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Check Out Inveneo’s New Solar Powered Digital Library Kit

By Jana Melpolder on November 13, 2015

SolarLibrary1

Imagine if your young child attended a school that did not have books, electricity, or the Internet. What educational opportunities would he or she be denied?

Throughout the developing world, millions of schoolchildren lack (or only have limited access to) books and basic learning resources, much less computers or the Internet. Transporting volumes of books or computers to schools can be expensive and logistically daunting. Digital libraries – tablets or computers (PCs) loaded with thousands of e-books and other educational resources – have begun to transform learning in the developing world. However, many existing digital library solutions require Internet or power.

The Solution

Inveneo’s Solar Powered Digital Library (Solar Library) is uniquely and ruggedly designed for schools lacking educational resources, Internet, and power. It includes thousands of e-books, lectures, and other educational resources (e.g. Wikipedia) that can be accessed completely off-the grid.

Each tablet will be loaded with thousands of educational resources, including Wikipedia, Khan Academy math and science lectures, e-books, medical encyclopedias, as well as local, open source Haitian content. In addition, thousands of educational resources can be curated in English, French, French Creole, and Haitian Creole for the Haitian students.

Here’s How Inveneo’s Project Can Transform Education in Remote Areas of Haiti

Each Solar Library will provide access to thousands of educational resources and transform academic opportunities for over 400 children. The Inveneo team will soon launch a crowdsource campaign for the Solar Library soon and proposes to offer 15 Haitian schools both the Solar Library AND a teacher training course, which will be provided by Inveneo’s Haiti Project Manager, Michelet Guerrier. This training course will give teachers already working in the community the chance to learn how to best use the tablets as teaching tools. Inveneo aims to distribute 15 Solar Libraries to schools lacking Internet connectivity in the Central Plateau, Southeast, North, or West regions.

What’s in Each Kit?

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The Solar Library fits completely inside a rugged hard case and includes:

  • 5 Google Nexus 7 tablets with ruggedized cases
  • A Solar PV charging system
  • A Raspberry Pi with RACHEL educational content that students access offline
  • Access to Wikipedia for Schools, Khan Academy math and science lectures, e-books, medical encyclopedias, and much more
  • Power cables and graphic setup instructions

Inveneo’s Solar Library offers a designed and tested Silicon Valley solution.

The Inveneo team is excited to soon launch a crowdsource campaign that will feature the Solar Library. The goal is to raise $50,000 to send 15 Solar Libraries to 15 schools throughout Haiti. Sign up to receive updates to the exciting Inveneo campaign, and be sure to donate to help students in need!

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Written by
Jana Melpolder worked for over two years as an editor for ICTworks. She is passionate about bringing human rights issues to the forefront through ICT in the developing world, and she has reported on development programs from several countries including Bolivia, Ghana, Thailand and India. Follow her on Twitter: @JanaMelpolder
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11 Comments to “Check Out Inveneo’s New Solar Powered Digital Library Kit”

  1. Mike Dawson says:

    Hang on a moment here… When BRCK does this (exactly the same concept – tablets, solar power, mini local server) – it’s throwing a BRCK at a hard education problem – to be questioned and condemned as ill thought out. When Inveneo does it – we are supposed to applaud and crowdfund it apparently.

    I also remember being told that for the ICTWorks posts I authored I was not to write them as advertisements. Clearly this rule has not been applied to everyone.

    A local server is nothing new. RachelPI has been available for free open source for a long time. Khan Academy lite is deployed to hundreds/thousands of locations. Many existing solutions requirement internet/power – many existing solutions are also already available that like yours do not require Internet and can be solar powered.

    Serious journalistic standards issues here.

    • Internet Comment says:

      This, well put and well founded concerns.

    • John Hawker says:

      Yeah, “I did this too” at Sat-Ed we did similar things long before BRCK, and people in Canada did it before Sat-Ed did.

      So ego’s aside, I’ve always heard from Inveneo that they also believe in “Caching Locally”. It’s a simple logical solution used in many industries and rightfully used here.

      Only things I would have liked to have seen is a low cost backhaul for updates, something that of course can be added easily, terrestrially or by VSAT. And content for teacher training.

      I would hope the content is designed to support the teacher and not be a replacement, that is where ideology often differs, and recent reports do show that “e-learning” as a sand alone is not the holy grail of education, but providing digital tools to teachers is far more effective.

  2. Cavin Mugarura says:

    This is another white elephant destined to feature at the fail conference. 5 tablets per school, and schools without electricity need tablets, wow

  3. Edmund Resor says:

    Iveneo, Welcome to an essential and difficult challenge and thanks for spreading RACHEL, or at least some version of it. Please let us know if you have any free to copy content which you think we should add to RACHEL.

    Mike, Thanks for the shoutout for RACHEL and BRCK (Disclosure, I am a volunteer and board member at World Possible and a friend and early supporter of BRCK.)

    I believe this library could help both RACHEL and the BRCK Kio Kit.

    RACHEL is limited by the devices available to access it. This library supplies devices and power with RACHEL in a nice package that is easy for teachers to secure, just like the BRCK Kio Kit. Many teachers and principals are often judged more on how little hardware is broken or lost, than on how much it is used and how much students learn.

    BRCK knows they need to persuade very conservative education administrators and overworked teachers to make time for using Kio Tablets and the 40 tablets included in a Kio Kit. This library could ease the transition and build the confidence of many schools. Also, with KA-Lite, students who need remedial math (or who want to go ahead to stay interested) can get help without requiring a math teacher to work more hours or taking her or him away from class preparation.

    Another great feature of Khan Academy is that the lectures are easily used by teachers who have only a blackboard and chalk. Khan Academy math with its exercises can also be used test math teachers and help them overcome their weaknesses.

    I am sure teachers and other will find other great uses as well as finding lots of problems and frustrations and some solutions. I hope we can capture that information.

    • Mike Dawson says:

      Hi Edmund,,

      To be honest I think the economics of 1:1 device deployments vs. the benefits are very questionable: as with any project it’s best to consider cost/benefit and sustainability up front instead of after the fact (though KioKit need not be a 1:1 deployment – could be shared in a school etc). What’s great about RACHEL is that it’s hardware agnostic and openly licensed: can run on the Pi, a windows/linux box otherwise not used, etc. That’s I guess part of why hundreds if not thousands have deployed it. As far as I remember being told Inveneo themselves has already used Rachel in such setups. Ultimately governments, schools etc have to decide what to do with limited resources and consider the opportunity cost.

      What I really wanted to point out was the conflict of interest: questioning BRCK on the one hand whilst unquestioningly promoting Inveneo’s own implementation of the exact same concept. That’s not fair on anyone concerned.

      -Mike

      • Edmund Resor says:

        Mike,

        I agree with your on the conflict of interest. We all need to encourage more experiments and honest reporting on what works where. I know from my kids that there is not one right way to learn reading or math or other things.

        Neither the Kio Kit nor the Solar Library are 1:1 projects, although the Kio Kit could be used that way. I hope Kio Kit will be tested as a 1:1 system by some schools next year or in the near future, ideally with the students allowed to take their tablets home, However, if it is used 1:1 so kids can take tablets home, many classes will use it just as a text book readers and controlled trials of 1:1 textbooks are not reported to be that cost-effective, although the trials may have measured only helping weaker students, mainly with increased attendance, where de-worming was the most cost-effective intervention. Angus Deaton has wisely recommend against paying too much attention to the “randomnistas” who are still working on their Nobel prizes.

        Our plan in South Sudan is about 1:8+ (40 tablets for P1-P8 with an average class size of 60 or more.) For us a Solar Library would be 1:70. We have already had some success with about 10 WorldReader Kindles over the last 5 years, but I do not have data on their usage and and their survival rate. The paper library is degrading as do most libraries that do not have both a regular supply of additional appropriate books and either have a good full time librarian or remain locked up.

        Both the Kio Kit and the Solar Library are innovations to be tested, the same way M-Pesa was an innovation funded by DfID in Kenya. {I was the member of the McKinsey team that recommended prepaid mobile phones and mobile payments to the ITU in the WorldTel Feasibility Study in 1994, so I do not want to wait for top down innovation for education in South Sudan. We also identified text messages as a key feature for people with intermittent access to a network and even to a handset. The GSM spec included text messages and easily swapable full size smart cards. My CDMA friend thought I had been misled by the GSM people.}

        I am a great supported of cell phones, in fact I was the one expert on the Grameen Phone team who did anticipate the immense uptake in rural areas. You can ask Iqbal Khadir. However, in poor families the father often controls the mobile phone if there is one. I am am going to send you an e-mail through your site to see if we could try out some content on a strictly controlled basis, or at least share some experience.

  4. Internet Comment says:

    It’s not April 1st, I just checked the calendar. Is this really a thing?

  5. Dan Lubar says:

    Apologies in advance for a slight re-directing of the discussion..

    “Popping up” a level here.. We collectively need to talk about standalone learning platforms with a “long view” vs the more common Int’l Development short term perspective. We collectively need to recognize two really important concepts about this initiative that set it apart–or at least highlight its importance..

    1. Despite the technical challenges (natural & cultural language translation, maintenance and/or replacement parts — aka support, etc) these kits will introduce an opportunity to define a widely distributed sustainable solution (aka something resembling a “defacto standard” in open source learning platforms) by chasing what I call a “curated” educational experience. What is that? Get real “by-in” from locals to assure the curators step forward to see this is more than a learning platform–ie its also an opportunity to engage in the information age in a “ground up” way–in places that never have the opportunity to do so.) Yes.. Its true.. self-paced learning still needs teachers or curators to make solutions sustainable.. ratio’s will vary.. but this seems clear.

    2. Providing a path to knowledge & learning in the places that do NOT have it available because of missing infrastructure (despite the efforts to date of the ITU-D and others in the cellular arena) is an idea whose time has come. The price point here could be so low at high volumes that it is conceivable that a defacto-standard could be created. Recognizing that this is really a long term seeding process that will take a long term commitment before results will be seen, it is heartening to see B&MG foundation, USAID, and other large ICT players positioning to support this. Long term.. this is not really about international aid and foreign policy goals, this is nothing less that a bottom up & in-direct approach to improving the lives in the “less developed” or “other three billion” in the world.

    Low cost.. ubiquitous, non-internet connected learn systems are now within reach for large numbers of people thanks to the work of those involved here. It is time to plant some seeds for the long term–that can and will start out independent from the Internet & Cellular infrastructure world economy.. Learning in the digital age must be made available for all the world’s people.. This is an achievable goal so lets keep your eye on the prize.. much more depends on this long term than folks realize.

    Thank you.

    Dan

  6. Bob Marsh says:

    There are many more disadvantaged children in the world than organizations working to help them. We welcome all approaches, including BRCK’s, to the very difficult problem of assisting rural teachers to teach better, and school children to learn more. Please note that Inveneo has already set up thousands of school computer labs in Africa and Haiti and all of the hardware in the Solar Powered Digital Library has been tested and used extensively in the field.
    Inveneo has also delivered many teacher training sessions in Haiti using tablets as teaching tools, with significant positive feedback from school teachers, administrators, and improved student test scores. We certainly recognize that “transforming” education in Haiti and elsewhere requires much more than just technology.
    Note also that the same set of hardware as the Solar-Powered Digital Library, has been used, and will be used in the future, to assist emergency responders in situations where there is no electricity and where Inveneo or other NGOs can provide emergency telecoms connectivity.
    Finally, note that the ICTWorks article on BRCK referenced was not written or endorsed by the Inveneo team. It was written independently by Wayan Vota, who is a longtime friend of Inveneo and former Inveneo employee. We certainly acknowledge the comment on using ICTWorks as a promotion platform, and will take it into account moving forward. We published the article to obtain feedback and comments from the ICTWorks community, for which we are very grateful. We plan to monitor the effects of the Solar Library inside the classroom and look forward to keeping the ICTWorks community informed on the successes and lessons learned.

    • CitizensArrest says:

      I hope everyone here realizes that test scores are, at the very best, only a small, woefully inadequate part of any measure of educational quality and not one to be used for anything resembling a determination of the success or failure of any education system. Read Noel Wilson’s ” Educational Standards and the Problem of Error ” for the nitty gritty of why this is so.