Potential suppliers are set a challenge in responding to the NSW Department of Education and Training EOI for a “compact learning device” for schools. Tender documents published last week call for the supply of almost 200,000 portable (wireless) computers over four years, and wireless connectivity for all NSW schools.
The challenge is that the tender specifies the unit cost should be no more than $500. Education Minister Verity Firth has hinted the Government is hoping for an even lower price, around $400.
It’s also specified the laptops must weigh less than 1.75kg with battery, be no bigger than an A4 sheet of paper and include an 8.9 to 12 inch screen with built-in webcam. A disk drive is optional but the battery must be able to run for six hours of the school day under normal use.
The target price seems to limit the choice to netbooks, and with such a low price expected, there has been much speculation about which operating systems might be offered. No operating system has been specified, but it’s been suggested the Government will be open to open source offers. It’s understood the NSW Government’s submission for additional funds from the Federal Government included an alternative costing model based on open source software.
An EOI has also been released for wireless network to connect the netbooks. It is to be rolled out to 571 schools, commencing on 1 April 2009 and completed by 1 February 2010. According to the Minister, the aim is to have at least half the classrooms equipped connected by mid-July 2009, before the rollout of the netbooks.
Vendors are encouraged to consider both tenders in preparing their responses, “even when they intend to offer a solution of only one part”•. They are encouraged to form consortiums to offer "combined, cost-effective solutions".
In total, the NSW Government is expecting to pay around $1,000 for each of its 197,000 computers. This includes the cost of the laptop wireless networking, installation, training support and other costs.
The closing date for expressions of interest for both contracts is January 14. A tender briefing will be held on December 10. Prospective tenderers will need to pre-register and conditions apply.