ICT in Ghana

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*'''''A local and trusted computer technician must be identified prior to construction where upon a service fee should be agreed upon in excess of purchasing replacement parts.''''' This is imperative because even though a volunteer may be able to teach ICT; they will not necessarily be able to repair broken computers. And there will be broken computers, so securing a technician prior to construction will keep everyone mindful of the inevitable.
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*'''''A local and trusted computer technician must be identified prior to construction a service fee should be agreed upon in excess of purchasing replacement parts.''''' This is imperative because even though a volunteer may be able to teach ICT; they will not necessarily be able to repair broken computers. And there will be broken computers, so securing a technician prior to construction will keep everyone mindful of the inevitable.
*With the latter in mind, purchasing replacement parts.
*With the latter in mind, purchasing replacement parts.

Revision as of 06:27, 24 April 2011

The ICT Manual is meant to be a guide for constructing and organizing a computer lab from breaking ground to efficiently networking computers.


Contents

ICT FAQ

What do I need to do to effectively dual boot Windows and Ubuntu every time on a computer?

Unit 1 - Computer Lab Construction

Action Plan

Forming a Computer Lab Committee

Funding

Computer labs are very expensive. In addition to the initial cost of the computers and lab equipment, there are significant maintenance costs. Therefore, before you even begin, you need to figure out how you will pay for the lab in the long run. A separate and transparent bank account needs to be created for the computer program only. One member of the computer lab committee, usually a counterpart, and yourself should be designated as co-signers to the account and both shall sign all checks for any withdrawal or monies.

Student Fees

In many secondary schools, the students pay an annual ICT fee. Consult with the PTA and school board to determine if the school fees can be used and/or if additional fees shall be collected. As for junior high schools, fees will have to be collected directly from them since there traditionally is not an ICT fee to draw from.

Donations

Typically, it is a heavy burden for students and parents to bare the entire cost of constructing, or even renovating, a computer laboratory. Therefore, you must contact every available resource to help supplement the cost that students and parents cannot fill. You can ask donations from the local chief, the district assembly, alumni of the school (works for JHS level also), philanthropic community members and collections at church services. What is more, organizing a fund raising event at the school will increase community involvement and solicit the help of the community to donate materials or volunteer their services. Lastly, you can request funds via grants from the Ministry of Education, USAID, the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), the Peace Corps Small Projects Assistance Program (SPA), and various NGOs.

Building Requirements

Obviously, the first thing you need to do is to decide where the new lab will be located. The computer lab can be housed in its own building, a renovated existing building or room, or attached to an existing building utilizing the use of an existing (fourth) wall, which saves money. Prior to confirming a location, ensure that the new space can sufficiently accommodate the table space needed for all of the computers you wish to have (including space for additional computers in the future). If you are unsure, designate 3 feet of desk space per computer as a rule of thumb.


Electricity

Voltage Regulator/Stabilizer

You should install voltage stabilizers to prevent voltage fluctuations from damaging your computers. Electronic voltage regulators operate by comparing the actual output voltage to some internal fixed reference voltage. Any difference is amplified and used to control the regulation element in such a way as to reduce the voltage error. If you cannot afford voltage regulators, you can use surge protectors. Be aware of the fact that surge protectors are simple fuses that 'blow' when the voltage and current go very high. They will not protect your computers from voltage levels that are slightly higher than normal. Over time, higher voltages will wear down the circuits in your computers.

Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS)

It is best to have computers, especially when working on important files, connected to a UPS. A UPS contains a battery that will supply power to a computer instantaneously for a few minutes when there is a power failure. This window of time provides you with the opportunity to save files and turn off the computer correctly. If you do not have a UPS, you can lose data or even damage the hard disk of a computer due to repeated 'abrupt' shutdowns. Unfortunately, UPS are far more expensive then voltage regulators.

Power Distribution

After designating the room or building, you will have to determine how much power each item dissipates. It is generally provided in terms of watts or VA (voltage * amp) on the back of the computer. Occasionally, the value for current is provided. If this is the case, you can use the following approximation to calculate dissipation: Power = 1/2 * Voltage * Current

Or you can use the values in the table below.

Item Power Dissipation (Watts=VA)
Desktop Computer (System Unit and Monitor) 200
Laptop Computer 50
Air Conditioning 750 to 3000
Lights 100
Fans 200 (guess)

Deciding on the Number of Phases

If you look outside, at the power lines, you see a number of lines moving form pole to pole, think of each of these as the different main lines (or phases) that can possibly come to your facility. Most houses need only one phase, but your facility, depending on what you have in there may need more than one phase. The capacity of each line is somewhere around 4000 W. This number is difficult to calculate. It can vary a lot depending on where you are relative to other users. the main line fuse provided by VRA is 100 A. A conservative estimate to use per phase is 4000 W. Trying to use anything higher than that over a long period of time, you will start to have problems.

Additionally, when you are working with high power items like refrigerators and air conditioners, you have to consider the transients that occur at start up. When items like these are switched on, they initially absorb a lot of power then quickly dissipate. The dissipation numbers listed above can actually appear twice as large during start up. If you do not take this into account and do not leave some flexibility, then your air conditioner may blow the fuses of other appliances when switched on. Therefore, make sure to calculate for some margin of power fluctuation.

Circuit Definitions

After deciding how many phases you will need for your facility, you will have to allocate the equipment into smaller circuits. This is a good idea because it helps isolate problems when they occur. Additionally, it is an inexpensive extra level of protection against unforeseen events. If something unfortunate were to happen, it will only be channeled to some computers and not all. It would be wise to allocate the air conditioner its own circuit.

Wire Capacity

As stated in the beginning, make sure that every part of your circuit is capable of carrying the power within the circuit. This includes the capacity of the wires that connect the sockets to the 4-way switch. The circuit capacity for wires are shown below. These are conservative values and keep in mind that the wire at the beginning of a series of components is carrying more current than the wire at the end of the series.

Wire Cross-sectional Area (millimeters squared) Current (A)
2.5 10
4.0 15
10.0 60

Grounding

Adequate grounding is another means of providing cheap protection to your equipment within the facility. It is especially important in electronic equipment as voltage spikes can easily cause damage. to ensure that you have adequate grounding in your facility look at the three power poles closest to your building. Just to clarify, I don't mean the three that are physically closest, but the three closest oles that are supporting the phases of power that are coming into your room. On one of these three poles there should be a thick wire running down the length of the pole and disappearing into the ground. If this wire is not present on one of these poles, your room will not be adequately grounded. If you contact VRA, they should come and install the grounding wire, which should be for free because it is necessary for their system.


Cooling

Air conditioning is ideal for any computer lab, especially in Ghana. Air conditioning lowers the temperature and humidity of the room, which can easily damage the fragile components of a computer. It also allows you to keep the windows closed to reduce the amount of dust entering the room. With heat, humidity and dust being the main catalyst in the death of many computers in Ghana, AC is ideal but is not always realistic. This is due to the upfront cost of purchasing an air conditioner and its installation, but more importantly, the residual cost of electricity to continuously power it. An even though students are absent from the class, the AC still needs to be on to eradicate the omnipresent heat and humidity in Ghana. However, fans are a viable option. It does lower the temperature in a room, but it does not reduce the amount of humidity or dust in a room, even with the windows closed.

Security

Location, location, location. That is the most important aspect in security. Wherever you place your lab, make sure it is in a well-lit and highly visible area to prevent hawking. Next, you will need to install metal bars for added security around the windows of the computer room and a metal gate or sturdy door. You should have at least half-inch (0.5 in) diameter bars with a maximum spacing of one foot between adjacent horizontal and vertical bars, which are cemented into the building. Furthermore, some schools elect to hire a security guard or watchman who prevent thieves form surpassing the gated bars and door by penetrating the roof of a building, which is not as well-constructed as roofs in America.

Desks and Tables

It is in your best interest to create a floor plan of the furniture prior to hiring a carpenter. This will ensure that their is sufficient desk space being mindful of the 3 feet of desk space per computer, including laptops. It is advantageous to arrange the computer so that a teacher may view what is on each computer screen from one place, but the all students should also be able to see the board.

Flooring

Flooring is a conundrum similar to the air conditioning issue. Carpet is ideal, but the layer of dust that will frequently accumulate will require the purchase of a vacuum and inevitably it will need to be cleaned at some point in time. The concrete surface is acceptable but make sure that all computers are covered with a cloth cover and switched off when the room is swept.

Board

A white board is preferable, but they are expensive. If you decide to use a black board, you should keep it at least 15 or 20 feet from any computer and use an 'efficient' duster when cleaning the board.

Equipment and Budget

The decision to buy computers in-country or in America is at your discretion. Both methods have there drawbacks. Deciding to buy in-county, both new and used, comes with a high liability of purchasing faulty equipment where their generally are no warranties. However, you can purchase computers from licensed distributors (in Kumasi and Accra) who guarantee a warranty, but you will pay extra for that security. On the other hand, you can purchase computers from the U.S. with a certified guarantee at a considerably lower cost than in Ghana. But the delivery of the computers is where the difficulty comes from. Some volunteers purchase laptops on trips to America and bring them back in their luggage, which is straightforward. But you can only carry so many laptops. Or you can have them shipped from America (or Europe) to Ghana, which avoids the limitation of number, but the shipping fees increase your budget.

See minimum hardware specifications for both desktops and laptops in Unit 2 for operating systems.

Equipment Specifications Cost (Cedis)
Voltage Regulator
Uninterruptible Power Supply
Printer
Copier/Scanner
Wireless Router
Hard-line Router
Modem
Projector
Wires for Networking
RAM

Construction Cost

See projects below for project budgets.

Reoccurring Costs

These are costs that should be paid for with funds from the computer lab bank account.

There are instances where Ghana Education Services (GES) will pay the bill if your school is located in a financially troubled area.

Unit 2 - Organizing a Lab

Put First Things First

Whether you are constructing a computer lab from the ground up or appointed to be the 'ICT Master' of an existing lab, it is vital to construct an inventory of both hardware and software of each computer. Maintaining inventory facilitates the process of upgrading or repairing computers so that all machines are the same. That is, if all machines are the same, as a teacher you can stand at one computer and masterfully give instructions for procedures that will apply to all computers since they are identical.

Hardware Specifications to Catalog

Hardware Troubleshooting

The first step to hardware troubleshooting is to make sure that all cords and components are properly connected. If they are, a do-it-yourself method of repair is to exchange components with one that you know works. Yet, do not attempt to do this if you are unfamiliar with the proper configurations of hardware components!

BIOS (Basic Input-Output System) and RAM (Random Access Memory)

Hard Drive

Power Supply

Peripheral Devices

Choosing an Operating System (OS)

Microsoft Windows

It is the gold standard of office suites, which is why Windows controls about 85% of the market for OS. This makes it the most widely used and recognized OS in the world. However, its dominance does not stem from its superior product or, in other words, its software programming. It is due to its positioning. When IBM created the first mass-produced personal computers (PC), called IBM-PC, Microsoft was the OS that was installed on each system (which is where the alias PC originated from being synonymous with the first personal computer). From there, through aggressive marketing and clever tactics, it has never relinquished its hold on the market.
Being the Goliath of the market, it has made itself the primary target of malware (or viruses). Malware production appears to coincide with the proportion with which an OS controls the market. Furthermore, its vulnerability is increased by its source code (the foundation of the OS) being too readably accessible to manipulation, which is a major flaw that Windows is still working on.


Ubuntu (Linux)

It has recently gained public recognition (still < 5% of overall OS) for being the largest open source OS community, even though it was derived from one of the first OS systems (Unix) and operates 90% of supercomputers. Its status as a free OS was not by design, but created by legal troubles with one of Unix's first proprietors, AT&T. After which, its vitality has been greatly assisted by one of the largest open source communities, universities. It is a Linux community where Ubuntu has become its largest branch (about 50%) in the family tree. As a consequence of being nurtured by universities, Linux (Ubuntu) has used its relationship with academia to create an extensive list of educational software, with EdUbuntu being Ubuntu's own educational package. Linux, especially Ubuntu, has been gaining momentum due to its price, or lack there of, and its resistance, not immunity, to malware with one of its most notable converts being the entire French police department. Even though Ubuntu is free, the major reluctance of organizations and industries to make the switch to it is the cost of retraining staff, which is how Ubuntu makes its money, and how well-fused Windows is in peoples minds. Consequently, realizing that the short-term cost associated with making the change is nominal, the most significant obstruction is still, and may always be the resistance of people to CHANGE.
Its greatest deterrent may arise before a user has an opportunity to use it and that is the installation (especially dual booting) is difficult for some machines, which is not without a little assistance from Goliath (Windows). Furthermore, it is also difficult to add software to the OS without Internet access, which is a major drawback when developing countries, like Ghana, could thrive on free open source software (FOSS), yet due to its underdeveloped infrastructure readily available access is a significant hurdle to its propagation.


Dual Booting


Others

Appropriate Software

Upgrades

Why FOSS?

Open source software, which is not always free, is software whose source code (core of a program) is made available to either the general public or a particular community of software developers who collaborate to make a more well-rounded program that the original developer could not create on its own. It is a developmental methodology that can be used to establish an industry standard, or in some cases, open source software is created as an alternative to proprietary software (software you have to pay for). Notwithstanding, free open source software (FOSS) has mistakenly gained the rep of being an inferior product to proprietary software based on the proverb that you pay for what you get. This is surely not the case, especially in light of the monopoly that Microsoft has on many software programs. Because of Microsoft's strong-arm mentality, the open source software community has become stronger and more organized in an attempt to assuage the market dominance of Microsoft.

With that being said, FOSS can fill a vital niche in developing countries simply because of its price, a cogent aspect that should not be overlooked. Even though Microsoft is the designated software program for most of academia, it must be stated that it is the skills that are important and not the name of the software or functions. Most open source software do have the same functions and capabilities as its proprietary counterpart; it just has different names and locations. For instance, a little known fact is that OpenOffice.org has been around for 20 years and has established itself as a viable alternative to Microsoft Office, including the ability to open and save documents in Microsoft format. Furthermore, on a personal level, I compare switching from popular proprietary software to open source software to that of moving from one house to another. It takes some time to remember where you place things, like 'Is it this drawer or that one?' 'Is it this closet or that one?' The switch to open source software is initially painful, but in the long run it pays off not to have to pay.

As a result of what is at hand, an ethical question arise: Is it better to use unfamiliar free open source software or popular pirated software?

List of Equivalent FOSS
Type Software Windows Mac Ubuntu (offline)
Office Suite OpenOffice.org Replaces Microsoft Office Replaces Apple Works Default
Web Browser Firefox Replaces Internet Explorer Replaces Safari Default
Anti-virus AVG yes yes n/a
Avast yes yes ClamAv is best for Ubuntu
Keyboarding and Mouse Skills Klavaro yes Replaces Mavis Beacon Replaces TuxType
GoMouse yes n/a n/a
Audio Player (also an ipod manager) Amarok Replaces Windows Media Player iTunes is the king Replaces Rhythmbox
Multimedia Players VLC (the best) Replaces Windows Media Player Replaces Quicktime Player Replaces Movie Player
Multimedia Editing Cinelerra (video editor) yes iMovie is sufficient yes
Audacity (audio editor) yes Garageband is the best yes
Jokosher (music editor) yes Garageband is the best yes
Image and Graphics Editing GIMP (image editor) Replaces Photoshop iPhoto is sufficient Default
Picasa (photo manager) yes Replaces iPhoto yes
Inkscape (graphics editor) Replaces Corel Draw yes Replaces TuxPaint
Google SketchUp (CAD) yes yes n/a

Networking


Internet

Viruses in Ghana

Viruses for computers are similar to those for animals. A virus that is made for Windows usually will not infect a Mac or Linux, yet it is possible for a virus to be compatible for multiple platforms (operating systems), in the case like bird flu (humans and birds).

Viruses on pen drives will display some of the following tell-tell signs:

Due to the vast number of viruses in Ghana, it is important to update your anti-virus and software package (especially Windows), which shore up vulnerable 'holes' in an OS's defenses, on a regular basis. Depending on how often people access their pen drives on a computer will determine how often you need to update your system defenses.

An additional strategy for protection is to turn off autoplay, or autorun. Autorun is a Windows feature that automatically enables applications on devices, like pen drives and CD-ROMs, to launch without notification. It was implemented in Windows to ease application installation for non-technical users and reduce the cost of software support calls. Consequently, this is how malware gains its access to your system. Therefore, it is best to turn it off because anti-viruses will not detect all viruses. To disable autorun, click Control Panel, Hardware and Sound, then Autoplay.

With all of the precautionary measures that must be taken to protect Windows from infection, this is why converting to Ubuntu is so advantageous. There are very few viruses in Ghana that are written to infect Linux systems, and those that are rarely gain access to the root source code (heart of an OS) due to its security protocol, in comparison to viruses for Windows.

Miscellaneous

I'm coming.

Unit 3 - Teaching

General Teaching Overview

Junior High School

Due to the recent addition of ICT to the BECE ( ) and the lack of qualified teachers in the subject. PCVs are increasingly being asked ('persuaded') to teach ICT at the JHS level even though Peace Corps only recognizes Mathematics and Integrated Science in its current project plan and training. Teaching ICT at any level in Ghana is difficult due to the lack of daily interaction with technology, more specifically, computers. And to make the situation more difficult, besides the absence of computers, is that most JHS's do not have electricity.

However, depending on how you look at it, PCV's are more qualified than the average Ghanaian to teach ICT stemming from our experience with computers and other technologies. A truth that is illustrated by the fact that most Ghanaian teachers do not develop their computer literacy beyond the few classes they have at the SHS level and in teacher training college.

Nonetheless, if you do decide to teach ICT, which is not as dire as my description may suggest, focus on the topics that appear on the mock BECE exams. This is important especially for those who will be teaching without computers. (See //) This notion is not logical, but it is reality in Ghana. The better your students know the 'facts', the more time they can spend on the practical aspect in SHS where computer labs are more common. And if you are fortunate to have even one computer, focus on helping the students to consistently execute the following:

Senior High School

Teacher Training College

Teaching the Fundamentals

Teaching Without Computers

Teaching Internet Without Internet

Integrating ICT Into Other Subjects

Integrating ICT Into Other Sectors

Printed Materials


Audio


Video

Unit 4 - Sustainability

Generating Income

Fundraising

Selling Resource CDs


Teaching Members of the Community


Running an Internet Cafe

Other Considerations

Electricity bill


Replacing and repairing parts


Techinical support


Miscellaneous expenses


Unit 5 - Appendix

Computers in Ghana

Computers are an excellent way to pass the time here in Ghana whether it be watching movies or listening to music. However it is important that you be aware of the numerous hazards such as theft (insurance cannot recover files from your stolen computer), viruses, electrical fluctuation and surges, hot and humid climate, dust, and other critters. Quality replacement parts can only be found in the major cities and are expensive. Therefore, bring a computer at your own risk!

Suggested things to do before arriving in Ghana:


Computer Maintenance in Ghana:

Mobile Phones in Ghana

If you did not know, mobile phones have different bands, which means it is capable of picking up the different frequency bands for networks around the world, like for example in Ghana.

A Tri-Band GSM phone is one that supports three of the four major GSM frequency bands. America's tri-band phones typically support the 800/850, 1800, and 1900 frequency bands, but not the 900 frequency used by the largest carriers (MTN, Tigo and Vodafone, respectively) here in Ghana. Yet the burgeoning networks of Airtel and Glo do use the 1800 frequency. Furthermore, a Quad-Band GSM phone is capatible with all four bands around the world. So prior to coming to Ghana, check to see if your phone is compatible with the 900 frequency. If so, you will have to have your phone unlocked because most mobile phone carriers in America add codes onto their phones to prevent a user from accessing another carriers network. Otherwise, you can simply buy a phone during training for about $30.

Lastly, there are no annual or monthly mobile phone contracts in Ghana. Everything is prepay. You simply buy units at any of the numerous kiosks or 'minute men' for the chip in your phone, which are interchangeable because none of the phones in Ghana are locked. Furthermore, your generally pay less than 10 cents per minute in-country with constantly fluctuating deals that are always shown on your phone (i.e. 10% of base price per minute, 20%, etc.). And you spend no more than 15 cents per minute on calls to the States.

Electricity in Ghana

Electricity is available in major cities, most towns, and even a few villages. Expect to have electricity if you are a teacher. Electricity in Ghana is 220-240 Volts. Its primary socket types are the British BS-1363 and Indian. See Electrical Plug/Outlet and Voltage Information for acceptable plugs, converters, adapters, etc in Ghana.

Issues

Ghana has two major problems with electricity. The first one is that the electricity is not reliable; it turns on and off about four times a week (more during the rainy season) for an average of 5-6 hours at a time. Most outages are planned and conducted by the electrical companies (some companies even announce these outages in advance). The other problem is unpredictable electrical fluctuations. These fluctuations can permanently damage your beloved electronic devices such as computers and refrigerators.

Solutions

To deal with the first issue, you can do several things. First, you could purchase a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) which essentially serves as a battery that will allow you to keep electrical devices operating for a short time (like 15 minutes or so). However, UPS's are expensive; like 250 GHS. The next solution is to use a solar charger. However, that requires sunlight and they do not provide sufficient power for a long time. The last solution is to do what most PCV's do: which is sit around and wait (candles are a good option in this case)! But as you get situated at site, you will begin to notice some patterns with the electricity. For instance, if the electricity has not been turned off by 10 a.m., then there is a good chance it will remain on the rest of the day. Moreover, the electricity is usually on during the night time. By noticing these patterns, you can plan your electrical usage accordingly.

To deal with voltage fluctuations, purchase an AVR (Automated Voltage Regulator). These can be bought in Ghana for around 35-50 GHS or from a departing volunteer. It is highly recommended to plug in ALL electronic devices especially computers, refrigerators, iPods, into the AVR. Not doing so could risk permanently damaging your devices. (Note: many UPS's have a built-in AVR feature.)


GIFEC

Vendors in Ghana

Accra

Kumasi

Tamale

Hardware Prices



ICT Initiatives in Africa




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