The United Nations aim to supply 500,000 workstations, including PCs and laptops, to primary and secondary schools in developing countries by 2012.
Ncomputing is to provide virtual desktops to the United Nations, using a system that allows multiple monitors and keyboards to be connected to one PC and can be used for running several desktops on each of these computers – both under Linux and under Windows.
The first part of the UN deployment involves Ncomputing supplying 1,000 virtual desktops to primary and secondary schools in three African countries, said Stephen Dukker, Ncomputing's CEO.
The terminal computers connect to a central PC and share its resources, including memory and hard drive space, allowing more users to access the PC. The terminals are about the size of a deck of cards and have ports for keyboards, mice and monitors.
The programme is being conducted by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) in an effort to boost technology usage in poor countries, Dukker said. Initial deployments will be in Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania.
The UN's goal is to provide wider access to computing resources using low-cost and low-power technologies, Dukker said. The UN is partnering with private organisations to provide the equipment, with the UN and participating countries contributing to the costs.
Ncomputing is donating its X550 virtual desktop kits, each of which has five terminals. The terminals will access programmes from a host PC running Linux and using Ncomputing's Vspace virtualisation software.
Ncomputing is also donating the mice and keyboards, while other parties are providing the monitors and used PCs. Ncomputing's terminals draw less than a watt of power and normally cost about $70 (£45), Dukker said.
Last year, NComputing won a contract to provide virtual desktops to 1.8 million students in India at 5,000 government-run schools. It has competed with Intel and the non-profit organisation One Laptop Per Child to win such contracts.