HP has won a $US100 million deal to provide and manage the infrastructure for an electronic learning project for the Northern Ireland's Department of Education.
The Classroom 2000 project (C2K) will give email addresses to 350,000 children and teachers in Northern Ireland's 1200 schools, and access to digital resources including virtual classrooms and online libraries of curriculum content, HP said.
The initial contract covered the establishment of a data center in Belfast, housing the computers for the centralised system, plus teams of educational specialists and HP staff, Clifford Harris, HP's account manager for the deal, said.
"This is a very different approach by government in that they're centralizing the service received by schools," Harris said. "There's a lot of technology out in schools and this is trying to join them up and deliver the same data to everyone."
HP has previously been worked with the province's Department of Education in networking the PCs within each school, Harris said, and there is one desktop available for each four or five pupils. Each teacher also has an HP laptop, he said.
C2K should be running in schools within six months, Harris said.
Teachers and pupils would be able to exchange email and text messages, and talk via video conference, HP said. This would be particularly useful for pupils who were unable to attend school because of illness or severe weather, so long as they had a computer at home.
Pupils would also be able to work on joint projects across schools and education authorities, the company said.
A collaboration tool would let teachers upload and share any lesson plans that they developed, and take elements of other lessons for their own teaching, Harris said.
C2K was a 10-year initiative and one of the largest installations of Microsoft Exchange ever implemented, HP said.
The Department of Education and other providers such as Granada and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) would be responsible for the content itself, Harris said.
HP expected the project to be worth $US300 million over the next five years. This would come from developments to the system, such as life-long learning offerings for adults in Northern Ireland, Harris said.