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How much does it actually cost to set up a computer lab for a school?

The injustice of students who experience a computer for the first time in varsity

It's amazing how many students still experience proper usage of a computer for the first time in their lives at university. It gets even more depressing when you realise that the computer power of a calculator is actually bigger than the computer power of the first ever computer which was used to send a human to space. This essentially means you can buy a calculator and transform it into a computer which a high or primary school student can use to learn.

The above story is actually true. Most people would think of it as ridiculous. I believe every school should have a proper working computer lab with internet access. In fact I believe that students at this day and age should have at least 5 hours a week on a computer learning and browsing different things.

While sitting and thinking about how important computers are and how we could get a 40 -workstation computer lab in every school I also in that process thought I should do calculations on the matter. How much will it actually take to get a working computer lab into schools with internet?

Most people would think we will need to invest millions if not billions and that's untrue.

Here are the calculations:

  1. Basic computer screen: R950.00

  2. Internet for the school: 400GB at R750 per month for 40 learners.

Basically from the calculations above you need a minimum of about R123 000 once-off to get all the equipment for the school computer lab and you need an additional R750 per month for internet. Each school doesn't even need to own its own computer lab. A central lab which can be shared by a few schools with coordinated schedules will do. The truth is, in a central lab you need one or two young persons in charge of the lab such as IT graduates would do - Think of a voluntary programme to ensure that the graduates get the minimum working experience required for them to better their opportunities of getting a job by giving thir time to take care of the shared laboratory. For security reasons why not place the lab in a secure community hall or library?

One of the beautiful things about the above components is that you can easily pack them and move them to a secure place in the afternoon and set them up in the morning. The components are easy to use, plug and play and are light to carry.

If we are serious about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we need to actually invest heavily into a broader version of formal and informal education. Have you ever heard about shared/ co-working space concepts? Co-working spaces are essentially shared workspaces. Occupants typically are freelancers, entrepreneurs, start-ups and small teams who want to take advantage of a flexible space. Instead of building a computer lab for each and every school which is used once or twice a week, we should democratize labs and offer them to a bigger pool of schools to maximise their potential in a cost-effective manner.

In simple terms we need to rethink the concept of ownership in our communities for the greater good of our development.

Disclaimer: Things I suggest here may not be the gospel, but such a philosophy could be key to getting us moving, learning and participating in the digital economy.


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