Intel Corporation – the world’s leading computer chips maker – is supporting an initiative to help rural schools without electricity to bridge the digital divide by training thousands of students on how to use computers as a learning tool and a way to gain valuable skills that will help them to improve lives now and in the future.
The two phased project by the US affiliated NGO – Kageno – worth more than Ksh 3 million will be rolled out countrywide through a mobile solar computer classroom targeting initially 5 schools in Rusinga Island.
The project is using a double pronged approach of helping students – most of whom have no electricity in their schools or villages – acquire ICT skills while at the same time conserving the environment. A special sports utility vehicle dubbed a ‘computer-lab on the wheels’ powered by solar panels and equipped with the Intel powered classmate PCs will travel from one rural school to the next setting up a mobile computer lab and giving access to the schools within minutes.
This is the first for Kenya which starts to enjoy world class speeds with the landing of fiber optic cable and it will ensure that rural students are not left out in the new online world. Intel is also helping the government roll out the National ICT buses project where will have roaming computer labs in each constituency as spelt out by Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta in this year’s budget.
“Intel wants to harness the combined potential of high speed connectivity, technology and education to speed up the gains for the poor in rural communities. This project introduces these young people to 21st century skills which will ultimately give them an edge in the knowledge economy’’, said Jacques van Schalkwyk, Intel General Manager – South and Sub Saharan Africa
Intel has developed e- learning software that will teach students a range of skills – from basic keyboard and mouse functions through to working with Microsoft office operations and using the internet.
Mustek East Africa provided the complete technological solution which included mounting solar panels, provided by Kenital Ltd., on the car, connection to inverters and batteries, mounting classmate PCs in a custom built cabinet and wireless connectivity. They will also provide on-site technical training on the use of classmate PC model in an eLearning environment.
“ We hope that the students will get enough knowledge to explore further on their own especially if they choose to take up further computer related studies or computer service jobs”, says Alphonce Okuku, Country Director at Kageno.
The project hopes to open opportunities in information technology to young people in rural Africa – spur locally owned and operated computer services industry, help boost local economies, decrease unemployment and help alleviate poverty.
The Mobile Technology classroom model – the first of its kind in Kenya – provides low cost, easy to use, fully functional personal computers and internet access for first time users and has been successfully rolled out in Uganda.