The Case of SchoolNet Namibia/Conclusions

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SchoolNet Namibia has been inspirational since winning the Geckos' Stone Award during its first year in operation (2000). The project has demonstrated that it is possible to achieve “Youth empowerment through Internet” and provide the means even in remote and poorly resourced schools off the national power grid with no phone lines.

Its pioneering success with free software, thin client solutions, locally hosted (both libre and restricted) learning resources, solar power and wireless technologies in computer laboratories in remote and disadvantaged schools has been of particular interest to educators in Africa and the “developing” world.

Elements of their approach to ICT in education and modus operandum are of particular interest to managers and leaders of similar initiatives and ICT4D in general (see Lessons Learned, above).

In spite of the successes, SchoolNet Namibia ultimately came to an end before achieving the level of internet access envisaged for all the schools.

Director's take:

SchoolNet Namibia serves as an interesting situation where middle management government officials were able to swing the decision-maker vote to embrace the offerings of one company supplying non-free software and commercial vendor support in preference to a proven model which not only reduces cost but empowers local communities to help themselves and innovate. The end result is a throw-back to the dark ages.

Although ShoolNet Namibia itself has come to an end, its legacy lives on as it has inspired advocates and practitioners of free software in education around the world. The learning from a decade of experience has relevance for technology in education, more broadly for ICT4D and for any resource limited situation that calls for innovation and resourcefulness.

This is a living document capturing only some of the learning from SchoolNet Namibia. Feel free to participate in improving this document and associated resources[1].