ICT in Ghana
From Peace Corps Wiki
The ICT Manual is meant to be a guide for constructing and organizing a computer lab from breaking ground to efficiently networking computers.
What do I need to do to effectively dual boot Windows and Ubuntu every time on a computer?
Unit 1 - Computer Lab Construction
Forming a Computer Lab Committee
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
|Air Conditioning||750 to 3000|
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.
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.
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)|
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
|Uninterruptible Power Supply|
|Wires for Networking|
See projects below.
These are costs that should be paid for with funds from the computer lab bank account.
- electricity bill
- There are instances where Ghana Education Services (GES) will pay the bill if your school is located in a financially troubled area.
- 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.
- With the latter in mind, purchasing replacement parts.
- The possibility of expansion.
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
- computer make and model
- hard disk size
- RAM (random access memory)
- processor speed
Choosing an Operating System (OS)
- Thin Client
- GIFEC Server (Ubuntu)
- The Rachel Server is meant to be a standalone server in a computer lab where Internet access is not possible or infeasible due to cumulative cost.
Viruses in Ghana
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:
- Properly turning on and off a computer.
- How to properly hold and use a mouse.
- FYI, it is very difficult to teach students how to type, especially when there are often three or more students to a computer. Therefore, proceed at your own risk.
- Identifying parts of the desktop (taskbar, wallpaper, etc.).
- How to manage windows: minimize, maximize, close and restore.
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
Unit 4 - Sustainability
Selling Resource CDs
Teaching Members of the Community
Running an Internet Cafe
- Electricity bill
- Replacing and repairing parts
- Techinical support
- Miscellaneous expenses
Unit 5 - Appendix
Vendors in Ghana
- The Aseda House is a multistory blue and white building located at the southern-end of Kumasi. It is a building where most of the computer vendors are located in Kumasi, which includes computer technicians.
- Verizon Apricot is located on the second floor of a building about a block from the Aseda House. It is like a small CompUSA computer store whose prices are surprisingly not much higher, if not the same, as the smaller shops in the Aseda House.
- GHC 225 Western Digital External Hard Drive 250 GB (in Kumasi as of November 2010)
- GHC 275 Western Digital External Hard Drive 320 GB (in Kumasi as of November 2010)
ICT Initiatives in Africa