Bringing the Internet to Kenya's schools
School child using E-slate, EduVision
Kenyan school turns to handhelds
By Julian Siddle
BBC Go Digital
At the Mbita Point primary school in western Kenya students click away at a handheld computer with a stylus.
They are doing exercises in their school textbooks which have been digitised.
It is a pilot project run by EduVision, which is looking at ways to use low cost computer systems to get up-to-date information to students who are
currently stuck with ancient textbooks.
Matthew Herren from EduVision told the BBC programme Go Digital how the non-governmental organisation uses a combination of satellite radio and handheld computers called E-slates.
"The E-slates connect via a wireless connection to a base station in the school. This in turn is connected to a satellite radio receiver. The data is transmitted alongside audio signals."
The base station processes the information from the satellite transmission and turns it into a form that can be read by the handheld E-slates.
"It downloads from the satellite and every day processes the stream, sorts through content for the material destined for the users connected to it. It also stores this on its hard disc."
The system is cheaper than installing and maintaining an internet connection and conventional computer network. But Mr Herren says there are both pros and cons to the project.
"It's very simple to set up, just a satellite antenna on the roof of the school, but it's also a one-way connection, so getting feedback or specific requests from end users is difficult."
The project is still at the pilot stage and EduVision staff are on the ground to attend to teething problems with the Linux-based system.
This makes a lot more sense than Nick Negroponte's cheap laptops, because it uses current technology in a clever way, which renders them basically unstealable, which is no small deal. Also, since it's a handheld, the OS is less relevant. It's also easy to use and control. And a lot easier to maintain, by an order of magnitude.
posted by Steve @ 4:20:00 PM