01.11 | And all the paths led to the school…

I was watching Current TV today and saw this pod about some young college guys who pushed for a new solution for a common problem all over the world: the cost of textbooks in developing nations. Their pilot project is in Western Kenya, and in that village, the children were paying $100 a year for paper textbooks. Obviously, that’s a lot of money there. Their solution was to find funding, and to implement the technology to bring each child a PDA so that their textbooks could all be e-texts. Total cost to the students: $33 a year. Here’s a link to their website. Kind of cool.

EduVision, a project funded by the BioVision Foundation, seeks to assist countries in improving their education systems by providing appropriate information technology tools for the classroom. To lower the overall cost of primary and secondary education, EduVision aims to replace physical textbooks, notebooks and stationary items with a single integrated system (EELS) which will follow each student throughout the course of their education.

While the primary benefit of EELS is a reduction in the cost of education there are numerous secondary benefits from the system. The first of these is an improvement to the quality of education. The quality of textbooks used in both primary and secondary schools is often substandard, both in terms of the information presented and their condition: they seldom withstand the wear and tear of a year’s usage. This makes it increasingly difficult for teachers to provide the pupils with a quality education. Through EELS’s continually updating content, the information presented to teachers and students will be relevant, up-to-date and easily customized for different learning environments.

Furthermore, the multimedia capability of EELS allows students and teachers access to information in an unprecedented manner. Instead of poorly printed black-and-white textbooks students will have access to multimedia content such as photographs, sound clips and even video clips. At the same students will be able to access an electronic library of vast proportions. All of this comes at a lower cost than their current textbooks. At the time of manufacturing the hard disks of the BaseStation units are stocked with electronic books, journals and other information resources giving the students access to a quantity of information that, in paper form, would fill a large library.

An additional “side” benefit of EELS is the effect that it will have on bridging the digital divide that exists between the more and less developed countries of the world. This technological divide grows at an ever-increasing rate. While progress in the high-technology sectors has been achieved in many poorer countries, this is often, if not always, confined to capital cities, and even there in to limited and privileged percentages of the population. With the world’s collective future becoming more tied to technology with each passing day, the continued existence, not to mention growth, of this digital divide could have a disastrous impact on future developmental progress.

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7 thoughts on “01.11 | And all the paths led to the school…

  1. OK, i like the idea, and this guy definitely sounds like someone thinking in the right direction…but i can’t help but think about the simple problems. In the villages in the areas where i have worked the past few summers, i don’t see how these things would get charged. i am not sure on the exact figures (one of the economists on my project would probably have a better idea on something like this than i do), but i have to guess that less than a third of the kids in any of the schools in our sites have reliable access to electricity. How something like this works in a setting like that is something that has me puzzled. Not puzzled in a “that’s a bad idea!” kind of way. But in a “hmmm, how can this work better?” kind of way.

  2. Oh, and one other thing – it’s not that all the paths lead to the school – it’s that all the paths lead to the water supply. Then, they generally build the schools next to the well. In this case, definitely not a chicken or egg question. Water comes first. Strange, probably insignificant, but glaring, oddity in the story of someone “from” Africa…

  3. Well, funny you should mention that all roads led to the water supply. Being that I sit around looking for jobs all day, and getting ready to go to Iraq…I ALSO saw a show a few weeks on MTV with JayZ about a water project he is doing in Angola. I would love to insert the actual video here, but I can’t get to it – for some reason my flash player isn’t installing correctly today.

    Anyway, he paid to have a toy pump installed in this village in Angola. For the children – all they have to do is sit on it and spin like a merry go round. But as they do, it pumps water up enough for the entire village. If I remember correctly, this whole leg of his tour is to raise money for these water pumps. This documentary shows all about how the kids have to walk miles to get buckets and buckets of dirty water every day even before they can go to school, and how they play right on top of sewer water, etc…

    Here’s a link to that video on MTV’s Overdrive.
    http://www.mtv.com/thinkmtv/features/global/water_for_life/

  4. Bob and I talked about some of the same issues you’re raising when I first mentioned it to him (about the electricity and so on). I don’t know. I guess you gotta start somewhere introducing technology to new places even though it might not be available to everyone. It’s good. It will be better when everyone has water…AND electricity, right?!

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