Oct 25 - 31, 20

Lately, the government has been taking good care of education of children particularly those living in the rural areas. In urban areas there are opportunities for learning and students can also afford to pay fees but people living in rural areas not only suffer due to absence of the facilities but also can't afford to pay the fees.

Intel Pakistan initiated 'training of the trainers' program which yielded more than satisfactory results. However, it was felt that teaching computer technology without giving an opportunity to the students to use computer not only makes understanding the concepts difficult but often becomes meaningless.

Though government did try to provide the computers, meeting the complete requirement looks a huge task involving billions of rupees.

USAID has joined the government of Pakistan in overcoming this impediment. To begin with, Punjab has been selected. However, spending the entire budget in Punjab does not seem justified. Other provinces particularly Sindh should also be included in this program. The alliance between the Sindh government and Intel provide not only precedence but also a credible track record. Some of the major cities have already become centers of education for people living in the adjoining areas.

Children of Pakistan particularly those affected by recent devastating floods deserve a better deal in education as the schools starting from scrap should be equipped with latest technology to bring them at par with global educational standards.

Punjab government through prudent use of funds last year demonstrated that how the entire secondary schools of the largest province of the country could have computer labs at affordable price.

Educational experts are of the opinion that at a time when the funds for education are scarce the reach or footprint of USAID in education sector could be enhanced enormously through use of proper technology. The efforts of the planners should be to optimise the usage of funds made available for education sector particularly in the under developed areas of Punjab province.

The USAID grant of US$148 million to Punjab government has been decided to spend on the promotion of education in DG Khan, Rajanpur, Multan, Khanewal and Bahawalpur and other districts having lowest literacy rate. Experts say it would be wastage of funds if the amount is utilised in replacing the destructed schools with similar standard institutes.

They pointed out that in high tech global world the concept of literacy is incomplete without computer training, which is adopted for primary and higher level studies in large and small cities of Pakistan as basic training.

In this regard, they emphasised the successful establishment of over 4,280 computer labs in Punjab schools in which the cost of equipment in the 15 desk lab was saved by connecting one CPU with five virtual desktops. The virtual desktops also saved thousands of units of electricity as the device converts low power consuming monitors having mouse and key pads into a virtual desktop computer. It was because of this school computerisation plan that Punjab is connected through internet to the world at district and tehsil level.

The USAID-funded education projects should be utilised optimally in Punjab through installation of similar cutting edge computer and its related technologies to save expenses of the government and consumes less electricity. The computer labs will increase the cost of school setting up manifold as higher number of computer systems is required for scores of students. But, it is no more impediments towards building up schools and training institute thanks to cutting edge technologies, which made it easier for the people to save their expense, space, energy with the deployment of virtualisation of desktop.

The 50,000 computers being purchased for Punjab schools could be converted into 150,000 to 1.5 million computer access points. The use of new technology in computer labs will curtail the overhead expenses of the government significantly. Also, it will also save the electricity expenses of the schools and training institutes ten times low compared with ordinary setups of computer labs.

The electricity consumption of the innovative technology devices is only 1 watt as compared to 110 watts or more for a typical standalone personal compute. This massive reduction in energy consumption is especially critical in places where electricity is limited and expensive.

USAID-funded projects will reach to 7,818 schools in the five districts so as the number of the students will increase from 1,448,000 students to be benefited. This technology also addresses the worsening electricity crisis of the country and makes the computers of domestic and commercial users an efficient and economical.

Three things have become must for the deployment of technology in real life: 1) computer with internet connection, 2) broad brand or DSL connection and 4) skill to use the technology efficiently. It may be said most of the technologies and hardware are also introduced in Pakistan simultaneously.

In many industries, particularly in the financial sector deployment of technology has not only helped in improving quality of services but made life of the accountholders much easier. Introduction facilities like sending money and payment of utility bills much easier. The added advantage is creation of new job opportunities.

Similarly, establishment of third-party maintained call centers has made taking care of customers not only easier but also cost effective. Pakistan has also been successful in providing third-party maintained call center facilities to overseas companies.

Load shedding of electricity and persistent hike in electricity tariff is casting shadows on the proliferation of information technology in the country. Though service providers have installed standby generation facilities, this certainly adds to the cost of doing business.