The waning dream of the Jubilee Laptop project, What went wrong?



When the Jubilee government included a ‘one laptop per child’ project into their manifesto, they earned themselves the bragging rights of ushering us into the  digital era. Throughout the campaign period in a build up to the March 4th general elections, the talk was of bringing a digital government. Not many were sure of exactly how this digital animal was going to, say, reduce the cost of food, corruption, access to medical healthcare and many other problems that have plagued us over the years, mainly due to bad leadership.

Nevertheless, Kenyans voted for this ‘Digital Government’ which had made a bold promise of giving each child joining class 1 in  public school in 2014, a laptop. Some parents even decided that their kids joining class 2 would repeat a class in-order to benefit from this project.

After the  general elections, the implementation of the promises started. Soon after the tender was announced for the laptops,  the proponents and opponents of the project took to the press, social media and any other forum to give their thoughts on why or not, the project should proceed.

From the time the tender was announced, the whole project has been degenerating to a tendering process joke which is not laughable because it might be the next Kenyan golden berg.

Yesterday, the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board ruled that Olive Telecommunications Pvt Limited, the company that won the bid and had been awarded the tender,  did not win the tender fairly as the probe unearthed irregular dealings and found the Indian firm was favored.

Olive, which was awarded the tender by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, does not have the financial capability to supply the 1.2 million gadgets. The board said the annual turnover of the firm between 2010 and 2012 was between Sh6 million and Sh768 million, which was below the Sh8 billion minimum required for supply of the gadgets.

According to the Standard Newspaper, the board asked the Ministry of Education to undertake fresh re tendering and complete the entire process within a period of 45 days.
This will be the 3rd time that this entire process is being undertaken pausing serious questions to the whole project.

As a parent with an interest in tech, I find the project full of rhetoric and being handled by individuals who do not have the interest nor understanding of technology at heart. All I have seen is enforcers looking for any way possible to ‘eat’.

Diaper Mentality (image courtesy)

This project will not fail because it is not timely or important or enforceable, it will fail because of one or all of the following  reasons

1. Hardware/platform of Choice
Every research that has been done in the last 3 years gives a very good indication where technology is headed. Laptops are being phased out by Tablets.
According to findings and projections for the year 2014 by by Gartner research firm in their 7th January 2014 statistics release, they are expecting some of the biggest gains to be made among tablet sales, with the research firm anticipating a 47 per cent jump in sales because pricing is coming down. Plus, consumers see smaller tablets as a more convenient way to stay connected when they leave home.
Still, mobile phones are still going to be the top sell among device buyers, with Gartner expecting 1.9 billion mobile phones to ship this year – a five per cent increase from 2013.
And, like last year, PC sales are going to continue to drop. In 2014, Gartner expects sales to hit about 278 million units, a seven per cent drop from 2014. Still, the company’s research shows there’s still a healthy appetite among consumers looking for ultrabooks to replace their laptops, rather than trying to use tablets in their stead.

It is therefore quite strange that the Jubilee government, despite having a very informed digital team would insist on buying laptops instead of android tablets for the project which would have cost them half the amount the laptops require.

The hardware and the Operating System determine a lot of things like; content, repair, parts replacement, compatibility, security of data, etc.

2. ‘Its our turn to eat’ mentality
The only reason the tender awarded to Olive was revoked was because the other two bidders Haier and HP appealed as well as pointed out the disregard for the terms and conditions of the process. Had they not appealed, the project would have gone through only for Olive to realize that they neither have the financial capability, they have to buy the laptops from an actual manufacturer, they will make a loss.
This begs the question, how did they get that far?
It is an open secret that a lot of promises for commissions were made to most of those who were involved in vetting the bids.
Those same individuals do not care whether its laptops or typewriters being bought so long as there will be something in it for them.

I will not hold my breath in wait for that time when the laptops are actually in the schools. Somehow, something will go wrong, we, the taxpayers, will still pay for the project which will never see the light of day.


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  2. maxwell odieny Reply

    teacher incompetence and technophorbia is also another reason behind its possible failure..govt should educate teacher-trainees first.

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