Economy

Computer labs plan to ease cost of laptop project

Diana Wanjiku of Thunguma Primary School in Nyeri types on a laptop. The Government June 13, 2013 tweaked the free laptop  project for schools by including computer laboratory for upper primary classes. Photo/JOSEPH KANYI
Diana Wanjiku of Thunguma Primary School in Nyeri types on a laptop. The Government June 13, 2013 tweaked the free laptop project for schools by including computer laboratory for upper primary classes. Photo/JOSEPH KANYI  Nation Media Group

The Government Thursday tweaked the free laptop project by including computer laboratory for upper primary classes in what is expected to reduce the overall cost of the project. 

The government will be spending Sh17.4 billion annually in the next three years to buy 1.35 million laptops, development of digital content, building capacity of teachers and rolling out computer laboratory for Class Four to Class Eight in all schools throughout the country.

This means the laptops will only be given to students between Class One and Three while those between Class Four and Eight will use computer laboratories—a pointer that the State will need to spend on the flagship project for only three years.

The total spend over the three years has been put at Sh53.2 billion and includes analysts concerns that it will be cost effective to introduce computer labs in schools over laptops.

The Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich reckons the IT plan will cut education spending in the long term.

“When fully implemented the policy will reduce the cost of buying and replacing textbooks, and improve access to information, communication and technology in schools and households,” said Mr Rotich.

The budgetary allocation now brings to end the scepticism about the implementation of project which some saw as mere Jubilee campaign publicity.

The free laptop programme was one of the pillars in the Jubilee manifesto and is meant to boost computer literacy.

The programme has however been criticised as a misplaced priority in country experiencing shortage of teachers and insufficient classrooms.

Computer vendors and software firms have been angling for a slice of the business either by supplying the hardware or software.

Last week President Uhuru Kenyatta met Microsoft global president Jean-Philippe Courtois and entered into agreement to support the schools computer project.

Samsung which is eying the multibillion businesses said it will be setting up a computer assembly plant in the country and supply the solar laptops.

The deal with Microsoft will see the US software giant in partnership with other operators develop at least five enterprises in each county to provide technical support in hardware, connectivity and software to all schools.

Microsoft will also train all primary school teachers for free to enable them implement the laptop plan and in return will feed the computers with its own software at discounted rate.

The government expects to save at least Sh8 billion from the training of teachers but it will spend billions of shillings on the laptops and educational software that will be attached to the portable computers.

Microsoft is expected earn to annual fees from each computer that will be attached with its software, which is expected to run into hundreds of millions based on analyst’s estimation.

But the earnings could run into billions of shillings as the new administration rolls out is flagship campaign promise to more students.