Macedonia announces bold plan for PC access, training

Impoverished Macedonia currently only has one computer for every 56 students but under a four-stage plan with international funding, one day every kid will have access to a computer and a lucky few will receive scholarships for IT educations.

The government of Macedonia has recently announced a massive four-prong approach to beefing up computer literacy, reports MPT Online.

The Macedonian government intends all primary and secondary students to have a computer within the next two years. Through a program of computer purchasing, training, Internet access and scholarships to those students who specialize in Internet technology, the government hopes to build its IT literacy and competitiveness.

"From the beginning of the next school year each child in the school will have a computer. The purchase will be performed in two stages, with public bidding. Each citizen will have the opportunity to purchase computers for 100 US dollars, or to pay for it on 12 installments," said Zoran Stavrevski, vice prime minister, at the promotion of the new projects for ICT development held on December 10, 2006.

Although the exact number of computers that would need to be purchased is not yet known, the initial phase of the program would be 150,000 at at cost of about 9 million euros for 2007. The total amount just for the first project is expected to reach 20 to 22 million euros.

"In the first half of 2007 we will announce international tender for purchasing half of the computers. We have not yet defined the final number of computers, but we know that we need from 150,000 to 180,000 computers. We have contacted with the UNDP office. ... We have contacted with producers to find out who can produce that number of computers for a favourable price," said Stavrevski.

The next two phases of the program will offer every citizen the opportunity for free basic computer training and free Internet access. These are expected to be implemented in Spring 2007 and 2008, respectively.

The fourth phase is for the government to give full scholarships to 5,000 students who are interested in majoring in information technology at some of the faculties in Macedonia.

"Equipping will be simultaneous, both in the urban and rural areas. Currently, there are about 5.000 computers in the schools that were donated by the People's Republic of China," said Jovan Lazarov, deputy minister of education.

Macedonia currently has about 1 computer for every 56 children.