CyberSmart Africa

90 million children in Africa go to schools that lack electricity. CyberSmart Africa harnesses technology in Sub-Saharan African classrooms in order to educate the world’s poor.

CyberSmart Africa, founded by Jim Teicher in 2007, is a social enterprise that provides educational technology specifically designed to meet the needs of schools in developing nations. In 2016, 12,500 students will have access to this technology.

In 2006 Jim Teicher visited Senegal, a country on Africa’s West Coast, and was concerned by the unequal distribution of technology across communities. There was a discrepancy between accessibility of technology in cities and youth in schools.

This observation led to the creation of CyberSmart Africa in 2007. The technology works exclusively in classrooms that have poor physical infrastructure, including those with little or no electricity. In addition to addressing the U.N. Sustainable Development goals, this digital learning platform reaches 250 students in Africa per day. It operates on less than $1.00/student/month.

Most schools in developing nations lack electricity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, three out of four primary schools do not have electricity. According to the World Bank, educational technology is expensive and it is difficult to train teachers in highly technical equipment.

The CyberSmart device uses solar technology, an energy-efficient projector, an interactive whiteboard, speakers, cooling fans and a dust filtration system. Teachers can easily adapt to the simplified technology with the help of directions received through SMS mobile text as well as through video tutorials.

Michael Trucano, a World Bank Senior Education and Technology Specialist, wrote a blog post commenting on CyberSmart Africa’s initiatives. Noting that there are not enough computers for the amount of students in schools, Trucano commends this technology as it allows for an entire classroom to access information at one time, increasing student engagement.

Senegalese schools have had great successes with this technology. CyberSmart Africa has allowed for students to create videos, with the support of parents and the community and post them on the Internet. These videos are meant to bring traditional storytelling of everyday Senegalese life into a digital realm.

Some of CyberSmart Africa’s partners include USAID, Senegalese Ministry of Education, Earth Institute at Columbia University and the United Nations Development Programme.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

Today more than 700 people are impoverished because of a lack of meeting basic needs and human rights. Innovative solutions provide different routes to solving the issue of global poverty.

Canadian student, Salima Visram, set out to revolutionize the way of life for those who live in deteriorated conditions with an ingenious solution that literally sheds light on the lives of students. Her invention: new solar backpacks equipped with a source of light that will charge all day and can be activated at night in order for students to study.

Instead of using toxic kerosene lamps, alternative technology allows for clean energy to be used. Not only is this a green solution, but also an economic one, as households can grab a backpack as their energy source instead of constantly replenishing their kerosene supply.

These solar backpacks have the potential to positively impact states that struggle with poverty, especially Kenya, where 92 percent of households utilize kerosene lamps.

The first to receive Visram’s backpacks were the residents of Kikambala village, where she raised enough money to produce 2,000 solar backpacks. Each backpack consists of a solar panel, battery pack and light.

This occurred in January after she raised money via crowdfunding site, Indiegogo. Since then, Visram has said she wishes to “expand the project to a hundred schools in the county within the next year and a half.”

Sticking to her own agenda, in September, Visram delivered 500 backpacks to the students of Kikambala Primary School, marking her business’ first official order. This is not the only milestone Visram wishes to achieve, however, as her goals go hand in hand with Masomo Bora—Kenya’s mission to provide education to all children.

Visram’s dream began as a public funding project on Indiegogo, but continues today in hopes of bringing as many students “into the light” as possible.

Fortunately, the costs of production are cheap, and in two months alone an additional $50,000 has been raised—more than doubling the initial capital of $40,000 required to manufacture the first 2,000 solar backpacks.

The backpacks are able to provide between seven and eight hours of light using only three to four hours of sunlight. As more and more solar backpacks become available, the hope is that the 4,000 deaths that occur daily due to kerosene-induced illness will be significantly reduced.

Emilio Rivera

Sources: Indiegogo, IT News Africa, Compassion International
Photo: Conscious Living TV

For many high school teachers, the explosion of the iPod represented another way for their students to become distracted in the classroom.  It turns out that instead of using those MP3 players to blast music, they are being used to promote literacy and education all across Africa.

Meet the Lifeplayer MP3.  A solar-powered radio, recorder and MP3 player, the Lifeplayer is manufactured by Lifeline Technologies to give rural African communities greater access to education.  The Lifeplayer comes with reading and writing lesson plans already pre-loaded.  Since it is solar-powered, rural communities without access to electricity can now enjoy this technological wonder without worrying about access to electrical outlets for recharging.

The company currently runs initiatives in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Zambia.  In Ethiopia, Lifeline has partnered with the British Council to promote English language education to over 50,000 school children.  Kristine Pearson, the CEO of Lifeline, traveled to South Sudan to deliver 15,000 Lifeplayers to educators.

Pearson instructed trainers and teachers on how to use the technologically-advanced device in the hopes of reversing the discouraging education trends in the country.

“Nearly three-quarters of the population can neither read nor write,” states Pearson.  “According to the Overseas Development Index (ODI), less than 2% of the population have completed a primary education and even less completed secondary school.”

In addition to the Lifeplayer MP3, the company also produces two other solar-powered marvels: the Prime Radio, an analogue radio with an LCD display, and the Solarstor, a portable charging station for cell phones.

The Prime Radio has been especially beneficial in Rwanda, where the company spearheads an initiative called Project Muraho.  Partnering with organizations such as UNICEF, the initiative has provided 13,000 radios and power sources to families ravaged by the effects of the Rwandan genocide and the continued devastation of HIV/AIDS.

Although access to education has improved worldwide in the past decade, there are still great disparities in rural areas and communities without power and electricity.  The Lifeplayer MP3 is a wonderful invention to help push education in these struggling communities.

Taylor Diamond 

Sources: World Economic Forum, Lifeline Energy: Technology, Lifeline Energy: Projects
Photo: Texarkana Gazette