Per Child Cost Analysis of OLPC Project in Nepal

OLE Nepal prepared a preliminary “per child cost” of the One Laptop Per Child project based on the pilot project carried out in the last academic year (April 2009 – March 2010) in 26 schools in six districts of Nepal. The project was implemented in partnership with Nepal Government’s Department of Education (DoE)’s and funded by the Danish Government’s Local Grant Authority, UN World Food Programme’s Nepal Country Programme. The laptops were donated by the Swift Banking group through the OLPC Foundation.

The following are the key assumptions and considerations taken while computing the cost:

  • The XO laptops’ lifespan is 5 years, as stated by the manufacturers

  • The repair and maintenance cost for equipment is 2.5% of the purchase cost

  • The content development cost for certain subject and grades can also be considered negative cost as they are already prepared during the pilot phase.

Per unit cost to implement the project comes to be Rs. 27,628 (US $ 368)1 during the project/pilot phase considering 26 schools in six districts and around 2100 students and teachers. At present, if the XO laptops are assumed to have life span of five years, and everything else associated with the pilot/project is assumed to remain constant, then per child cost per year for next 5 years (for a child who uses the XO from grade 2 to grade 6) can be calculated as Rs. 5,500 (US $ 77). Per unit cost or per child cost can come down significantly if the number of students are increased as some of the costs associated with the project such as content development remain constant no matter how many students are targeted. Furthermore, the content development cost for certain subject and grades can also be considered negative cost as they are already prepared during the pilot phase and can be used for further expansions. The cost associated with the project is given in detail in the attached sheet.

The costs taken into consideration to derive per child cost based on 26 pilot schools are:

1. Cost of Laptops

2. School infrastructure

3. Teacher Training

4. Deployment cost (at project launch)

5. Running costs during pilot year

6. Content development cost

7. Project development cost

8. Network cost

Laptops: OLPC XO laptops are priced at US $200 and another US$ 25 is factored in as shipping and handling cost. Although the laptops for each child will cost US $ 225 at present day cost (OLPC insists the price will come down by up to 25% as the volume of orders increases), and assuming that the laptops lifespan is 5 years, the child will have the laptop from grade two till grade six. Hence when the current cost of laptop is spread over 5 years, then cost per child cost for the laptops comes to US $ 45 per year. Further, as the overall price of the computers are declining and other computers similar to XO laptops are also emerging fast it will be safe to assume that better and cheaper laptops will be available in the market.

School infrastructure: The initial setup at 26 schools required Rs.4,599,934, which included networking and power equipment installations. Hence, the per school cost comes to Rs.176,000. This amount can be largely taken as one time cost and for a period of over 5 years 2.5% or Rs. 4,400 should be considered as repair and maintenance cost for the equipments installed in each school. Details of type of equipment required at school level are given in attached sheet.

Teacher training: Rs. 2,089,000 were incurred in teacher training from each school. This cost also includes training package preparation, master trainer development from DoE and NCED systems, training for OLPC focal persons from the districts and 113 teachers from 26 schools in six districts. Teacher training costs can also be considered as one time cost with refresher training given to teachers every other year. Cost associated to train a school teacher to be able to integrate ICT based education in daily teaching and learning will be around Rs. 18,500 per teacher.

Deployment cost: Deployment cost at program launch for all 26 schools was Rs. 1,112,975, roughly about Rs. 43,000 per school. The costs factored in are for travel and other related costs associated with deployment plus laptop transport and network setup for each school. This cost can also be considered as one time cost for each school if laptops for grade 2 -6 are deployed at the same time. This cost will also decrease significantly as the number of schools increases per district.

Running costs during pilot year (Rs.958,593): Running costs such as electricity, internet fees and monitoring and supervision costs are associated in this category. Running cost for all 26 schools is estimated to be Rs. 958,600 or Rs. 36,800 per school per year.

Content development cost (Rs. 5,902,000): The cost for content development for grades 2 & 3 (Nepali, English and Mathematics) and 6 (English and Mathematics) was Rs. 5,902,000. This cost is only associated with human resources cost. This can be considered onetime cost and constant for any number of children, with additional budget required to develop additional activities in additional grades and subjects. This also assumes a small budget each year for updating and changes required in the existing activities.

Project development cost (Rs. 4,901,000): Project development cost mentioned here is a one year cost of the project management cost associated with the OLPC project. Besides human resource to manage the cost no other costs are associated with this segment. This cost is strictly associated with implementing partner and may not be necessary if the project is implemented by the government.

Network Cost: Similar to content development and Project Development cost, Network cost also reflects the human resource cost to staff the network team with engineers to develop architecture and install wireless networks for schools.

Budget Summary is given in the table below:

Budget summary

Area

Total cost

% of total

NRs.

US $

1. Laptops

35,523,360

473,645

63

2. School Infrastructure

4,599,934

61,333

8

3. Teacher training

2,089,000

27,853

4

4. Deployment cost

1,112,975

14,840

2

5. Running costs per year

958,593

12,781

2

6. Content Development Cost

5,902,000

78,693

10

7. Project Development Cost

4,901,000

65,347

9

8. Network Cost

1,716,000

22,880

3

Total cost excluding laptops

21,279,502

283,727

Total cost including laptops

56,802,862

757,372

100

Per student cost with XO

27,628

368

Per student cost without XO

10,350

138

Exchange rate (US$ 1 = NRs.)

75

1Exchange Rate: US $ 1 = NRs. 75

Exploring the possibility of expansion to Solukhumbu

A team consisting of representatives from OLE Nepal, the Department of Education (DoE) and Himalayan Health and Environment Services (HHES) visited the remote mountainous district of Solukhumbu to study the feasibility of expanding the OLPC project in the district. During the three-day visit from March 18 to 21, the team reached seven schools in Phaplu, Salleri, Garma, Khoriya, and Jaidu, and held an interaction programme for local stakeholders at the District Education Office located in the district headquarter, Salleri. The DoE team was led by Deputy Director Mr. Baburam Poudel who is also the government’s OLPC focal person, and included Mr. Arjun Aryal and Ms. Sharmila Pant. HHES was represented by its Chairperson Mr. Ngima Tendup Sherpa while the OLE Nepal team consisted of Executive Director Mr. Rabi Karmacharya, Director for Government Relations Mr. Rajeev Adhikari and Network Engineer Mr. Basanta Shrestha.

All the schools and local communities showed a lot of enthusiasm in launching the programme in the district and pledged full support and participation in making it successful. Compared to schools in most other remote districts, many schools in the vicinity of Salleri were much better equipped when it came to technology. Most of the schools had at least one computer and a printer. This has greatly helped enhance familiarity with technology amongst teachers and students. One of the schools in Phaplu had even started to use education software to teach science in grade 6. Most schools in the vicinity of Salleri had sought help from individuals and organisations to purchase the computers and printers. Furthermore, these schools also had one or two teachers who were good at basic computer operations.

The schools were assessed based on teacher capacity, local community support, physical infrastructure, networking possibility, and the availability of electricity. OLE Nepal’s network engineer Mr. Basanta Shrestha took coordinates of all the schools in order to design a plan to connect them using wireless technology. He also inquired on possible means to connect the schools to the Internet.

Thanks to the nearby micro-hydro plant, there were only two hours of loadshedding per day in the areas that we visited, which was a relief for those of us used to 12 hours of loadshedding in Kathmandu. However, we did not get to visit nor gather information of schools in more remote areas of the district. The general consensus among the visiting team was to stick to more accessible schools for the first year of the project, and then expand to more remote areas in subsequent years.

The programme in Solukhumbu will be implemented by OLE Nepal in collaboration with DoE, UN World Food Program, and HHES.

OLE Nepal Newsletter published

OLE Nepal has published its first bi-monthly email newsletter that intends to keep its readers uptodate on the organisation and its activities. It includes an introduction to OLE Nepal as well as updates on the recent visit by the Director General of the Department of Education to Dadeldhura and on the OLE Global Assembly. The full newsletter can be accessed at:

http://www.olenepal.org/ole_newsletter/OLENepalJanFeb10.pdf

Watch out for more newsletters in the future! The next newsletter will feature in detail the second round of deployment of E-Paatis (OLPC XO) laptops in Nepal.

If you wish to subscribe to the newsletter, please email newsletter@olenepal.org.

Formative Evaluation of OLPC Project Nepal: A Summary

This is a summary of the findings of a formative evaluation carried out by Mr. Uttam Sharma, a doctoral student at at the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota. The evaluation was carried out for OLE Nepal’s internal purpose. The results are expected to help learn about the shortcomings of the current test phase of the OLPC project so that necessary fine tuning can be done before next year’s larger deployment in more districts. Mr. Sharma can be reached at sharm061@umn.edu.  

Formative Evaluation of OLPC Project Nepal: A Summary

June-August 2008

Background:

The Nepal government’s Department of Education (DoE) and the Open Learning Exchange Nepal (OLE Nepal) had selected Bishwamitra Ganesh Secondary School and Bashuki Lower Secondary Schools, both in Lalitpur district of Nepal, as test schools for the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative in Nepal. The laptops were distributed to all 135 students in grade 2 and 6 in those two schools on April 25, 2008. The students were also allowed to take laptops home. However, charging of the laptops could only be done in school. The implementation of the initiative has focused on four areas: digital content development, teacher preparation, network and power infrastructure development and government capacity building.

Study design and method

This study was initiated after about two months of program implementation. The objective of the present study is formative evaluation which assesses on-going project activities. This evaluation focuses on how the initiative is being implemented in the two test schools and looks at how the implementation can be altered or improved.

The study period was between mid-June to mid-August 2008. The first week was spent preparing survey questionnaires. The first round of field visit was conducted between June 22 and 27. The first three days were spent in Bishwamitra Secondary School while the last three days in Bashuki Lower Secondary School. The 2nd round of field visit was conducted between July 27 and August31, 2008.

This study is based on the information collected from surveys with teachers, head-teachers, students in grade 6 and their family members, some School Management Team members, school records, the school censuses from the two test schools as well as detailed discussions with OLE Nepal officials and postings in the OLE Nepal blog (http://blog.olenepal.org/). One-on-one meetings with teachers were also conducted in addition to filling out the survey questionnaires.

The questionnaires were designed to elicit as much information about how the initiative is being run. Because of time constraints, we tried surveying only those students who roll numbers were odd (or only even numbered in other cases). All the regular teachers who were present in both the schools were surveyed. In total, 31 students from grade 2, 45 students from grade 6, 19 teachers that includes 2 head teachers, and 20 households were surveyed for the purpose. We also had discussions with many OLE Nepal officials, which aided us in putting our observations in proper context.

Teacher training

The teacher training was divided in two parts: residential training and in-school training. A four day residential training was conducted from March 29 to April 1, 2008 and four-day in-school training followed after a couple of weeks in between and was completed on May 2, 2008. The residential training included teachers from both the schools together and was held in Panauti, in the outskirts of Kathmandu Valley (35 kilometers from Kathmandu), while the in-school trainings were separately conducted in their respective schools. 10 teachers from Bashuki and 11 from Bishwamitra participated in the residential training.

One of the goals of the training was to make teachers comfortable to integrate laptop use in regular teaching. When the teachers were asked whether the complete training was sufficient for enabling them to properly integrate laptop in the regular classroom instruction process, 50 % of the teachers’ response was positive. This response underscores the need to have refresher training on a regular basis as most of the teachers are using computer for the first time.

Residential training

Teachers found the following aspect of the residential training useful:

  • Encouraging peer-learning (learning from their colleagues rather than simply from the instructor)
  • Information about how to use laptop for instructional purposes to make teaching more
  • effective
  • Sessions on how to make lesson plans
  • An opportunity to meet colleagues and learn from them

Among those who said there were parts of the residential training that needed to be reduced or removed next time, all of them cited that a lot of time was spent on going over theoretical parts, which limited time spent on practical aspects on using laptop.

With regards to whether the materials in the residential portion of the training were adequate, we obtained conflicting answers from the two schools. While the overwhelming majority of the teachers in Bishwamitra (89%) thought that materials were adequate, less than one-third (29%) of teachers in Bashuki said that it was adequate. Among those who said it was inadequate, they wanted the focus to be more on practical rather than on theoretical aspects. Some teachers wanted more examples on how to teach using laptops. Though the majority of teachers at Bashuki found the materials inadequate, more than two-third of the teachers there (71%) agreed that the residential training was delivered in an understandable manner that was easy to follow. For Bishwamitra, the corresponding number was 89%.

When the teachers were asked whether it was a good idea to run residential and in-school trainings separately, almost everyone (15 out of 16) said that it was a good idea and wanted it to be that way in future as well.

In-school training

Teachers found many aspects of the in-school training useful such as:

  • Sessions on class management, making lesson plans, and other tips on teaching
  • Highlight the fact that the laptops should only be used as a tool
  • Clearly pointing out the mistakes when teaching so that they could work on their mistakes and improve
  • The feedback on their presentations

To the question what aspects in the lesson planning practice they found particularly useful, they mentioned:

  • Encouraging the habit of incorporating lesson plans in their teachings
  • Effective time management: how best to allocate time
  • Teaching about how to present materials in the classroom
  • Learning when and how to use laptop in the class

All 17 teachers found it useful to review lesson plans together in a group and to attend laptop classes conducted by colleagues and observe the class.

Classroom teaching learning process

Teaching learning digital materials

All the teachers said that the materials in the laptops were, in general, consistent with the interests of the students in their classes. However, when asked whether the materials in the laptops, in general, were consistent with the level or capacity of the students in their classes, the answer was rather mixed. Teachers were generally satisfied with the grade 2 contents, but had diverse views on grade 6. The teachers found many initially uploaded activities for grade 6 either too easy or too difficult. To the question about whether the materials in the laptops are able to meet the aims and objectives of your class as prescribed in the curriculum, the teachers feel that the recent digital contents are more relevant in this front.

The teachers mentioned that they generally spent one period to go over one activity. This means that if the expectation is that the teachers use laptops for three days a week, then there should be about three activities prepared for each week.

The teachers also mentioned that there were not sufficient exercises, especially for grade 6 students to work on. Since the teachers are so used to following the chapters in the book, the teachers suggested that the teaching materials in the laptops be sequenced according to the chapters in the textbooks. This way, they will not have to spend a lot of time figuring out which activity corresponds to the relevant chapter in the book.

The teachers also suggested that there be multiple choice question answers and practice questions. Some teachers proposed having different levels in the activities so that students develop a competitive spirit and try harder to go to a higher level. This could motivate them to study harder.

Classroom teaching learning

It is important to understand how classroom teaching learning has been affected by laptop use in classrooms. All the 17 teachers in both the schools feel that use of computers has helped their teaching. All (relevant) teachers feel that their lectures are now more organized and that it is easier to teach students new concepts. They also believe that the use of laptop based instruction has enabled students to learn concepts more easily. They are also of the opinion that laptop based instruction has made it easier to give students more practice exercises. In addition, they also feel that the use of laptop based instruction has made the classes more interactive. All the teachers are unanimous in saying that the use of laptop based instruction has increased the students’ interest in their studies.

In Biswamitra, teachers said that they generally use laptops 2 to 3 days a week while the number, according to the teachers, is at least 3 days in Bashuki. When they use the laptops, they mostly used the laptops between ¼ and ½ of the period. The grade 6 student survey, which was taken independently, also largely confirms this assertion. The mode in Bishwamitra was 3 days while it was 4 in Bashuki.

Students in grade 6 said that teachers mostly used laptops around the middle of the class. When some of the students forget to bring their laptops, the teachers ask those students to look at the laptop of the student who is sitting next to her.

The students in Bishwamitra generally say that the teachers give them homework every time the laptop is used in the classroom while those in Bashuki said that they are sometimes given homework. According to the teachers, those homework are mostly of review type to be done on laptops on a regular basis. The teachers ask students to do certain activity in the laptop for that day. The teachers, at times, look at the record in the computers to see whether the student has at least opened that activity at home or not, as one could find those details in the laptop.

When the students were asked how learning has been affected with the introduction of laptops in their classrooms, more than 95% of grade 6 students find learning using laptops easier,

As to why it is easier, the most common response was that you can do the exercise or activities as many times as you want. The second most common one was that these activities were very enjoyable to learn from. The students also appreciated the fact that you could do these activities at ones own pace. All these options were cited by more than 50% of the students.

When the students were asked whether other family members also use the laptops, more than eighty percent said yes. Siblings are the ones who use the laptop the most, followed by father and mother. This information is also confirmed with data from household survey where many siblings said that they use the laptop regularly.

One question that might reveal a lot about how the students are using the laptop was about what the students did the most in the laptop. In Bishwamitra, 68% of the grade 6 students (15) said they mostly use the laptop for educational activities while 23% (5) said to take pictures. The number for Bashuki was 32% for laptop activities while 42% was to take pictures.

When the grade 6 students were asked how effectively they are able to use digital activities in the laptop, most of them said they can use it well. 83% in Bishwamitra said that they can use it well while 17% said they can use it somewhat. In Bashuki, the corresponding figures were 75 % and 25 % respectively. No one said they cannot use the digital materials even though it was one of the options given.

Some teachers feel that the introduction of laptop has made managing the classes more difficult. Many teachers feel that the noise level has substantially increased. This has to do with the fact that students have difficulty controlling their excitements. The teachers hope that the noise level will subside once the students get used to using laptops. The teachers also admit that they are, at times, having difficulty managing time because they are not used to integrate laptop use in classrooms.

Class preparation

When teachers were asked “Compared to the effort you had to put in the teaching learning process before receiving the laptops, how much effort do you put in now?”, the overwhelming majority of the teachers feel that they put in more effort now.

Some of the reasons cited by the teachers on why the effort has increased:

  • Making lesson plans
  • Preparing how to incorporate laptop while teaching
  • Selecting which activities matches the subject matter being taught
  • Extra effort to bring down the noise level
  • Preparing for the security and management of the laptop in the classrooms.

Laptop and network issues

Almost all teachers (16 out of 17) find the laptop and its layout easy to use. They think it is very intuitive and also feel that the students should not have much difficulty. Most of the teachers say it takes about 1.5 hours to fully recharge the computer and that the charge lasts for about 3 hours when the computer is in use.

We had also asked the teachers, students and their family members whether they had any problem with different aspects of computer use. The biggest problem more than 50 % of the respondents mentioned was the jumpy cursor. The dust, the humid climate and the student’s sweaty hands as a result of running around might be contributing to the situation. The problem seems to be slightly more acute in Bashuki.

More than one-third of the teachers thought the sound quality needs to be improved. There either is some problem with the sound quality or that some teachers might have difficulty adjusting the sound. Since earphones are not available, difficulties arise for students and teachers when using sound related activities. They largely ask students to listen to the sound from the teacher’s laptop while teaching.

The school, students and their family members in general are carefully protecting the laptop. At home the students keep the laptop away from fire and water. Those who have a closet at home keep the laptop there when not in use. Other students securely keep the laptop in the bag. The family members are aware that the laptop should be stored securely.

Difference between the two test schools

There are reasons to believe that the two schools are different. For example, teachers in Bashuki say that the community members there do not value education as much. The standardized tests taken in the early days of laptop provision also shows that the test scores in Bishwamitra are much higher than that of Bashuki. In addition, the attendance of students in Bishwamitra is more regular than in Bashuki.

There are differences in responses to some of the critical questions in these two schools which could be because of the reasons identified above. So, it is very essential to identify the root causes behind these differences. One could argue that these differences are hinting at the fact that there might be certain enabling conditions that need to be in place to make sure that the program’s objective are fully met. It could also mean that it might take time in some places to fully benefit from the initiative while we could see tangible results in some schools right away. For the pilot study, the OLE Nepal might want to seriously consider whether all the schools in the pilot phase need to be treated similarly or whether some activities, like sensitizing the community about the merits of ICT- in-education, need to be conducted in certain areas beforehand.

Some Suggestions and Recommendations

E-library and internet access

I think OLE Nepal should try to upload all the books that are in the website to student laptops sooner rather than later. This serves at least two purposes. First, students who want to read those books could easily read them. Second, the users (teachers, students and their family members) might offer some suggestions that might help further improve the way e-library is accessed (e.g. layout of the books). Needless to say the parents and teachers are really looking forward to using the e-library.

Without internet access at home, convincing others that one laptop per child is preferred to, say, a well-planned computer laptop in the school might be tougher, especially when the cost difference between these two alternatives can be substantial.

Work load on teachers

Most teachers in both the test schools feel that their workload has increased significantly. This is a serious concern. If this trend continues, it is likely that they will revert, to a large extent, to traditional way of teacher and ignore the materials in the laptop once the initial enthusiasm of laptop fades away. If this happens, the effect of laptops with educational content on student learning might be minimal. Steps to further reduce workload and encourage laptop use in classrooms need to be devised carefully.

Some ways to decrease teacher’s workload include:

  • Better integration of textbook and materials in the laptop.
  • Include ‘sample’ lesson plans for at least those lectures that use activities developed by OLE Nepal which teacher’s can follow if they like.
  • Refresher trainings to the teachers on a regular basis where different ways to use laptops/digital materials and the concerns teachers have are addressed.

It is apparent that teachers don’t have much free time in the two test schools. Most of them have to teach for six periods (out of seven) in Bashuki. The case is not much different in Bishwamitra. Moreover, for the teachers’ at Bashuki, almost all the teachers there have to walk more than 2 hours a day to reach the school. All these factors coupled with extra effort in laptop use might tempt teachers to revert to the style they are most comfortable with.

Chargers

I strongly feel that OLE Nepal should take steps in allowing students to take chargers home so that the laptop can be used longer and that other family members or community members can also benefit. If the charging is only done at school, there is concern that students might not be able to use the laptop adequately at home once more activities are uploaded in the laptop. If OLE Nepal expects students and their family members to use the laptop for materials in the e-library at home, it makes more sense to allow students to take chargers home.

I think the OLE-Nepal should go ahead with the plans about providing 2 chargers per student with laptops, so the students can take one charger home and the other one can be permanently kept at School. This way, the students do not need to worry about carrying charger every day. The chances of losing or misplacing ones chargers are also minimized.

Books by Janak Shikshya Samagri (official books used in classrooms) in the laptop

One concern that was raised by teachers and family members in Biswamitra School was that the load the students carry is huge. It is particularly dangerous during the monsoon season. Many suggested having soft copies of the books used in the school included in the laptops. This would also be one of the immediate and tangible result of the laptop provision. Disruptions in classrooms to late delivery of books, which happened this academic year, would also be minimized.

Allowance and recognition for teachers

Though I consider providing regular compensation for extra work resulting from laptop use as highly impractical, I however think some arrangements should be made to compensate teachers when they attend programs like teacher trainings. In addition, OLE Nepal might also want to provide them some recognition (e.g. letters) that teachers, for example, could use for professions development.

Conclusion

Considering the fact that this is the first time such initiative is being implemented in Nepal, the test phase in the two schools in the outskirts of Kathmandu Valley is running very well. The teachers, family members and the SMC members all see great promise in this initiative to improve student learning. The head teachers in both the schools consider the pilot program as very effective and see great promise in reducing the disparity in educational quality between private and public schools.

Almost all the teachers and parents think that there is positive relationship between laptop provision and student learning. Though it is hard to quantify, most teachers and parents also feel that the students who have been provided laptops have become cleverer. With this student-centered approach, students are interacting with each other more often. It has made students more curious and they are eager to learn new things. It has also helped in developing co-operative spirit as students are willing to help each other learn new technology.

School Network Update

Over the last few of weeks the networking team has been working hard in getting together a concrete plan, to connect the pilot schools. The network had to be both cost effective as well scalable. So, with all the options available it was decided to connect the schools and the relays over Wireless with cheap point to point Wi-Fi radios from the Kathmandu Valley.

First we conducted field visits to the schools and the Dept of Education (DOE) in the valley and the surrounding area to collect GPS data. Which helped us a great deal with the network design and also chart out the various relay points we could use in places where we didn’t have direct line of sight with other network nodes.

We are using Deliberant brand of radios for the point-to-point connection to the Department of Education. The radio have an effective bandwidth 8 Mbps in the 802.11b standard. The radios from the schools are transmitting at an air distance of 4 km to the DOE located in the valley, which is right next to the international airport, so we’d figured we would be having interferences.

DOE relaying to schools

We are using 12 dbi omni-directional antennas from Deliberant Networks, on-site at both schools, powere by a DLB2701 radio. We decided not use the Active Antennas, as they didn’t quite perform upto our expectations. The 250 mw radio is the access point for the XO’s. It costs roughly 150 USD and has a range of 12 km in ideal conditions. We also do not intend to use VSAT for any of Nepal’s pilot schools. Though installation is not terribly expensive but monthly bandwidth charges are prohibitively expensive when compared with the cost of long-range wifi networks, as pioneered by Nepal Wireless Project.

School network

Below is the connectivity diagram between OLE-DOE and the pilot schools. DOE is connected to Ratobangla School in the valley over Canopy radios. And further relays to both schools with a 19dbi Deliberant radio. The radio at DOE is being used as a point to multi-point radio, as it connects to both schools simultaneously. Since both schools do not have a direct line of sight with DOE, we are using relay centres about 100 meters away from the school buildings. OLE is connected to Ratabangla school over a VLAN network installed by Subisu Network, connected at 1/1 Mbps intranet and 256/160 Kbps internet access shared with both schools.

The school servers would be installed on-site at both schools, while we have a proxy and the E-library setup at DOE. We would also be setting a cache server at DOE to save on the bandwidth and plan to monitor usage from OLE across the network while also uploading new educational material as and when ready.

OLE Network

Below are some of the daily notes taken down while setting up the network.

DOE
[15th March 08 Update]
We got an 16dbi Deliberant installed at DOE. Being a hazy day, the hills where the schools were located were pretty much next to not being visible. So getting the angles right was all the more challenging, as this relay needs to be broadcasting to both schools simultaneously. And unlike a Canopy a Deliberant radio can broadcast to different relays within an angle of 60-70 degrees. So let’s hope we’ve got it right, which we’d know once at Bashuki.

[19th March 08 Update]
We installed an 19dbi Deliberant at DOE and removed the 16dbi radio. We’re now connected to the school at 70 dbm Rssi and 0% packet loss, which is just what we needed.

BASUKHI School:
Right on the hill-top there is an army base which is about a 100 yards away from the School. The army base has direct line-of-sight with the Department of Education, in a range of 3-4 km air distance.

We plan to mount a Point-to-Point radio for Bashuki School either at the adjacent Military Post or on a tree situated on a high hilltop. The radio located near Bashuki will connect to a multi-point radio located at the Department of Education, 8 km (by road) east of the school and in direct line of sight.

[25th March 08 Update]

Rabi n Mahabir clamping Cat6

We were back to the school to complete this end of the networking. Which required us to fix a relay from DOE at the Army outpost and get it connected to the school and also setup an omni antenna as an AP for the XOs. After half an hour of diplomatic talk with the Army officer in-charge of the barrack, we were finally allowed to setup it up. Since we could not use power from the barrack. We decided to run a cat5 cable across to the school about 100 mtrs away to power up the radio over POE from the switch at the school. For certain reasons the 16di radio refused to power up, and we had to use the 19dbi radio instead as the relay which gave connectivity at 72 dbm rssi 0% packet loss. That was the highlight of the day, as the omni radio too refused to power up, so we didn’t get to install it.

Seting Radio at the Army camp

Prior to leaving we did install a battery and an UPS with the XS connected to the switch, though it all needs to be thoroughly tested. Maybe in a couple of days, when I get there next to install the omni radio.

BISHWAMITRA School:
The school itself is a bad location for our long range antenna as it is nestled into the hillside. It does not have line-of-sight with the Department of Education. Instead we are using a house located on the hill opposite the school as a Relay site.

The owner of this house has generously agreed to let us mount our network equipment on his house. We will place the Point-to-Point antenna in the topmost window, which has a line-of-sight view with our Multi-point radio at the Department of Education. We will place our omni-directional antenna on the lower part of the roof facing towards the school. This house is roughly 100 meters from the school. We will have to test the signal strength within the classrooms. If it is too weak, we will run a Cat 6 cable down to the school. We also like putting the antenna in the house because the antenna will less likely be stolen.

Relay house at Biswamitra

[16th March 08 Update]
We headed off to Bishwamitra School, this time we were accompanied by Mahabir Pun, Rabi & Sulochan. Mahabir had been approached by a TV company, who needed some shots of him working on site for an ad campaign. So we decided to to club in and take the crew to Jyamirkot as we needed to install a couple of radios there for the school.

It was an hours ride to the base of the hill and a 15 mins trek up with all the equipment. We were welcomed by the school authorities, who got busy right away arranging for electricity for the house where we’d decided to get the radios installed. Believe this house had not been inhabited in quite a while and was completely empty.

We had a jolly good time unpacking and getting the radios fixed up while the film crew was busy shooting us at it and with our brilliant acting skills, the crew needed no retakes! Once they had their shots we got to some serious work.

Mahabir fixing the radio

The 16dbi radio got fixed at the window looking out to the valley below, where DOE is located. Once installed we were able to connect to the other radio at DOE which had just been fixed the previous day. Though it needed a lot of tweaking to improve the signal and at best we got connectivity at 84 dbm rssi with 10% packet loss. So we decided that the radio at DOE needed a bit more tweaking or we might have to be change it to a 19dbi Deliberant radio. As Kathmandu International Airport happens to be right next to DOE, we’re assuming it might be causing a lot of interference and hence the packet loss.

Rabi n Sulo fixin omni

Rabi and Sulo got the Omni antenna fixed by the side of house facing the school. This 12dbi antenna is attached to a DLB2701 access point, which is a 250 mw radio. Sulo had taken a XO with him to test the AP range and was satisfied with the signal around the school and the village. If required we would also enhance the signal by adding a reflector to the omni facing the school to make it work as a sectoral antenna.

With the omni working out to our expectations, we’re glad that we didn’t have to use the CAT6 cables that we had taken along with us. As it would have been a herculean task having to connect it all the way to the school from the relay.