Satellite Brings Interactive Learning To Mexican Schools
The Mexican Ministry of Education initiated Enciclomedia, a computer-based program, in order to improve the education of children throughout Mexico. The program offers every student, whether in urban or rural areas, access to the same tools and infrastructure.
As part of the Enciclomedia project, the books traditionally provided to teachers and students by the federal government have been digitized and more publicationsfrom public virtual libraries and encyclopedias were loaded onto personal computers. Teachers and students have access to videos, music and virtual activities to support hands-on instruction and make the learning experience more interactive.
The project’s financing differs from traditional government-initiated projects, as the Mexican government did not acquire the assets placed in schools and classrooms but instead opened the different parts of the project to international bid. The first phase of the program split the country into 14 parts, with the winners of the various parts responsible for purchasing, installing and maintaining the equipment as well as providing the service to the government.
One of the winning consortia, including Alef Soluciones Integrales S.A. de C.V. (Alef), a leading Mexican information technology integrator, and Corporativo Lanix S.A. de C.V., Mexico’s largest computer manufacturer, won 30 percent of the project in primary schools (16,971 classrooms in 7,986 schools) and 25 percent of the share in secondary schools (7,771 classrooms in 3,885 schools).
Alef chairman, Ángel Ruiz Lúa, talks to Satellite Business Solutions managing editor Julie Blondeau Samuel about the use of satellite technology in the Enciclomedia project.
PROBLEM: Providing Enhanced, Interactive Learning Tools To All Schools
Providing the same connectivity to all schools in various geographical landscapes poses some technological challenges. Traditional solutions would provide connectivity to urban schools through pre-existing terrestrial lines, while using satellite technologies for more remote, rural schools.
Instead of using a mix of technologies, Alef decided to go 100 percent over satellite, based on the company’s future plans.“The strategy was based on the future services that Alef will provide based on the satellite infrastructure that the company deployed [for the Enciclomedia program]. This includes a universal satellite platform that will be used in the future to provide value-added services for these schools,” says Ruiz Lua.
SOLUTION: Connect Via Satellite
“As part of the project, every classroom is equipped with one computer, the Enciclomedia software and a projector and interactive blackboard and has access to the Internet via satellite to support the teaching. Before the satellite connection, there was no Internet for those kids,” says Ruiz Lua. Alef uses satellite bandwidth on an Intelsat 707 Ku-band transponder provided by GlobalSat Technology Corp.
The cost of the equipment is about $5,000 per classroom, including the VSAT terminal provided by Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd., a computer, a projector, a touchscreen blackboard and a printer.
The average rate of the services to the government is about $240 per month per classroom, which includes the use of the infrastructure, connectivity to the Internet, and full service and all technical support.
Alef, in collaboration with Gilat, deployed 120 crews of four technicians each to install the equipment — two for the satellite system, two for the classroom equipment. The average installation time for the entire system for an experienced crew is about 3 hours per school.
Using the equipment purchased and deployed for the Enciclomedia program, Ruiz Lua hopes to also provide value-added services such as Voice Over Internet Protocol, distance learning, training, telemedicine and aid to the Mexican government in disaster recovery. “With the new administration in Mexico, the new government policy is to get services instead of buying infrastructure,” he says. “So this matches perfectly with Alef’s plan: having an existing platform/infrastructure to bring additional services, not only to schools, but also to provide connectivity or services to offices next to the schools via WiMax or Wi-Fi. The school could become the telecommunications point of contact for the community.”
Ángel Ruiz Lúa
Alef Soluciones Integrales S.A. de C.V.