December 2013        

Venezuelan students to receive laptop computers and free wifi

The Ministry of University Education in Venezuela made a number of announcements this week, including the provision of more than 200,000 new books to be used in modernising four hundred university and college libraries around the country.
      The books, which have been imported by the government, form part of a project by the ministry to update the libraries to include digital books, subscriptions to journals, and a central data-base.
      The minister, Pedro Calzadilla, explained that by centrally co-ordinating such schemes, private, public and autonomous universities can all benefit. “By doing this centrally we can get better prices and evade the issue of price speculation in books.”
      Speaking at the launch of the yearly University Book Fair in Caracas, the minister emphasised the importance of literature to the technological, educational and intellectual development of the country. “The universities are one of the best spaces for the expression of knowledge, and a good part of this knowledge goes through books. These study houses are potential editing houses too, and often their productions are not well known.”
      The minister also commented on the progress being made in the Canaima Educativo scheme, launched by President Maduro in recent months. This is a hugely successful scheme for supplying laptop computers running Venezuela’s Canaima version of the GNU/Linux operating system, given free to school-age children in the public educational system. The scheme will “develop a plan of production and handing over of laptop computers to university students,” Calzadilla explained. Under this plan the government will begin purchasing and handing over more than 2½ million laptop computers to university students.
      Similar advances are being made in the project to create free wifi zones in all university colleges in the country by the end of the year. So far three have been set up, including the Bolivarian University in Caracas, but soon the scheme will be widened to other universities. “We are in the phase of technological feasibility and the elaboration of the itinerary,” Calzadilla explained.
      The minister of science, technology and innovation, Manuel Fernández, who is working alongside the Ministry of University Education and the Ministry of Industry in this project, explained that it will be of benefit not only to the students but to all involved in universities. The objective is that “each student, worker or professor can access the internet from their mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or whatever technological tool they use.”
      The minister of university education also announced that he has called a meeting of the higher education ministers of the Mercosur countries, to be held in Caracas this week. The government of Nicolás Maduro has held several such topic-specific meetings in recent weeks with Mercosur countries, including the ministries of equality and police forces, part of a policy by Maduro that seeks to strengthen the potential of Latin American trade and exchange.

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