Sun Microsystems SA has donated a dual processor Sun LX50 server to the Uconnect Schools Project in Uganda. Uconnect is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) focused on bridging the digital divide in this eastern African country by providing the necessary hardware and software to access the Internet, and training teachers, students and managers in the use of modern communications technologies."The object of Uconnect project is the advancement of public education in Uganda, using Information and Computer Technology (ICT), and to improve the quality and efficiency of communications," explains Daniel Stern of Uconnect. "The LX50 which will act as a Proxy and Mail server for the Project," says Paul Mostert, account manager at Sun Microsystems SA. "It will help Uconnect to get Ugandan students connected to the Internet and give them a mail address that they can use to exchange mails with other students and teachers in the project, and also around the world," he adds.

Stern says one of Uconnect’s local partners, One2Net, provides technical support for the Project and built the mail server. "This allowed us, at the annual AITEC computer exhibition in April, to make an offer of free domain hosting and 10Mb of webmail for every school in Uganda," says Stern.

Officials from Uganda’s ministry of education are distributing database questionnaires to schools from which Uconnect can generate domain names and user accounts on the Sun server.

"The idea is that even schools without electricity will be given domain names and webmail addresses, so that teachers and students can send and receive mail at the nearest large town where there is a cybercafe," says Stern.

Added to this, Stern says head teachers - almost all of whom have mobile phones - can receive an automated SMS for important email announcements.

"One2Net is also using SunRay thin client and smart card technology to demonstrate how these can be used to streamline local government communications with ministry headquarters," says Stern.

According to Mostert, Sun chose to support Uconnect, because the NGO is working at uplifting the level of education in Uganda so students can become more viable job seekers in the future.

"We also recognised the potential success of this project as MTN Uganda is to provide and distribute bandwidth on the network, solving the connectivity problems suffered by similar initiatives," says Mostert. He notes too that Uconnect has previously attracted the attention of Sun Microsystems’ Chief Scientist, John Gage, who donated two Netra servers to the organisation in 1998.