Ship ahoy! FAIR Denmark improves standards and packs its 4th container

Dec. 11, 2014 by Benjamin Balder Bach

We're not actually aboard the ship ourselves, but we do feel the waves crashing and imagine how long the beard of the captain is. Because our 4th consignment is now on its way. Once again, the destination is Malawi, a long-term commitment of FAIR Denmark.

The purpose of the shipment is to improve and broaden our projects in Malawi. Some of the equipment is thought of as upgrades for existing centres setup almost 4 years ago, but most of it is to expand the activities in the Northern Region of Malawi. Adopting more members in the cluster of secondary schools, will mean a bigger economy for the local cooperative to deliver technical maintenance and teacher training.

Everything, except for the equipment itself and a few startup-costs, will be self-reliant. This is meant to ensure a long-term sustainability, and to guarantee that the directions of the project will always reflect the interests of local schools, since they themselves keep the project alive.

Equipment standards have once again gone up, due to the nature of the refurbished equipment that FAIR receives. However, this is also a direct result of the requirements that we communicates to the equipment donors. To mention some of the highlights since the last container: The share of laptops has doubled, most of the desktop machines are "small form factor", half of the machines have more than 1 GB of memory (which is the minimum req.), and only XX machines are P4 (also a minimum).

Reshaping a model project of 5 ICT centres

In 2011, FAIR implemented its first project. It was a model project, and was entirely dependent on a sponsorship by Danish government money from CISU. Many things have changed since then, and we have since improved the model. We are keen that these centres should join a model identical to the model of the Northern Region.

Furthermore, we are also keen to see the hardware and software of these centres updated. To keep many different platforms running will be a tough job, and we feel that at least the software should be the same across our centres. The centres are run on Ubuntu, but while the ones from 2011 run Ubuntu 10.04, and the ones installed last year run 12.04, we will be ready with 14.04 for the next centres. That would threaten to have 3 different deployments in the wild. Having identical software across such a great number of ICT centres would be unrealistic, but upgrading the oldest centres almost seems like a moral imperative.

Upgrading software, however strains the hardware. Our minimum standards were lower back in 2011, and to accommodate the requirements of newer software, would also mean to upgrade the hardware. Having had the centres running for a long time, and with little technical support, furthers the need to do hardware replacements. Thus, we can both start a maintenance initiative, a hardware upgrade, and a software upgrade at the same time.

And this is where the last element of the upgrade of the 2011 centres comes in: New servers. Together with the upgrade, we have prepared for new servers to be included.

Looking forward

The container continues a steady curve for FAIR Denmark, as we have packed one container each year. We do, however, see that our workshop is capable of shipping a few more. This could happen through an increased awareness and support in the sector of private companies, perhaps especially those those who already do ICTs.

We do, however, also sent our warmest of thoughts to those who have already contributed to making this happen.

In 2015, we look forward to working together with the two Malawian entities NICE (National Initiative of Civic Education), and Mzuzu University, to bring more value into the ICT education of Malawi, and to improve ICT access for local communities.

FAIR Danmark JuLeStUe 2014

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