If you’re an avid reader of Techzim, you’ll know about William Sachiti – who we’ve written about a couple of times. William is the founder of UK-based Academy of Robotics. That’s the startup working on self-driving delivery cars.
Interestingly, William has today published an open-source technology known as ‘Trees of Knowledge’ to improve access to education through smartphones in Africa.
This free-to-develop technology enables a tree or rural landmark to broadcast a wifi connection providing access to a pre-loaded package of educational content. The wifi connection and content comes from a micro-computer moulded into the landmark to protect it from theft or damage.
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Anyone within a 100m radius of the tree will be to access content from the tree of knowledge on any mobile device at no cost. The trees will also come with solar-powered charging stations which the community can use as a source of power for their devices.
The micro-computers will run on the power equivalent of a small rechargeable battery and can run for years without maintenance. All the user needs is a wifi-enabled device such as a phone, tablet, laptop or computer. There is no need for the phone to be connected to a carrier or any network provider, removing the issue of expensive data charges.
The technology uses a basic computer like the Raspberry Pi computers which have been used in refugee camps in Lebanon by UNICEF as part of its Raspberry Pi for Learning initiative.
Sachiti who is an expert in AI was educated in Zimbabwe before moving to the UK, notes that data costs and access to power are some of the challenges faced by children in rural areas:
One of the challenges in providing education through smartphones is that, while many people have access to a basic smartphone of some description, in many areas 3G coverage is still patchy. The data costs are high for most people and in rural areas keeping the phones charged is a problem when there is limited or no electricity. Trees of Knowledge aims to address all these challenges.
Every day millions of children walk for hours to get to school in the hope – often a vain hope – that they will find a teacher present at their school. In other cases children are unable to attend school because they need to take care of the family’s cattle or support their family in other ways.
There is an urgent need to improve access to education for these children. For many children their classes are taught gathered under the shade of a large tree, so ‘Trees of Knowledge’ seemed a natural technical extension of this existing system.William Sachiti
The tree of knowledge costs around US$105 to build and implement. Once you consider that this resource will be available to children and community members for years that seems like a fair price.
The tree of knowledge will utilise ported electronics which makes the whole setup thief-proof since removing any of the electronics renders the whole system useless.
Ultimately, Trees of Knowledge have the potential to be durable, affordable and high quality local wireless hubs pre-loaded with educational videos implemented via the Tree of Knowledge OS installed upon a low maintenance micro computer.Tree of knowledge whitepaper – William Sachiti