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Training and Development

Acer is bringing free computers to schoolchildren in Chile

The Chilean education ministry and the student grant and assistance organisation La Junta Nacional de Auxilio Escolar y Becas (JUNAEB) recently launched the second phase of the “Connect to Learn” program in a bid to enhance computing education in schools across the country.

Since its launch the initiative has worked with several PC makers to fill the program and allocate free PCs to seventh grade students up and down the country.

In August the organisation announced that the Taiwanese computer giant Acer, which has been previously involved, will now be the sole provider of notebooks to schools in this second phase. The scheme will now see more than 75,000 notebooks delivered to students via Acer’s Chilean distributor NetNow.

“Giving students access to technology makes learning deeper, richer and more engaging, and helps prepare them for a secondary education and future career,” says Jorge Tunon Subercaseaux, NetNow general manager on the benefits of the program.

Acer added that it was chosen as sole supplier as it was the only company flexible enough to meet the government’s requirements.

A spokesperson for Acer told IDG Connect that it has already delivered the 75,000 computers it had promised to the Chilean government’s logistics operators. Computers are being delivered to students in stages every week.

“Approximately 35,000 have been delivered to students and about 5,000 units are being delivered every week to complete the total quantity,” she added. “Each delivery is handled by the most important local authorities in each city.”

On October 1 [Spanish], JUNAEB and local authorities delivered hundreds of computers to a school in the small city of Machalí.

“This is not just delivering a computer to a student, but a benefit to a family that will see shortened the digital divide between its members,” said a spokesperson for the local Machalí authority. “In addition children can enhance their learning processes and be immersed in the world of information.”

In Chile, as well as many other Latin America countries, the digital divide has hit poorer regions the hardest leaving many families behind, but the number of those accessing the internet in the country is growing. eMarketer figures show that the country has about 6.4 million internet users, and growing, coming up on half of the population.

The initiative has been well received by schools and its students so far, added Machalí mayor Sergio Medel. The ministry explains that the program will also include further training for teachers in the use of computers and teaching basic computer skills to prepare children for entering secondary level education.

“[The program] will keep providing computers to reach all students in [the seventh grade] who study in public education,” said Alyson Hadad of national education body, SEREMI.

Recent investments in the cities and municipalities of Gorbea, Loncoche, and Melipeuco were accompanied by the launch of the Connect to Learn program for school students recently too.

The initiative at this later stage of delivery is now “pointing to a better quality of education” says Carola Rodrigues, Junaeb regional director.

“I am convinced that in my country, the future of our children depends on their talent and not the economic vicissitudes of his parents, [and] that this new step – computers for each and every child in seventh grade public education, regardless of social status and academic performance, is inclusive education above all,” added regional director Alex Soto Andrade, at another recent successful delivery of computer to schools in the Pelluhue and Chanco communes south of Santiago, where more than 6,200 computer will be delivered this month.

SEREMI states that all students are eligible to receive a device, regardless of economic background.

Currently the initiative is just focused on seventh grade students and young teenagers and it has provided no timeline or details on whether or not the program will be expanded to reach more children and teenagers in Chile in the future.

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Jonathan Keane

Jonathan Keane is a freelance journalist, living in Ireland, covering business and technology

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