Classroom in a box

HP combines education and technology

HP brings education to developing countries
Technology-aided education

HP is to bring to SA its innovative ‘classroom in a box’ – a low-cost solution for educational information technology (IT) labs based on pre-installed schools equipment and thin client PCs in a refurbished shipping container.

The blueprint for the innovative teaching space was created by HP’s Indian arm to help students in developing nations get access to IT and training, and has applications for both schools and businesses in sub-Saharan Africa.

The classroom will be distributed in South Africa through Tarsus Technologies, which is completing the refurbishment work for its partners on behalf of HP.

The first units to be completed under the project have already been shown off to resellers in the education sector in Durban.

A container is sold fully fitted and in two sizes, explains product manager for HP at Tarsus Technologies, Brent de Luca. A 20-foot container is fitted with a single-server PC, and has sufficient thin client machines, monitors and desks for 10 pupils.

Larger 40-foot containers will have equipment for 20 seats installed with two-server PCs to host them. Internet connectivity is provided via a mobile broadband router or ADSL.

Future improvements to the design could include pre-installed solar panels or generators for rural schools with limited access to grid power.

“It’s an incredibly powerful tool in the fight to improve access to education in this country,” De Luca says. “One of the key advantages is that there is little in the way of building work to be completed before the lab is delivered. A simple concrete slab is needed for the base and everything else is already set up.”

The classroom-in-a-box concept is tried and tested, and has been deployed successfully by non-governmental organisations throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America over recent years. United Kingdom organisation, Computer Aid International, has pioneered its use across the developing world.

A fully commercial product could help access to IT education for many more children in South Africa, and has implications for businesses that want to set up in places with little existing infrastructure as well.

Businesses have made use of HP’s lab-in-a-box to establish branch offices and research centres in areas where there is minimal existing infrastructure.

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