Charity and Leading IT Vendors

Victor Sotnichenko, “Computer for Student” Project Director / Volnoe Delo Foundation

The first company we started to cooperate with was a non-commercial structure OLPC from Boston. They were the ones who originated the idea of using cheap laptops in the educational process. Thanks to the OLPC team we learned a lot and became skilled in the matter of how to apply this idea practically in our project.

Meanwhile, the wide scope of the project and its specification meant that partnerships with the largest, world famous IT companies were necessary. That is why, while getting ready to start the project we worked through different options of project implementation. As a result, the main partners were selected — the leaders of IT industry, INTEL and Microsoft.

There were many reasons for this choice. One of them was the need to solve various technical problems that would arise in the course of the project realization. Problems like users’ technical support, warranty service, acquaintance with operating system, etc. These IT vendors are well represented in Russia and they were able to allocate their own recourses in order to render support to the project. They granted unprecedented terms: Microsoft offered the possibility to buy software for $3 (including Windows XP and Office XP); INTEL donated 2000 laptops for the pilot project and then followed this up with a donation of more than 700 laptops. In addition to the donation, INTEL also assisted in teacher training. Both INTEL and Microsoft do continuous research of the project efficiency on their own account, support teachers and students, promote regional and interregional teachers conferences.

I believe that Russian and foreign IT companies will pay more attention to educational charity projects in the future. We can say this for two reasons. First of all: Businesses are becoming more socially responsible than ever. And secondly: education has a practical output — investment in education is seen as social investment in the future. Future personnel that will be able come to the enterprise and build competitive economics. In this respect education is the key trend of the “Volnoe Delo” foundation.

Modern education needs innovative methods and infrastructure, and IT infrastructure as well. So, we consider our project to be a successful complement to the National project on Education. Due to the National project every school has access to the Internet and now, thanks to our project, primary school students of more than 200 schools have personal laptops.

I am sure that further development of the project and the partnerships with leading IT companies will have impact on the Russian IT market.

Firstly, more teachers and students are competent users. So, schools need more computer equipment and software. Even now we have noticed that parents buy computers for their children to use at home more often, because children at school work with laptops. Schools have started to pay attention to the IT infrastructure; they allocate a network and buy computer equipment.

In addition to this, the project stimulates the design and development of educational software for teaching. When we started our project in 2007, we faced the problem of primary school educational software absence. But now the situation has changed greatly to the better. Various companies appear, willing to offer content products. Our project has become a kind of accelerator of this process. Schools and parents demand content products, not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but in other Russia cities and towns as well.