The following was posted as a comment on another blog by Sid Boyce. Given the importance of ICT to the development of Barbados BU has chosen to give it prominence.
There is no overnight fix. First you need teachers who are qualified and experienced. Secondly you need students who are curious about acquiring knowledge through curiosity and self motivation. It’s not just a challenge for Barbados, we have the same here in the UK as noted in the following reports1,2, 3, 4.
You will see in one report with videos there is a guy from Microsoft, the problem is partly down to Microsoft who are only interested in maintaining a monopoly rather than in propagating “COMPUTING SKILLS”. And as all these reports show, ICT training is largely focused on using their “Office” tools and not on Computing skills per se. In a recent UN report dealing with progress in Namibia, Jordan and Singapore which I have stored somewhere on a computer here.
Namibia some years ago were offered free PC’s for their schools then they discovered they would have to buy expensive software from Microsoft in order to run on them. They declined the offer and a South African acquired used PC’s from other donors, installed Linux on them and assisted in getting the kids kick started in their use and into software development.
Singapore introduces computing at the primary education and it continues across the various phases of their education with skills being tested at all levels. As a result schools in Singapore develop software that they sell to schools across the English speaking world.
Similar efforts by Helios in the US where he gets old computers, have the kids build them, install the operating system, teach them and then they have a free PC with all the development tools they could wish for. http://linuxlock.blogspot.com/ and as he says “Linux is to computing what freedom is to mankind…and then there’s Microsoft”.
I and others have often been accused of hating Microsoft or Bill Gates, but I have experience on the largest computing systems ever built and way way longer than Microsoft existed. The problem we have with Microsoft is that it does not act as a vehicle for broadening anyone’s perspective or education in the art of computing and computing is vital to everything we do be it medical research, space exploration, product production and testing of all types, communication, drug research, robotics and just about every activity including when we sit down to watch TV.
Linux, FreeBSD, openBSD, PcBSD are all free for download off the internet. There are Linux live CD’s that can be downloaded as .iso files, burned to CD and booted up so that anyone can test drive Linux without having to install it on their PC with Windows until they are happy to do so.
Linux comes in different flavourscalled distributions from companies such as RedHat (Fedora), Canonical (Ubuntu) South African based, Linux Mint, Scientific Linux by CERN (runs the Large Hadron Collider – LHC) and too many others to mention here. It’s in use by some of the largest corporations, Boeing, America West, USPS, BBC, NASA, Disney, NYSE, Tokyo Stock Exchange, Russian government in all departments including education, the French parliament, London Stock Exchange, IBM, Google, the set top boxes you use in Barbados ,etc.
So from a humble PC and a willingness to learn any individual can acquire computing skills worth their effort. Copious help is always available via the internet and many people across the planet reading the Linux forums have for decades emailed me for help, advice and solutions. It’s one huge collaborative project with contributors across the globe so development never stops and there is no bar to contributors.
Even some of IBM’s contributions have been rejected until the lead developers were happy with them.
Not bad for a project started by a Finnish student called Linus Torvalds and taken up by thousands of individual and corporate developer across the globe, many have not met in person and email is largely the enabler. The larger proportion of the internet backbone is Linux based.
To see what can be done in Linux, a Mexican post graduate student started a project which morphed into a company called Ximian which he sold to Novell for US $300 million and a directorship and has since gone on to form another company. RedHat with sales of over $1Bn annually started out as a bedroom project by Matthew Sulzic. Google could not have got off the ground if it weren’t for Linux as the licensing of operating systems and software from Microsoft would have made it a non-starter
Guys and gals making the most of the free software out there get noticed by companies such as Google with a bright, well paid career in prospect or they can start their own software companies.
The original idea behind Linux was to empower anyone anywhere to be independent of any software licensing restrictions and especially in low income countries, the ability to produce home grown software that can at least lessen the outflow of foreign currency and to allow development of products that can earn foreign exchange.
When the kids go on the internet, have them look wider than Facebook and Twitter, incidentally both of them and Google run on huge Linux computing server farms. There is a lot more worthwhile to take in, see and use to great benefit.
I didn’t even mention wordpress.com which hosts this blog, just can’t get away from the free software ecosystem.