SPARKS:2001 V1/Q1

Global School District and the Philippines

by Andres Tellez, Global School District Computer Consultant

In September of 1999, I approached Dr. Rines with an idea about using my Master's degree in Computer Science to directly improve the lives of others by setting up the Internet in the Philippines. I had just returned from a trip there, to see the place where my mother was born, and I felt moved to do something to improve the conditions and help the people. Dr. Rines encouraged me, and as the teaching assistant for his MIT class on patents and inventions, I was able to meet his associates, including Ms. Keum Park of Hale & Dorr, LLP. We told her about the project, and she agreed to donate over 100 used Sparc (computer) workstations manufactured by Sun Microsystems.

Working with the Academy's Dave Brown, we configured the machines to work with the limited telecommunications resources for Internet access available in the Philippines. Together with Eliza Duerme of Cisco Systems and Beatrice Duran of STAC, I identified two schools in the Philippines to take part in the project. Dr. Rines encouraged me to include a distance learning program as part of the exchange, as opposed to merely setting up the computers and then walking away. In June of 2000, we shipped the machines to the Philippines, and in August of 2000, together with Jane Lacasse and Dave Brown, we set up the computers and implemented the distance learning system in Manila and in Catbalogan, a city of 60,000 located on the island of Samar, east of Manila.

By Dave Brown, AAS Information Technology Director

On December 11, 2000, Andres Tellez realized his goal when students in Dr. Rines' MIT class video conferenced with 45 students at the University of the Philippines and Diliman. The lecture was given by Dr. Rines and several MIT students, complete with two-way video conferencing over the Internet in real time.

The Philippine students, some thirteen time zones ahead of us at MIT, were able to pose questions to the MIT presenters making it truly "interactive." This feat was accomplished by the use of web cams connected to notebook computers at MIT and a web cam provided by the Academy to the University of the Philippines.

The computers were lent to us by Ralph Rodriquez of C-Bridge, also a student of Dr. Rines. Mr. Rodriquez is Vice President and CIO of C-Bridge (c-bridge.com), a technology outsourcing company located in Cambridge, Mass. Use of the Internet to transmit the video between locations allowed us to communicate without additional charge.

In order to make the video conference possible, Roel Ocampo (Director of Information Technologies at the University of the Philippines), ran four kilometers of copper wire (2.6 miles) from the University to a local Internet Service Provider. As the University owned only one IP address (a rough equivalent to a telephone number on the Internet), he effectively shut down the campus network of 50,000 students in order for this lecture to take place. In contrast, MIT has sixteen million IP addresses.

The next lecture will occur in January 2001 and Dr. Rines has proposed that the Philippine students should lecture to those at MIT. In addition, the students will be able to begin communicating between lectures using the Global School District technologies currently
under development.

Copyright 2002 Academy of Applied Science