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NEC pleads guilty to defrauding poor schools in E-Rate program

One of my interests lately is in the intersection of technology and
education (if you haven’t noticed from some of my blog posts). Catching
this story on NEC pleading guilty to defrauding a set of poor schools
in the San Francisco area of making them buy way more technological
equipment than they needed is just awful. The concept behind the
E-Rate program that is mentioned in the article is a really great concept.
The general idea is to take a portion of taxes from the local districts and
funnel this money into poorer schools to buy computers and other technological
tools to help enable education.

However, it seems greed got in the way of the middle men and they ended
up recommended some of these poorer schools pay an order of magnitude more
money (add an extra zero) to buy equipment they had no need for. I
think this sucks, since the basic concept is a good idea however when
corruption like this involved, I can understand why people will start
voting down similar initiatives in other areas.
One solution that could help is a liason between
the vendors and the schools that can explain in plain English what would be
necessary for the school district and what isn’t. One major problem
is most techies want a high pay rate to give these suggestions. Ever
take a look at the average pay of a technology director or senior level
design weenie? I’m sure there are many who want to help but finding them
that is on acceptable terms to both the poor schools and to the technological
consultant is probably not as easy as it seems. And here’s another kicker…
you want someone competent in the field to guide you but you know nothing
on the field but you know you need it for work. How do you know you can
trust what they’re saying when whatever they say can be total B.S? I
think this is a REALLY challenging situation for poor schools and
institutions looking to beef up their IT infrastructure. Corporations
tend to be after the dollar so you can never be sure how much you’re
hearing is market-ware. Going after an individual is an exercise in russian
roulette. The easiest option is to find a friend or a friend of a friend.
The old human network of trust. In the absence of competence, your best
defense is trust.

Link to story

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