No, the Zimbabwe government and Apple are not in iPad joint venture


Yesterday’s Newsday reported that the Ministry of Education will be working in conjunction with Apple to introduce solar powered iPads for rural schools.  Just reading through the article, it doesn’t take much to see this is not factually correct. The article stems from a post made by Education Minister David Coltart on his Facebook wall after he met officials from the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) in Dublin. Here’s the full text of the post.

Great meeting with Apple today in Paris – unveiled a fascinating new “School Box” which will take iPads to the most remote rural schools – using solar power and micro projectors we will be able to bring computerised teaching aids to the poorest schools. I hope we will get the first pilot programmes started early next year. I am very excited that Zimbabwe is collaborating with Apple in this ground breaking use of technology to advance education in the most remote schools. If we can get it to work in Zimbabwe I am sure it will spread to poor schools throughout Africa – and beyond.

The IADT is planning to launch an education focused computer kit that includes Apple’s iconic game changer. The minister latter added to the post (which had garnered a wave of positive responses) with an update on how the paper had misinterpreted his comments to mean that Apple was a part of the project:


The press unfortunately have read too much into my comment. I need to stress that there is no agreement with Apple but we would like to use iPad technology and we are in discussions in this regard. Furthermore the “School box” concept is being run by the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) in Dublin.

Unfortunately, the Internet being what it is, the NewsDay story has already been picked up by other publications including reputable global tech news sites like The Next Web and The Register. While The Register has posted a clarification update to their article, The Next Web has not. How news travels fast in these connected times!

Matter-of-fact aside, we wholeheartedly believe in ICTs becoming accessible to more people; however this project itself could be impractical here. Firstly due to the fact that iPads cost so much and secondly due to their iconic status, which could lead to them being ripped out of the kits and peddled to a ready market. Judging by the crazy things people have been known to do just to get their hands on iPads, the beleaguered ministry could be better off handing out aPads or ePads for the project.  Actually, they do not need to go for dodgy copycats as there is now a wide range of authentic alternatives that can work well in an academic context

The Indian government recently rolled out the Aakash, its $35 tablet aimed at bridging the digital divide. According to an exclusive review conducted by Venturebeat two days ago, it actually works! This could definitely work locally and save the government, development partners and schools a lot of money, time and effort. Hopefully this time round Minister Coltart will be posting an Aakash update to his Facebook wall and doing it from India’s tech capital, Bangalore.

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