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Community: Volunteer Asks if Linux is Right for Africa

Jul 15, 2002, 22:00 (82 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Michael Taylor)

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By Michael Taylor

One of the great blessings we have in America (more and more) is freedom of choice. Sure there can be more but I believe we can proudly boast of our capacity to make choices, both good and bad without some system of government dictating a high degree of control over this. This reminds me of Linux.

On July 26th, I am going with a team of construction workers, doctors, nurses, and computer administrators to set up schools and clinics in Ghana, West Africa. I happen to be the lead administrator tasked with deciding the topology and OS configurations for these computer networks in these schools. However, I have a major dilemna: do I push Linux or Windows?

Of course, since I am submitting this letter to the Linux community, you can guess that my gut feeling is that Linux would provide a truer computer educational environment for Ghanians giving them the advantage of freedom and insight into the inner workings of an OS. Plus, there are numerous productive packages that I can provide for them for free. So it seems to be a no brainer. Not quite so simple.

First, I have 30 computers donated to me from my company, Airborne Express of Seattle, for the purpose of setting up schools with state-of-the-art instructional facilities. These computers come with the standard 14-inch monitors, network cards, etc. While I am writting this letter, the school is being completed by a team of 20 construction workers. The school itself is primarily K-6.

While I would think Linux is the most appropriate I have to take into account the market value of the experience the children will be provided. Now everyone I have talked to automatically assumes that learning Windows would provide them more market value since it is used more often than any other desktop, 9 to 1. But the raw facts that Microsoft hides from most is that the salary of a NT/Win2000 administration is almost 30% less than that of an average Unix/Linux administrator. Also, anyone who can become adroit with Linux development and administration can master the Win/tel OS variants in short order. So perhaps this is a no brainer, but there's another concern.

If I put myself in these childrens' shoes and one day find myself looking for a job in the capital of Ghana (the city of Accra), what kind of computer skills will get my potential employer's eye? Of course this depends on what I'm applying for. The fact reminds that these children will need options and education opens the doors to these options. Consequently, considering this line of argument, the most attractive option is dual booting with Linux being the primary boot option.

Of course if you can think of a good argument against a dual-boot configuration, please send me a line at nmet@airborne.com.

You've got two weeks to convince me otherwise.