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"Userful's solution has proven to be very cost-effective on hardware, software, electrical usage, space, and furniture materials."

- Rob Willis, Founder, Lakeside School

Lakeside School, Costa Rica
Low cost multiseat computing creates opportunities for ICT

Costa Rica


Rob Willis and his wife opened Lakeside School on the north pacific coast of Costa Rica to provide primary and secondary experiential education. Although the majority of the students are from Costa Rica, international students are frequently attracted to visit the school and experience Spanish immersions. The 200 primary and secondary students experience a hands-on approach to education, learning among more traditional curricula, how to grow fish at the schools on site aquaculture farm.

Logo of the Lakeside International School


  • 1. Challenges
  • 2. Solution
  • 3. Result

The Challenges

The school's mission to educate and provide learning opportunities goes beyond its own physical limits by supporting the ICT needs of other schools in the area. Although the school budget is tight, at the end of each year the school gives away some of the computers that its students build as part of their curriculum to other schools in communities without access to computers. Additionally, by learning how to build and use computers, the students are able to help setup computers in their home communities. Used parts lower costs somewhat, but the students needed a way to do this without turning to software piracy, despite limited budgets.

The Solution

A student with a joyful expression on her face

When looking on the Internet for new things to show and teach to his students, Rob found a Linux-based software that turns 1 computer into 11: Userful MultiSeat Linux. "After downloading the free trial and gathering some spare equipment, I got 4 stations running on a computer pretty quickly. It worked well, it was stable, and I had no issues," Said Rob. "Linux is simply an equalizer for low-income kids, since it gives them the opportunity to have access to computers. It occurred to me that this solution would be great to give away larger packs to other schools and provide more children with access to computer-based education."

Before equipping other schools with the solution, they had to be sure that the software would work perfectly. To better test the Userful MultiSeat Linux solution, Rob built a computer lab in a very small space, with furniture for 16 stations spread across 3 computers. "Userful's solution has proven to be very cost-effective on hardware, software, electrical usage, space, and furniture materials", said Rob. "Resources are scarce and electricity is expensive here, so it becomes very critical to maximize efficiency and minimize expenses. That's why we take advantage on a big way of Userful's benefits and features."

The Result

A scenic view of the Lakeside School

The students at Lakeside School are enjoying their new computer lab, and Rob was able to demonstrate that Userful MultiSeat Linux is the perfect solution to provide access to computers on a small budget, and with little electricity. The 16 stations in the computer lab use only 518 watts of electricity total, and due to the fact that there are only 3 computer boxes running, it requires minimal air conditioning. As a result, the school setup a full computer lab with computers, lighting, air conditioning, and a TV, drawing under 1500 watts. "The ambition of the Lakeside School is to build kiosks in rural areas with solar power. If we setup a lab that uses under 2000 watts, we'll be able to power it up with solar energy," said Rob.

Lakeside School have found the perfect solution to expand the reach of education in Costa Rica through computer-based learning and Open Source technologies, and the students home communities are already benefiting, with more and more gaining computer access each year. "The kids are amazingly adaptable and don't consider the differences between Linux and Windows because the user experience is very very similar," said Rob. "For a kid, it is simply a moment of adaptability, and then they are all set. The bottom line is that we have a beautiful lab, the kids love it, the teachers like it, and it works really great."


Quick Facts

  • Go Green

    Userful MultiSeat not only saves money, it also helps the environment by reducing electricity use and e-waste. As compared to a traditional PC-per-seat solution, over 3 years, the Lakeside School can make a substantial impact

  • Eco Savings

    Electricity Saved: 38,236 kWh = Enough to power 21 homes for a year

  • Eco Savings

    CO2 Saved: 30 tons of CO2 = Taking 5 cars off the road for a year, or planting 7 acres of trees

  • Total Cost of Ownership

    Userful MultiSeat's ability to turn one computer into many saves money by greatly reducing hardware, electricity and support costs


"The kids are amazingly adaptable and don't consider the differences between Linux and Windows because the user experience is very very similar."


- Rob Willis, Founder, Lakeside School