One of the highlights of fisl9.0 for me was getting to know better the work that is being done by Brazil’s Ministry of Education (MEC). They have just unveiled the numbers for the ongoing ProInfo project. What is interesting about this project is that it not only provides infrastructure (computers and net connectivity) but also open content to students in public schools.
The software installed on these systems is “Linux Educacional 2.0”, a very clean Debian-based distribution, with KDE 3.5, KDE-Edu, KDE-Games, and some tools developed by the project. You can have a look at the clean desktop here:
Notice the addition of a quick navigation bar on top: this was the result of study conducted by the project’s researchers, and gives quick access to content and activities. The whole system performs extremely well and it was available at the forum in multiterminal stations. This new versions incorporates lots of improvements gathered from the feedback provided by the previous version, which is already deployed to thousands of labs in the country.
For the first time, MEC shared some of the number for the ProInfo project. I will post some slides here, which I translated to English from the original Portuguese ones presented at the conference:
As this first slide shows, until the end of this year there will be already 29,000 labs deployed, serving approximately 36 million students. This number grows to more than 53,000 by the end of 2009, and at that time 52 million students will have access to them. You can also see in the slide a solution that is being developed for classrooms: a single hardware unit with integrated projector, cpu, bundled content and DVD player. With it, digital content will no longer be restricted to the info lab, and will be usable by teachers in the traditional classrooms as well.
Each info lab contains a server and 7 CPUs, providing 15 access points via a multiterminal hardware and software solution:
There is also a different lab configuration for schools in rural areas. These schools usually have only one or two rooms, and very weak infrastructure. So a solution that minimizes power consumption was devised, and it allows 5 seats using a single CPU, with no server required:
ProInfo also specifies a different configuration for the SEESPs, the schools for people with special needs. In this case a very large LCD monitor is used as the display, bundled with accessibility tools in the distribution:
Brazil is also in the second phase of the UCA (One computer per student) project. There was not a lot of information about it, other than they are going ahead with the trials, and expect to deploy 150,000 machines in this next phase of the project:
The open content and the Linux Educational distribution can be found at http://webeduc.mec.gov.br/ for now, in Portuguese only. I was told that they are looking into ways for sharing this content with other projects in Latin America and Worldwide.
As a member of KDE, I was personally thrilled to see our software as an enabler for projects of this magnitude. We are talking about ways to collaborate with MEC to incorporate KDE4 applications in the near future to the distribution, and work with their team to gather feedback from teachers and students, and make sure high quality free software is available to all students in public schools in Brazil. This is just the start, I can not wait to see what we will have 5 years from now.