Gilas project gearing up to computerize Bohol

IJsselstein, Thursday, 5 October 2006 04:11:28

Some time ago, we started a small scale project to provide schools in the Philippines with refurbished computers. In the context of this project, we've shipped about 15 computers, with peripherals such as monitors, printers, keyboards, mice, etc. to various schools and an NGO in Bohol.

Last year, we discontinued this project, not because we lost interest in trying to increase computer literacy in Bohol, but because we doubted the project at its current scale was effective and efficient. However we continue to follow developments and possibilities to encourage computer literacy in Bohol and the Philippines in general. One of the developments we follow with much interest is the 100 dollar laptop project, on which we wrote earlier.

Recently we learned about and got in touch with the Gilas project, an ambitious project initiated by the Ayala foundation to provide all high schools in the Philippines with a computer class, and we were happy to learn that one of the focus areas will be Bohol.

Access to computers and the internet is essential in modern society. Not only is computer literacy a requirment for almost all office jobs, computers and the internet also give access to an unprecedented wealth of knowledge, including such tremendous resources as Wikipedia (a collective encyclopedia), Project Gutenberg (literary classics and other older books, including many from the Philippines), Google Maps (satellite and air photographs and maps of virtually the entire world), and countless other resources, that would be impossible to provide with traditional paper resources.

The Internet also helps to connect people around the world through email, instant messaging, or VOIP (voice-over-IP or telephone on computers), far more cheaper than ever before.

The scope of the challenge is enormous. Of the 5789 public high schools in the Philippines, only about 40 percent has a computer labratory accessible to students, and less than 6 percent has access to the internet. Gilas aims to provide all schools with a computer lab of at least 10 machines, and internet connectivity in the coming five years.

Sometimes, the challenges are even bigger, with schools in remote areas. On Bohol, on the island of Cabilao, already one school is connected through the internet through satellite connections. In other places, other innovative (and cheaper) methods may be required to link up with the Internet. Under investigation are techniques like directional WiFi, which can bridge upto 10 kilometers with just two hundred dollars worth of equipment.

If taken up bit-by-bit, the challenge can be met. According to Gilas figures, it costs about PHP 300,000, or USD 6000 to provide a school with a 10-computer lab and one year connectivity to the internet. The Gilas organization takes care for support and sustainability of the project.

The Gilas project also does a lot of work to get support in form of donations and technical support. Sometimes, provicial and local governments have agreed to match donations from private sources, effectively allowing you to help to get a computer labratory for your old school for an even lower amount.

This is a call from our side to support the Gilas project for your own (former) high-school. When you are living abroad, there may be many ways to raise funds, from having a garage sale to organizing a charity event.

Further documentation

The official Gilas website.

A Basic FAQ sheet on Gilas (in PDF format)

Jeroen Hellingman