Mexico: “Harvard Declares Redmond’s Enciclomedia Useless”


Microsoft “digital divide” project queried by congressional subcommittee: the gizmo has tended to fall off the back of the truck a lot, one reads, if you get my drift.

Comisión legislativa revela irregularidades en Enciclomedia; entrega informe a la SEP: The front page headline in La Jornada is “Enciclomedia is useless and excessively costly, Congress tells the Secretary of Education.”

The inside-page headline: “Congressional commission finds irregularities in Enciclomedia; hands over report to Secretary of Education.”

Harvard determinó que no hay evidencia de que el programa cause impacto en el aprendizaje

Harvard has determined that there is no evidence that the program has an impact on learning.

On June 5, 2007, The Guardian reported (“Mexican Digital Wave“):

A US academic who headed an external evaluation by the Harvard graduate school of education calls it “very positive”. An article in the Guardian in January gushed that it was “probably the world’s bravest, most imaginative and ambitious implementation of education technology”.

What was the name of that U.S. academic?

La mayor parte de los recursos se ha destinado a actividades administrativas no prioritarias

Most of the funds have been destined for non-priority administrative activities.

Bylined to Enrique Méndez and Roberto Garduño

La Comisión de Educación de la Cámara de Diputados, mediante la subcomisión especial que investiga a Enciclomedia, envió un informe a la secretaria de Educación Pública, Josefina Vázquez Mota, donde se revela que la Universidad Harvard determinó que “no existe evidencia empírica contundente que demuestre que el uso del programa en las aulas impacte en el aprendizaje”.

The Education Committee in the lower house of the federal congress, through the special commission investigating Enciclomedia, has sent a report to the secretary of Public Education, Josefina Vázquez Mota, in which it reveals that Harvard University determined that “there is no convincing empirical evidence to show that the use of this program in classrooms has an impact on learning.”

See also

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The volume of oily “rhetoric of the technological sublime” with which this program has been anointed is really astonishing. Some of the most egregious examples:

I wonder if a copy of that report is available? Did “Harvard” really say that? Who at Harvard? There are various interpretations of veritas, some of them awfully peculiar, to be found around the Yard these days, one notes.

En el documento que los diputados entregaron a la funcionaria se informa que hasta ahora se han invertido 9 mil 412 millones de pesos en Enciclomedia –que fue el programa estelar de Vicente Fox y Marta Sahagún–, sin que existan indicadores para medir la eficacia y el grado de avance del mismo.

In the document lawmakers dispatched to the secretary, it is reported that to date 9.41 billion pesos ($864 million) has been spent on the Enciclomedia program — the pet project of Fox and his wife, Marta Sahagún — without any indicators by which to measure the efficacy and the progress of the project.

En 10 cuartillas se recuerda que en 2005 el Congreso de la Unión autorizó recursos por 2 mil 105 millones de pesos, destinados a aplicar el programa, de los cuales el gobierno de Fox ejerció únicamente 478 millones y el resto –mil 627 millones– se destinaron a cubrir necesidades de actividades administrativas no prioritarias.

In 10 pages, the commission recalls that in 2005 the federal congress authorized funding of 2.1 billion pesos destined for program implementation, of which the Fox government used only 478 million, the rest — 1.63 billion pesos — being used to cover non-essential administrative activities.

Destacan programas de inversión, pago del consumo de energía eléctrica, seguros de bienes patrimoniales, asesorías, reorientación de recursos para cubrir la presión de gasto de apoyo a entidades federativas, al Comité Administrador del Programa Federal de Construcción de Escuelas, con objeto de terminar la biblioteca José Vasconcelos.

Among these they underscore investment programs, payment of electricity bills, insurance, consulting, and the repurposing of resources in response to pressures on the federal school construction authority to cover the support costs of federal agencies in order to complete the José Vasconcelos Library project.

So that Bill Gates could pose for a philanthropic photo op therein.

See

Los legisladores concluyeron que con esos recursos se debió instalar el programa en 18 mil 464 aulas, pero por el desvío del dinero a esas partidas sólo se entregaron 7 mil 287 aulas, y sobre las 11 mil 177 restantes “no se entregó documento alguno que pruebe la existencia de las mismas”.

The lawmakers concluded that these resources ought to have been used to install the program in 18,464 classrooms, but with the misappropriation of the funds for these other purposes only delivered it to 7,287 classrooms. Regarding the other 11,177 classrooms, “not one single document has been submitted to prove that they even exist.”

En ese sentido, exhortaron a la Secretaría de Educación Pública a investigar “presuntas irregularidades en la compra de más de 50 mil tutoriales a sobreprecio, que favorecieron a la marca Fase Software”.

In this same vein, they urge the Secretary of Education to investigate “presumed” irregularities in the purchase of more than 50,000 tutorials at an inflated price that benefited Fase Software.

El costo promedio de tutoriales de Fase Software en el mercado es aproximadamente de 200 dólares cada uno, lo que resulta superior a los precios de productos de marcas de prestigio como Microsoft y e-Learning, “lo cual de verificarse habría generado un daño patrimonial al erario por un monto aproximado de 11 millones de dólares”.

The average cost of Fase Software tutorials on the open market is approximately $200 a copy, a price higher than such brand-name products as Microsoft and E-Learning, “which, if verified, would represent an unjustified cost to the public treasury of some $11 million.”

A Enciclomedia, en total, se le han asignado 9 mil 412 millones de pesos, en los ejercicios fiscales 2005 (2 mil 105 millones), 2006 (3 mil 754 millones) y 2007 (3 mil 553 millones), y los resultados de la fiscalización que emprendió la Auditoría Superior de la Federación (ASF) manifiestan lo siguiente: “Inexistencia de indicadores para medir eficiencia, eficacia y el grado de avance de los objetivos generales y específicos del programa, así como lineamientos normativos para su operación; deficiente desempeño de la operación en Chihuahua y Sonora, y carencia de procedimientos para la recuperación del equipo informático extraviado”.

… Results of an audit by the federal audit agency, the ASF, state as follows: “The lack of any indication of efficacy, efficiency, or progress toward the general and specific goals of the program, or any practical guidelines for its operation; substandard performance from operations in Chihuahua and Sonora, and lack of procedures for the recover of IT equipment that was misappropriated.”

On which last see also

La ASF refiere que los derechos de autor del programa Enciclomedia pertenecen “a un particular” y no al gobierno mexicano que pagó por ellos. “Se presume que las autoridades educativas de la anterior administración no aseguraron las mejores condiciones disponibles para el Estado, en cuanto a costo y capacidad de distribución masiva del software, violándose el artículo 134 de la Constitución y el 17 y 27 de la Ley de Adquisiciones”, expresa el informe.

The ASF also notes that the intellectual property rights of the Enciclomedia program belong to “a private party” and not to the Mexican government, which paid for them. “It is to be presumed that education officials in the previous administration did not work to secure the most favorable conditions for the State, in terms of the cost of and capability for mass software distribution, violating Article 134 of the Constitution and Articles 17 and 27 of the Federal Procurement Law,” the report says.

Consultado al respecto, el diputado priísta Gerardo Sosa Castelán refirió que Vázquez Mota se comprometió a entregar a la Comisión de Educación las observaciones de la dependencia sobre el proyecto.

Consulted on the subject, PRI deputy Sosa said that Vázquez has promised to deliver the commissions observations on the project to the Education Commission.

Refirió que la Cámara no aprobó recursos adicionales a Enciclomedia porque el gobierno federal no ha justificado la inversión de mil 500 millones de pesos. Además, indicó, se presume tráfico de influencias en la asignación de contratos del ex secretario Educación Pública, Reyes Tamez Guerra, del ex secretario de la Presidencia, Ramón Muñoz, y de Marta Sahagún.

He said that the House has not approved additional funding for the project because the federal government has not justified the additional investment of 1.5 billion pesos. Further, he indicated, influence peddling is suspected in the signing of contracts, on the part of former Education Secretary Tamez Guerra, the former secretary of the Presidency, Muñoz, and by Mrs. Vincente Fox.

Enthusiasm is not enough to quell doubts (the Guardian again):

But for all the enthusiasm, Enciclomedia’s future is now in doubt. The congress has slashed in half the budget of 7,100 million pesos (£330m) the government had requested to fund it for 2007. This has forced the education minister to cancel contracts to install the equipment in about 40,000 secondary school classrooms.

And the contractors are suing for billions of pesos, yes.

Was this the best option available?

“We don’t want to send a signal that we are not in favour of putting new technology in schools,” says Tonatiuh Bravo, president of the congressional education commission. “But we need to analyse the costs and the benefits, and to assess whether it is the best project available.”

Which is something one normally does before signing contracts involving the expenditure of public billions.

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