Free tablets stir controversy; some choose to depreciate gift

By Alexis R. Milan
Staff Reporter

The Ministry of Education, this week, commenced distribution of tablets for all tertiary level students as promised by Prime Minister, Dean Barrow in his New Year’s address.

It created a buzz on social media after it was reported that some students were selling their new gifts.
Minister of Education, Patrick Faber dismissed the reports of students selling their tablets on-line as political mischief after seeing for himself that at least one student in particular had posted one of the Asus tablets for sale or trade in the equivalent value on the Belize Buy and Sell page on Facebook.

“The post is clearly by some hater who wants to try to diminish the wonderful success of the government’s initiative,” Faber wrote on his Facebook wall.
There were reports on Facebook that some students were selling their tablets for a fraction of its value, and in one report for as low as $15.

Still, Faber said he had only seen the one post, which led him to conclude that the reports were simply not true.
The first set of 500 Asus Memo Pad 7 tablets were handed out at the University of Belize gymnasium on Tuesday. There was a packed gym and a long line of students waiting to receive their tablets.
“It’s not only that we wish for you to use it as a tool for your education advance. It is especially to be used to bridge the digital divide to make sure that those of you who are still outside the loop, in terms of the use of the technology, now have access,” Faber said as he addressed the students.

The Asus Memo Pad 7 tablet runs on the Android platform with a seven inch touch screen display and rear and front cameras.
Financial Secre-tary, Joseph Waight confirmed to The Reporter that 9,000 units were purchased at a total cost of US $826,000.
The decision to purchase 9,000 units was based on an estimate provided by the Ministry of Education after calculating the number of tertiary level students.

Waight said Belize got a great deal on the tablets paying around US $90 per unit. The deal was facilitated by Ambassador for the People’s Republic of China on Taiwan, Benjamin Ho who made the introduction between Belize and the Taiwanese-based supplier, Asus.
Faber also dismissed the notion that the distribution of the tablets one week before municipal elections was some sort of political grandstanding.

“We promised you a tablet, and there are some who say that it’s election time, so this is electioneering and gimmicks. But imagine if the Prime Minister had promised you the tablet and election came and you didn’t get it. Then you would have said that the Prime Minister lied,” Faber said.

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