then ship
      these computers to Africa to fund the centers as well as more
      ambitiously a capacity building program.

      Jeff

      gonzalez@canarias. org wrote:

      > Sam and all,
      >
      > The linux user group where I'm active (on-and-off) here in the
      > Canaries has about 200 recyclable computers and more may be coming; I
      > don't know how useable they are. I guess the same happens in other
      > places. I don't know how new-old those computers are, but I know my
      > computer knowledgeable friends are mostly finishing their exams and
      > some will probably be available to help. Help could be in the form of
      > computer and/or know-how. A maths teacher here helped a nun in
      > mainland Spain set up a computer lab at her school - tele-maintenance
      > has continued and all she has to do is replace an old computer every
      > now and then (placing another old computer in its place).
      >
      > I'd be happy to help with human networking in this regard. I'm not at
      > all sure old computers can be shipped easily from here; some
      > affectionate reception may be needed on your end, or whatever. I
      > looked for ways to send computers and found nothing directly useful,
      > but might try again.
      >
      > I'd bet "abundance shipping" might be somewhat an option to "local
      > reparing", or maybe this is just silly. Franz had comments about this
      > on his blog. We might want to try several things at once in this
      > regard. Resilience.
      >
      > I think you want links with Ubuntu in South-Africa. Did you or Henry
      > Migingo finally join the linux user group in Kenya? It's active (I
      > know because I'm still subscribed).
      >
      > Lucas
      >
      >

    • Franz Nahrada
      I am very happy this group is focussing around the issue of Unity Centers/LearningCafés, and thanks to Janet for her great leadership! There are some
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 20, 2006
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        I am very happy this group is focussing around the issue of Unity
        Centers/LearningCafés, and thanks to Janet for her great leadership!

        There are some resources which I would also like to mention, maybe they
        could be "brought to the boat" because it seemed much more efficient for
        me to do it in new ways.

        The issue is using a Linux Terminal Server which substantially improves
        performance of old machines:

        http://www.ltsp.org/

        and getting in touch with groups that successfully created such
        environments, like the one in Rome:

        see
        http://www.globalvillages.info/wiki.cgi?GlobalVillages/FranzNahrada/Blog

        entry of 13.5.2006

        .....
        In the ground floor of the Inverso I met Davide Lamanna, who works with
        other people in a group called "Ingegneria Senza Frontiere (ISF) a name
        that is not easily translateable but everybody understands intuitively.
        These are people that work with all kinds of supportive technology, and in
        the Inverso they have a computer lab. I could not believe my eyes when I
        saw a very familiar picture, the same old configuration of a bunch of slow
        old Pentium-90 or even earlier PCs with two modern servers. Without even
        asking two much I told Davide Lamanna and his team that I think they were
        using discless clients. In fact this was an experiment that some Linux
        whizkid had performed years ago in the GIVE premises and that proved that
        with Linux and a network you could well bring old computers to life. This
        was the dream I had in mind to save our Cameroon project, but our wizzard
        at that time decided that he was not really going to continue support
        without getting substantially paid - one of the deeper wounds I have
        concerning Linux and free software. A year of work was wasted because
        there was nobody to take up the torch. Maybe I should have waited a bit
        before trashing the more than thirty old computers sitting idle in the
        Karolinenhof basement. The ISF people aptly call their project
        "Trashware" but they are wise enough not to ship old computers to Africa
        (the other burning issue of those days seven years ago, that burnt up more
        money than we all could afford. There was not enough local technical
        repair capacity! But thats a different story).

        Rather they use them in local settings to bridge the digital divide. Maybe
        the knowledge could be shared and by that slowly capacity could evolve in
        Africa, too. ....

        Franz
      • lucas.gonzalez@canarias.org
        ... Franz, LTSP. That s exactly what my LUG friends used. :) Actually there s even competition in that arena, there are choices, and experts abound. That s
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 20, 2006
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          > The issue is using a Linux Terminal Server which substantially
          > improvesperformance of old machines:
          > http://www.ltsp.org/

          Franz,

          LTSP.  That's exactly what my LUG friends used. :)  Actually there's even competition in that arena, there are choices, and experts abound.  That's why I suggested Linux User Groups as a resource.  And maybe as a natural venue for growth and contagion of "how to" documents.

          Over at my local LUG there's a discussion where - just before final exams, but they are intrigued - I'm suggesting we could have some community currency tied to giving away the machines.  Perhaps get the receivers of the machines to do several things:
          * they receive the machines with Linux inside (maybe they buy the server + get recycled terminals)
          * they join one or more lists if they want to get help from the community
          * some sort of community currency is set up so that help can be counted somehow
          * different NGOs are on the same lists and use the same currencies so they can help each other

          I can imagine a group of food growers contacting a group of windmill builders etc.  Paying each other with what each of them can do best.  Yes I like the integration Jeff champions, and it would happen - with everyone aproaching it from their own corner.

          Of course, the model needs further developement. Just kite flying at this stage.

          Lucas
        • Jeff Buderer
          Lucas, What we could do is to set up the wiki for the idea that we are discussing so that everyone can find information as relevant to their corner in the
          Message 4 of 5 , Jun 21, 2006
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            Lucas,

            What we could do is to set up the wiki for the idea that we are
            discussing so that everyone can find information as relevant to their
            corner in the larger integration matrix.

            Expample consider ICT and its role in the process of promoting
            integrated sustainable development solutions. We can consider using LUG
            network for promooting open source solutions for our network in Africa
            and so we could set up a section on that including:

            - Cawdnet/Fantsuam Foundation has a link to a LUG at the University in
            Jos Nigeria

            - OVF has worked to establish the Winneba Ghana Linux User Group in
            Winneba at the leading educational University in Ghana - the University
            of Education Winneba Ghana

            - Kenya LUG as Lucas mentions and also the Network that emerged from
            Sam's participation at Africa Source II.

            Jeff

            lucas.gonzalez@... wrote:

            > > The issue is using a Linux Terminal Server which substantially
            > > improvesperformance of old machines:
            > > http://www.ltsp.org/
            >
            > Franz,
            >
            > LTSP. That's exactly what my LUG friends used. :) Actually there's
            > even competition in that arena, there are choices, and experts
            > abound. That's why I suggested Linux User Groups as a resource. And
            > maybe as a natural venue for growth and contagion of "how to" documents.
            >
            > Over at my local LUG there's a discussion where - just before final
            > exams, but they are intrigued - I'm suggesting we could have some
            > community currency tied to giving away the machines. Perhaps get the
            > receivers of the machines to do several things:
            > * they receive the machines with Linux inside (maybe they buy the
            > server + get recycled terminals)
            > * they join one or more lists if they want to get help from the community
            > * some sort of community currency is set up so that help can be
            > counted somehow
            > * different NGOs are on the same lists and use the same currencies so
            > they can help each other
            >
            > I can imagine a group of food growers contacting a group of windmill
            > builders etc. Paying each other with what each of them can do best.
            > Yes I like the integration Jeff champions, and it would happen - with
            > everyone aproaching it from their own corner.
            >
            > Of course, the model needs further developement. Just kite flying at
            > this stage.
            >
            > Lucas
            >
            >
          • kaippg@earthlink.net
            Dear Franz and All, Hello and great to see this! Thanks for your amazing leadership too (and the lovely compliment...may the Mutual Admiration Society always
            Message 5 of 5 , Jun 21, 2006
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              Dear Franz and All,

              Hello and great to see this! Thanks for your amazing leadership too (and
              the lovely compliment...may the Mutual Admiration Society always be in
              session, haha!). I think, if I understand this right, another name for
              what you describe is the "thin-client" solution, ie boosting the computing
              power of older machines--usually in developing countries (though am sure
              more rural areas within a country can use this too)--with the faster
              technology usually found more often in developed countries.

              Kennedy and I (our orgs), among others, were hoping to take advantage of
              just this kind of thing a couple years ago, with regard to HIV/AIDS virtual
              learning environment, which was to pair up orgs in Africa and elsewhere
              with a university and other entities in the UK. That particular project did
              not come off, but the idea has continued to intrigue me, and it's one of
              the ways in which "villages" in one part of the world and another might
              link. Knowledge and exchanges would go both ways, of course!

              In fact, that would be great for Actwid K--as you mention--and for Sam,
              once they get working machines. And this possibility enters into the
              discussion abt what sorts of machines we'll need for a project, or could
              "get away with" as a bottom-line. The good thing too is that--as Jeff
              points out--many of the older machines are found more in developing
              countries, and these are usually the ones donated from orgs like CAI and
              WCE.

              So this solution allows them to be useful in the first place, and then
              longer than they would otherwise, so they won't end up--so soon, at
              least--in junk heaps. And a great example of holistic helping too:
              fashioning a system which works for both (or all) parties, designing
              two-way (or multi-party) exchanges, ensuring less wear-and-tear on the
              environment.

              Now, there is still the issue of parts availability and local repair
              capability, but hopefully there can be a "repair" learning component to
              some of the exchanges thin-client allows in the VLE, and maybe even an
              investment seen in this "relationship" which will create incentives to find
              spare parts needed (this in developed countries most likely) to keep the
              older machines going. Links to colleges, "villages", business groups,
              nonprofits, training/vocational entities might help in this regard, ie
              having these as partners in the thin-client project.

              Thanks again for the food for thought, and to Jeff-Lucas-all for your
              thoughts and additions! Janet (a not-so-thin client, haha!)

              ----- Original Message -----
              From: Franz Nahrada
              To: holistichelping@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: 6/20/2006 2:52:34 PM
              Subject: [holistichelping] Linux Terminal Servers as backbone for Unity
              Centers


              I am very happy this group is focussing around the issue of Unity
              Centers/LearningCaf�s, and thanks to Janet for her great leadership!

              There are some resources which I would also like to mention, maybe they
              could be "brought to the boat" because it seemed much more efficient for
              me to do it in new ways.

              The issue is using a Linux Terminal Server which substantially improves
              performance of old machines:

              http://www.ltsp.org/

              and getting in touch with groups that successfully created such
              environments, like the one in Rome:

              see
              http://www.globalvillages.info/wiki.cgi?GlobalVillages/FranzNahrada/Blog

              entry of 13.5.2006

              .....
              In the ground floor of the Inverso I met Davide Lamanna, who works with
              other people in a group called "Ingegneria Senza Frontiere (ISF) a name
              that is not easily translateable but everybody understands intuitively.
              These are people that work with all kinds of supportive technology, and in
              the Inverso they have a computer lab. I could not believe my eyes when I
              saw a very familiar picture, the same old configuration of a bunch of slow
              old Pentium-90 or even earlier PCs with two modern servers. Without even
              asking two much I told Davide Lamanna and his team that I think they were
              using discless clients. In fact this was an experiment that some Linux
              whizkid had performed years ago in the GIVE premises and that proved that
              with Linux and a network you could well bring old computers to life. This
              was the dream I had in mind to save our Cameroon project, but our wizzard
              at that time decided that he was not really going to continue support
              without getting substantially paid - one of the deeper wounds I have
              concerning Linux and free software. A year of work was wasted because
              there was nobody to take up the torch. Maybe I should have waited a bit
              before trashing the more than thirty old computers sitting idle in the
              Karolinenhof basement. The ISF people aptly call their project
              "Trashware" but they are wise enough not to ship old computers to Africa
              (the other burning issue of those days seven years ago, that burnt up more
              money than we all could afford. There was not enough local technical
              repair capacity! But thats a different story).

              Rather they use them in local settings to bridge the digital divide. Maybe
              the knowledge could be shared and by that slowly capacity could evolve in
              Africa, too. ....

              Franz
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