Cost is key to computer and Internet access
Vice Chancellor of Kaduna State University (KASU), Prof Ezzeldin Mukhtar Abdulrahman spoke with SEGUN ORUAME in Kaduna on how the university has leveraged on affordable systems from UK based Not-for-Profit-Organisation, Computer Aid International to increase computer diffusion in the state-owned university
What informed your decision to go for systems from Computer Aid International and not brand new systems and not any of the locally manufactured systems?
It was mainly influenced by Miss Ann Musyoki of Computer Aid International. When she came for the first time about two years to Kaduna State University (KASU) she introduced herself and her organisation and convinced us that computers that Computer Aid International distribute are in good quality and can be compared in terms of performance to new brand new computers and locally manufactured ones. The advantage is the cost of the procurement of these computers from Computer Aid International. A computer from Computer Aid International cost about N14, 000 while an imported brand new system or a locally assembled one cost from N70, 000 and above. Computer Aid International assured us of the high quality of the computers and follow-up maintenance on the supplied systems. It was interesting for us to know also that not only third world economies are benefiting from these low cost systems but also Canada and other bigger economies. One of the convincing arguments of Musyoki was that that it is the intention of her organisation to make the computers available to our students. We had on our own acquired branded systems, some of them locally manufactured for our staff. But we were convinced that we could use the systems from Computer Aid International to make computers readily available to our students and also make our staff to have systems at homes for their children.
Having deployed the systems from Computer Aid International and with the benefits of hindsight will you say your decision was rightly taking?
When I look back now and when I visit somebody’s house or somebody’s office; when I look at my staff whether senior staff or non academic staff they are using the computer freely without any fear or any sort of barrier, I am happy. You see when you have a machine that is over N150, 000 people are bound to exercise fear in using it. When you tell a staff that the computer is N150, 000 his hands will be shaking and the confidence to use it is reduced. But when I say go ahead and train yourself, use the system as much as you desired, it is just N14, 000, the confidence level is high and it is easy to deploy the computer as a tool for work and learning. So I am very happy because most of them are familiar with the computer unlike two years ago when we had few computers before Computer Aid came. Now we have moved from lack of access and are talking of virus and hardware challenges meaning that the computer is affordable and accessible to many people here.
With over 300 computers, an ICT centre and an elibrary centre, you have heavy ICT presence here, does that mean you are convinced that IT is the way to go?
The way to go is to acquire computers and make them available for kids; to have affordable computers for institutions of learning and research; and to have unlimited access to computers and the Internet, for me, is the key to development, I mean to develop anything. To me to have the technology to apply to our day-to-day use is the key to do anything. The first challenge is to get the computers at affordable rates to create access; once that is done you can go ahead and move to the next level if you desire to acquire a more sophisticated and expensive system. But the first objective must be to get access.
You use a laptop and the Internet easily, will you say your ICT awareness has contributed largely to your decisions in terms of ICT infrastructures in Kaduna State University and would you say lack of ICT awareness among some vice chancellors is responsible for limited IT usage in some schools?
Definitely, I will say yes! Once the chief executive knows the technology, uses it and knows the benefits, he is bound to take actions that will expand the use of the techno logy to improve the workplace. I want to do more because I want to have the benefits flow from top to bottom. I communicate with my staff through email and we share ideas. I also want them to communicate and interact more effectively with their subordinates that way because it facilitates so many things. Once you understand technology, you will use it for your day to day activities because it makes your life easier. Honestly, once the chief executive understands any technology, it is easier and faster to spread it. That should explain the difference in the deployment of technology in different schools.