How can the Rs 5,000 PC (5KPC) make a difference in education? First, well take a look at schools. In India, there are 1.2 million schools. Today, few of these schools have computer labs. The focus of the 5KPC should be to enable the creation of computer labs in every school in every emerging market. By teaching about computers from an early age, we are preparing the next generation from the IT-enabled era. In todays times, it is not good enough to be just literate one need to be computer-literate.

Let us consider the economics. Consider a school with 1,000 children. The first objective should be to setup a computer lab with 10 computers. While the ratio of 1 computer for every 100 children, it is a start. What would it cost? 10 computers for Rs 5,000 apiece with a thick server for Rs 30,000 and software for Rs 20,000 make the base cost Rs 100,000. Other costs would be networking (Rs 10,000), a printer (Rs 5,000). The total costs would be Rs 115,000 (or about USD 2,300).

Recurring costs would be for maintenance Rs 1,000 per 5KPC and Rs 3,000 for the server and printer, making an aggregate of Rs 13,000 (USD 260). Taken over a 3-year period, the total costs are Rs 141,000. Take into account some financing costs, and we are probably looking at a 3-year total cost of ownership of about Rs 170,000 to Rs 180,000 (about USD 3,600), which works out to a per student per annum cost of Rs 60 (USD 1.20), or Rs 5 per month (10 cents).

[As an exercise, let us compare this cost with that of new PCs and Microsoft software. The cheapest new PCs in India will cost about Rs 20,000 each, with maintenance costs of Rs 1,600 after the first year. Microsofts software (Windows and Office) is available for the education segment for Rs 2,500 per annum. Thus, the three-year cost of ownership for a 10-computer lab is Rs 232,000 for the hardware and Rs 75,000 for the software, for an aggregate of Rs 307,000 (USD 6,000). This compares with Rs 126,000 for the 5KPC solution. Thus, for every 2 schools equipped with new PCs and Microsoft software, one could provide the 5KPC solution in 5 schools.]

For this investment in technology, a student will get about half-hour of shared computer usage per week. Heres the calculation for that: a day has 10 periods of 30 minutes each, with 5 days a week. This makes for 25 hours of education a child gets per week. This is also the computer time available for use. Across 1,000 students, this works out to 40 students an hour on 10 computers. Or, put differently, two students per computer per half-hour. Over a year (9 months of education), the student will get about 18-20 hours of computer education.

The above calculations do not take into account two other significant costs: the cost of the IT curriculum, and the salary for the teachers. Let us assume that the IT curriculum is available for Rs 100 per student per annum, including the cost of the text book. The IT curriculum would cover the basics of computing, logic, programming languages, the various applications, and so on. (On a separate note, I happened to see one of the text books being used in a school in India. I was shocked to find the concepts being taught at least 10-15 years old the discussion in one of the chapters centred around IBM PC XTs and ATs! Obviously, a relook at the curriculum and standardisation will be needed.)

The schools will also need two teachers, at Rs 3,500 per teacher per month. Over a year, the teach costs work out to Rs 84 per student per annum. Thus, the total cost for providing education in schools is as follows:

Cost of technology: Rs 60

Cost of IT curriculum: Rs 100

Cost of teachers: Rs 84

Aggregate Cost: Rs 244 per student per annum, or about USD 5.

Tomorrow: Schools (continued)

TECH TALK The Rs 5,000 PC Ecosystem+T