Steve Felice interview: Dell


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As one of the largest IT events in the world, GITEX Technology Week attracts over 130,000 visitors. Around 1,000 product launches were expected and everyone from Dubai’s Crown Prince to hip-hop star 50 Cent flocked to the industry gathering at Dubai World Trade Centre.

Among the 3,500 exhibitors from 54 countries, one guest mingled among the IT fans and viewed the latest gadgets and innovations on display: HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The ruler’s attendance was no great surprise, especially given his recent launch of the Mohammed bin Rashid Initiative for Smart Learning, which is aiming to bring the latest technology to the education spectrum.

As part of the scheme, the UAE’s seventeen Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), the country’s largest higher education institution, struck a deal with a local Apple supplier. The move will see UAE campuses removing paper and pens from its classrooms and is set to become the first in the region to roll out iPad-only lessons.

Arabian Business has learnt that returning students will be required to spend around AED2,500 ($680) to buy the new tablets and teachers have already been given training in how to use the devices.

One staff member told Arabian Business there was “a lot of uncertainty from the teachers on how it's going to work” but he is not the only pessimistic observer to voice concerns about the scheme, with one high profile critic coming from within the Gitex family itself: US PC manufacturer Dell.

“I don’t know how that’s going to work,” Steve Felice, Dell’s president and chief operations officer, says in Dubai as he relaxes during a whirlwind trip to the emirate to meet clients and suppliers.

“I have a daughter in university in the US and she says ‘I don’t know what I would do with a tablet’. I am surprised about that in a university setting. It will not replace a notebook. You’re going to want something that is a lot more productive,” he believes.

In fact, Felice’s team are convinced that “the desktop in education is not dead” and reports that the manufacturer has just sold 50,000 units to the ministry of education in Iraq. “That will be the first generation of children since the war and they have access to the desktop because it is secure,” the Dell team claims.

“In a number of environments [the PC] is the platform of choice,” says Felice. “We have been involved in a lot of projects with governments on education. It is a fact that just putting technology in the hands of students isn’t sufficient. Consideration of the curriculum and training [is also important].

“We found many teachers were not comfortable with the technology and the students felt they knew more than the teacher and that is something that is going to have to evolve. You are not going to get greater education just because you can access the internet.”

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