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Posted: 3/21/2011
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Microsoft Disaster Response Team Haitian Schools Empowered by Technology Solutions: Saving Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Power Costs

By Andrea Carlos

The devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010 destroyed 4,000 Haitian schools—90 percent of the nation’s educational institutions. To help rebuild Haiti better than before the earthquake, Microsoft in 2010 made a U.S.$1.5 million Clinton Global Initiative commitment in partnership with nonprofit Inveneo, HP, and The EKTA Foundation. A key component of the commitment is Lighthouse Labs, a project to improve education through technology by building computer labs at 40 schools by the end of 2012.

The devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010 destroyed 4,000 Haitian schools—90 percent of the nation’s educational institutions. To help rebuild Haiti better than before the earthquake, Microsoft in 2010 made a U.S.$1.5 million Clinton Global Initiative commitment in partnership with nonprofit Inveneo, HP, and The EKTA Foundation. A key component of the commitment is Lighthouse Labs, a project to improve education through technology by building computer labs at 40 schools by the end of 2012.

Lighthouse Labs
Lighthouse Labs: With Windows MultiPoint Server, up to 10 students
can share one computer with a CPU, each with his or her own monitor,
keyboard, and mouse.
Before the earthquake, only half of Haiti’s school-age children were enrolled in school and only half of Haitians over the age of 15 could read. To make education more widely available, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission outlined a plan to build a new education system, with the goal of providing education free—or nearly free—to all students.

Microsoft and its partners wanted to support this plan by providing increased technology access to students throughout Haiti. “Students need technology access and digital literacy skills to succeed in the future,” says Scott Edwards, Senior Director of Strategic Programs and Partnerships at Microsoft. “As we help Haiti rebuild its schools, we have an opportunity to give them the skills and tools they need to excel in the 21st-century workforce.”

Yet there were two obstacles to achieving this goal. First, electricity is both scarce and expensive in Haiti. Most areas of Haiti are off the grid without access to electricity. The areas that do have power run diesel generators—costing up to $20 per hour—compared to the 10 cents per commercial kilowatt hour that electricity costs in the United States. “That means some Haitian schools pay up to 200 times more than most American schools do for energy—in a country that can ill afford it,” Edwards says.

Second, there were not enough IT workers to maintain the computer labs once they were built. Haiti, which already had a shortage of qualified IT professionals, lost even more because of the earthquake. “After the earthquake, anybody with the resources and the skills got out of Haiti because there were no jobs,” says Edwards.

Computer Labs Built Using Windows MultiPoint Server
To solve these problems, Microsoft decided to base Lighthouse Labs on Windows MultiPoint Server 2011, a Windows operating system targeted at educational settings such as classrooms, labs, and libraries. With Windows MultiPoint Server, up to 10 students can share one computer with a central processing unit (CPU), each using his or her own monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Each student individually controls his or her own station with an independent and familiar Windows computing experience.

Working together with NetHope, a consortium of 32 humanitarian organizations, Microsoft, Inveneo, and The EKTA Foundation opened a pilot Lighthouse Lab in October 2010 at Ecole Supérieure d’Infotronique d’Haiti (ESIH), the country’s leading computer science college, which was rebuilt following the earthquake.

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* Students need technology access and digital literacy skills to succeed in the future. As we help Haiti rebuild its schools, we have an opportunity to give them the skills and tools they need to excel in the 21st-century workforce. *

Scott Edwards
Senior Director of Strategic Programs and Partnerships, Microsoft

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Today, the college’s 750 students are using the computer lab for Internet access, computer programming projects, and school work. The college currently has 18 workstations and eventually plans to increase this number to 300.

“The choice was to either replace the 180 PCs that were destroyed in the earthquake, or go to 300 seats using Windows MultiPoint Server at a much lower cost,” says Patrick Attié, Director of ESIH. “Our decision to move to Windows MultiPoint Server has brought us tremendous cost savings.”

Reduced Power and Maintenance Costs
With several students simultaneously sharing one computer, ESIH has used Windows MultiPoint Server to realize an 80 percent power savings compared to standard desktop PCs. This, in turn, may make it possible for the college to move from diesel power to solar power in the future, which could save up to $50,000 in annual diesel costs—or $20.84 per hour.“With the old configuration, we would have needed 600 to 700 solar panels at a total cost of $1.5 million,” says Attié. “It was way too expensive, and we didn’t have the physical roof space to do it. However, with Windows MultiPoint Server, the cost would be less than half, which is something we can consider. In the long run, it could save us hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

In addition to reduced power costs, with Windows MultiPoint Server the college has cut maintenance costs by 90 percent to 95 percent. “When we used traditional computer labs, our tech team was spending most of its time fixing virus problems, fixing hard drives, and reinstalling applications,” says Attié. “Now instead of 20 computers in the lab, we only have three computers to manage, so day-to-day management in the lab is very much simplified. The people working in the Windows MultiPoint Server lab are no longer spending time fixing problems; they’re installing software and then they are done. This is not the case in the other labs.”

Moving from a traditional desktop environment to workstations served by Windows MultiPoint Server is also saving the college thousands of dollars in hardware costs. Instead of spending $900 for a traditional desktop computer, the school can provide hardware for workstations for as little as $430. “That’s a significant cost savings,” says Attié.

Perhaps most importantly, students using Windows MultiPoint Server are just as productive as if they were working from a traditional desktop PC. “The experience is completely transparent to them,” says Attié. “I was afraid that the students might say, ‘This is slower,’ but this has not been the case at all. Everyone we asked said that it's as fast, if not faster.”

Microsoft and its partners plan to bring Lighthouse Labs to 40 schools in six regions of Haiti by the end of 2012. When the project is complete, 24,000 students will have access to improved education through technology. Over time, Edwards says, the goal is to bring Lighthouse Labs to thousands of schools across Haiti, and to work with the international development community to replicate the project in other regions of the world.

“We believe Lighthouse Labs will help accelerate learning for thousands of Haitians who currently lack affordable access to basic technology resources,” says Edwards. “Ultimately, we hope these labs will move Haiti a step closer to solving the problems facing the country today.”

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 90000 employees

Organization Profile

Based in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft Corporation is a global leader in software, services, and Internet technologies for personal and business computing.


Software and Services
Windows Multipoint Server 2011

Vertical Industries
  • IT Services
  • Government
  • Nonprofit
  • Charities & Philanthropic

Country/Region
  • United States
  • Haiti

Languages
English

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