Why did the state pay double for computers? questions MP

By Emma Victoria

THE MP for Bandar Kuching said the state government’s purchase of 10,100 Raspberry Pi packages for 1,265 primary schools in Sarawak cost much more than what is being sold in the market.

Dr Kelvin Yii said according to Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Amar Michael Manyin Jawong – the Raspberry Pi, which costs RM 1,191 each, including a 19.5-inch Monitor, keyboard, mouse and preloaded software was actually inflated

“The current market price for a Pi4 4GB is RM220, a secure digital (SD) card about RM15, a 19.5-monitor at around RM250 and a keyboard and mouse which are priced at around RM100 depending on specs.

So, a full set of Raspberry Pi is estimated to cost about RM600, which is almost half or 50% of the price quoted by the state government,” he said in a statement.

“Besides, the state government is buying in bulk, the prices should be more competitive. That is why it is important to know if the sourcing and procurement of such computers were done by open tender or not, in order to obtain a more competitive price,” he said.

He said based on the current market, the state government can purchase a 64-bit PC which runs on Windows 10 on Celeron N4100 for around RM800.

“When this is purchased in bulk, we may even get a cheaper price than that.

Furthermore, a majority of teachers and students are more familiar with such operating systems and there is no need for initial training which may be an extra hurdle for its implementation.

The hardware is more future proof as it can be upgraded with Graphic Processor Units (GPUS) and Solid State Hardrive (SSD) if we need to run more intensive courses such as 3D Modelling, Graphic Designs and so on, he said.

The installation of software such as Windows 10 Education is not as expensive as claimed by Manyin and the state government can actually write to Microsoft to apply for a free license which is provided for public schools.

Yii said with a normal computer or laptop, the government can save cost on the extra training to familiarise teachers with Raspberry Pi.

He said Manyin should set up a dialogue with different stakeholders especially teachers who were on the ground and teaching STEM subjects in rural areas.

“Some have tried deploying Raspberry Pi in their schools including those in the rural areas and many have given feedback that it is not practical. All these questions are important and while I commend the Minister’s initial transparency, I hope they provide further clarification on this.

“This not only involves public money, but more importantly the education of our children, and thus a proper decision must be made taking into account the local context, feedbacks from stakeholders and suitability of it in providing a holistic learning environment for our children,” he said.

“If the teachers do not understand or know how to fully utilise it, the students are the ones that get short-changed. This is not only an extra technical hurdle, but also logistical hurdle, especially to provide training, maintenance and follow-up especially in the rural areas,” he said.