Hewlett-Packard and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) have together set up a state-of-the art computer centre at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.

The 60-seat computer centre will provide engineering students at one of Nigeria’s leading universities with modern computers and better access to the Internet. This will change the way they study and provide them with countless new educational opportunities to prepare them for the demands of the 21st century. Until recently these students were required to work with antiquated equipment and learn mostly through text-books.

HP donated computers, peripherals and a diesel power generator and will also be covering the cost of the first year of Internet access. IEEE will pay the two year salary of the centre’s coordinator and Internet access for another two years. It also donated a three-year subscription to the IEEE/IEE electronic library of technical articles.

The computers that HP has provided are based on a multi-user desktop solution, which has been specifically designed for developing economies. Each of the 15 desktop PCs can be connected to four monitors and keyboards, allowing 60 students to work at once and independently browse the Internet, send e-mail, or use educational software. The students will have more than 70 programmes to work with including office applications such as word processing.

The estimated $175,000 required to fund the equipment and services comes from grants provided by HP’s Education and Philanthropy division, the IEEE Foundation and IEEE Spectrum.

“The grants and equipment provided really open up a host of possibilities,” said Jean-Paul Clemente, Education Programmes Director, Emerging Markets (EMEA). “With the tools there, these students will finally have access to the material they need to successfully complete their studies and receive high quality engineering qualifications.”

Students and faculty members will manage the computer centre during the day and in the evenings it will be open to the community as a cyber café so that the general public will also have access to its services including email, Voice Over IP (VoIP) phone calls and basic computer classes. This formula should help generate enough money for the centre to become self-sufficient in the following three years.

“There is a telecommunication revolution happening in Africa and the new generation of university graduates will contribute greatly to many of these changes,” said Harry Goldstein, Associate Editor, IEEE Spectrum. “The University of Ibadan can now become a beacon for technology and higher learning that can be replicated throughout other academic communities across the region.”