Userful, a Canadian-based computer company, can perform a magic trick. It can turn one computer into ten. This sleight-of-hand has brought computers to more than 300,000 schools in 100 countries around the world, where computer access was previously impossible due to price and a lack of skilled personnel to maintain the systems. Userful’s multiple-seat application is not only affordable, it doesn’t require a large IT staff to maintain. And the green icing on top of the cake (affordability) and its filling (simplicity)? Userful’s solution is also environmentally friendly, reducing carbon output and electronic waste, and cutting energy costs for machine power and cooling.
At $59 per seat, Userful’s solution presents an attractive option for schools on a budget. Installing one computer and attaching nine monitors and keyboards to it reduces the number of systems to install and maintain, takes less power to run, and results in fewer systems to replace and recycle.
In April 2010, Userful launched a global giveaway to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Userful will give 10 Userful Multiple licenses to the first school in every country of the world to contact them and claim them. Bev Gallagher, VP Strategic Partners at Userful explained, “Our customers in education have made it clear that to achieve higher computer access to student ratios in the classroom, schools need more affordable computing solutions that are easy to manage and use. Through our Green Your School giveaway, schools will be able to deploy extremely low-cost computers that are just that – easy to manage and use, with the added benefit of lowering their environmental footprint at the same time.”
To date, Userful applications are being used in 28,000 schools in South Africa with over 12 million students. The biggest challenge wasn’t the familiar limited school budgets, but the issues of outdated wiring, high incidence of theft, and absence of technical staff. The latest version, Userful MultiSeat Linux 2010, isn’t officially available yet, but it’s in high demand in Asia and Latin America already.
In 2009, Userful’s customers reported saving more than 200,000 tons of CO2 emissions, which is the same as taking 35,000 cars off the road or planting 50,000 acres of trees. Userful claims that “replacing 1% of the world’s PCs to Userful Desktop is equal to taking 26 million cars off the road.”
Developing countries have certainly reaped major benefits from Userful’s solution. Children who may never have had access to a computer can now be connected to the rest of the world. Even small villages in Brazil with infrastructure challenges have managed to take advantage of Userful’s group computers.
Userful has made a tremendous impact in developing countries, but what about here in the U.S., where our education system is woefully underfunded and in need of inexpensive technology? It doesn’t seem like the U.S. education system has wholeheartedly embraced Userful, yet, but surely some school systems have implemented it. With school budgets shrinking at an alarming rate, it’s solutions like these that will help our children keep learning, while saving schools money, reducing carbon output and conserving energy.