Teaching rural kids with the “Tree of Knowledge”

Date:13 February 2020 Author: Leila Stein Tags:, , ,

For years the struggle for rural sub-saharan children to access education has been a topic of conversation. From images of makeshift or outdoor classrooms to stories of children walking extensive lengths to get to school each day. A Zimbabwean entrepreneur has come up with a novel idea to bring education to the children using technology that already exists.

The “Tree of Knowledge” uses the abundance of trees near rural villages as a jumping off point for improved wifi access and storing educational tools. This removes the need to walk incredible distances, helps tackle the combined issue of rural children working for their families and missing school as well as addresses the teacher shortage found in most developing countries.

Using an ultra low-power mini computer, which is in a casing no bigger than an apple, this small ‘wifi educational server’ can provide access to the internet at a distance of up to 100 meters and would bring a pop-up page of educational videos.

“We are simply using tried and tested technology and using it in a very different way, the trees will be in strategic locations,” said creator William Sachiti in the white paper. 

Much like our phones bring up the option to connect to a public wifi when we enter a coffee shop, these trees will alert users when they are near enough to make a connection on their cheap smartphones.

The mini computer could be a simple off-the-shelf Raspberry Pi. This computer measures 8cm x 5cm x 1cm.  It uses a Broadcom BCM2711 SoC with a 1.5 GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A72 processor with 1MB shared L2 cache. There is no need for a screen as it will act mainly as a storage unit for the wifi and educational content.

“I have designed a custom linux operating system (distribution) called Tree OS. This is a version of the Debian-based Linux operating system optimised for running the Tree of Knowledge,” said Sachiti.

The computer would be charged with a small solar panel and would be protected in a gel which solidifies around it. This would protect it from the elements, permanently protecting it.

Sachiti has made this technologies design open-source meaning anyone can implement it.

Image: @bylisalani/ Twitter

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