Sunday, April 15, 2007

The wild rush to get wired

Yesterday, the Inquirer had for its editorial the botched plan of the DepEd in Bicol to purchase 600 desktop computers costing 250,000 each. The Inquirer rather sarcastically asked whether the DepEd had first checked whether the students who would be using those computers had classrooms in the first place.

A couple of days ago, Boo Chanco of the Philippine Star also wrote about the recently approved P16.47 billion broadband connectivity project for government offices. He asked whether such a humongous amount of money-a loan from China-is justifiable given our quite limited budget for capital expenditures. It would be more cost-efficient, according to Chanco, to just buy capacity from the private sector one small chunk at a time. Such a huge investment in infrastructure is scary given the rapid nature of technological obsolescence. It might very well be that when this project is finally completed there's a whole new VOIP platform needing newer computer hardware while the people of the Philippines are again left with a loan that needs to be paid.

For high schools and elementary schools, computers and the internet are good supplements to learning but they're, at the end of the day, just supplements. A well-stocked library is infinitely preferable to a computer with internet access. Coupled with a non-technologically savvy public school faculty, there is also the danger that those computers would only be used to surf porn and get dates online. In the wired world of the United States, for instance, this is a big and growing concern, which prompted the online behemoth to institute safety precautions intended for minors using the site.

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