Brazil's government undertakes its biggest education sector investment

The adoption of open source software for the education sector by the Brazilian government might have seemed like a great milestone but budget crunches have slowed down the implementation of the project in many institutions.   The Brazilian government selected Userful, Positivo and ThinNetworks to supply about 324,000 virtualized desktops in each of the country’s municipalities. That made this educational sector investment by the government the single biggest use of virtualized desktops in the world and the largest single use of Linux desktops as well globally in a massive investment.


The Userful Multiplier, an important part of the software for this investment, works by turning a single workstation into a multi-head machine, though there are certain hardware requirements that are mandatory for its efficient working with about two to ten seats being able to be supported by one desktop.   


From the announcement of this massive investment back in April, the Brazilian government hoped to save about $47 million in upfront costs that would come with this switch, and courtesy of the 1 to ten model, the government would spare about $9 million in energy costs yearly.


Userful announced that the cost of the deployment works went down $50 per seat, marking a significant amount of savings when compared to the amount of money put into the investment itself. The project, under the auspices of the education ministry is expected to bring about meaningful IT training and capacity development for Brazilian schools.


This investment makes Brazil a case study for a large scale software use in the education sector despite the costs. The size of the country’s deployment brought down the deployment costs and increased the savings but it remains to be seen how the project will fair over time. It is a huge leap of faith for the Brazilian education ministry that is expected to give an amazing “return on investment” despite the investor fears that such had never been done before.


On the average though, the project has been a success, at least in the short term in terms of costs and savings. However, the real results might not be possible until the graduation of the beneficiaries of this new educational investment. The government has set a trend for investors in the sector through an example of open source software use with private investors expected to learn from its investment. The investment offers a great gain for Brazilian Schools with the adoption of ICT based training facilities in schools in projects such as the UNICEF’s projects in the country.


May 26, 2010.