Improving Education in Rural Areas via New Digital Technologies – Digital Library

Should we build a DIGITAL LIBRARY in your village/town? Is it possible with almost zero cost and no internet? Just background why this is important before going on with the details.

WHY Digital Library?

While am traveling in central Asia, I used to stay in a lot of homestays and also able to meet students/youngsters from a different region. It gave lot of chances to understand the people’s culture, problems the face, migration, unemployment, etc. There are a few problems which in my opinion are not THAT hard to solve. And I have tried some initial experiments with it and it seems to be possible in a long term. Hence I plan to share those thoughts, also develop initial solutions as much as am aware and try in different remote areas.

Mainly migration is something which truly affects many people life. Not just the migration happening because of the conflicts but also people moving from urban to rural areas hoping for a better life! This creates many issues in terms of the affordable housing crisis to under-utilization of country lands and their resources. There is pros and cons of rural movement to urban side. While I was researching and also asking the same questions (Pamir Region in Tajikistan) why they are migrating from the rural side. Unemployment seems to be one of the biggest factors which leads move to the city side and also to other countries. Yes it is prevalent in my countries

but why unemployment? Quality of Education

There are multiple reasons for unemployment. but what i have encountered from my experience is not such things like government not providing education or there is no resource to grow themselves…Everything is there but the quality of education seems to be missing. Learning an educational curriculum of something which is planned before 25years ago would never be going to elevate someone from his current stage in my belief.

They quality of education need to be competitive according to the market needs to really survive in the future

If I look at the school teachers, they seem to be the same people who studied in that school. They finish the education in those school and become as a teacher in the same school. I mean what we can expect from someone who doesn’t have a lot of exposure or doesn’t even work in the something? We need better teachers to bring the kids to the next level. Also, it’s not going to be easy if we expect expert teachers in developing countries which got it’s educational systems lately and growing slowly. This outdated education / less expert teaching is not enough” #Quality of Education

Problem: It’s not going to be suddenly easy bringing expert teachers in every school. It takes not just years but generation.

— —

Then the infrastructure! #problem2

These remote areas in most cases don’t have internet and more than 20% cases no electricity at all.

AND people still can’t buy a smartphone where they can’t afford a basic life and so we cannot expect them to have one computer per house even if they want to learn something on their behalf. To be clear, the target segment I am speaking is not developed countries with every facility available.

One example: Mountains cover more than 90% of Tajikistan, and half of the country sits 10,000 feet or more above sea level. So we can’t expect a perfect infrastructure as other parts of the world. That also doesn’t mean to use as a reason to not get the quality education for the people.

Digital Library in Rural Areas
Mountains cover more than 90% of Tajikistan, and half of the country sits 10,000 feet or more above sea level

So how we do solve?

There are multiple ways to solve this. One of the methods I realized after trying something for a remote village seems to be interesting unexpectedly.

This is what I have done.

I downloaded some educational documents/videos for someone whom I met in the Pamir Mountain region which is like 700km from the main city(Dushanbe) and sent to him because most of the time they don’t have internet facilities and also it is a very remote area, so it’s about tourism business ideas and also some fundamentals about the economics which can give some idea on how to build make villages sustainable.

  • Campaign business: Through the experience in Norway which shares a similar landscape. OPEN GROUND camping business is tested business and backpackers wanted to use this while they cycle, truck, etc where they just need electricity to charge. (Image)
  • Here I have downloaded some documents and printed in Dushanbe. It would go to Ishkashim in few days (700km mountain transportation 😊)
    That’s what you see in the photos (around 130pages )

Video downloaded from Khanacademy (online education portal )

Videos from Khan Academy
  • Here what you see
    – production of products and fundamentals of economics (videos)
    – Management of water (This country has plenty of waters!!!)
    – Some other fundamentals of agriculture-related

But we can make it better as a digital library

Especially in the digital era, the cost of implementation of a library has been decreased and makes our job easier to achieve something comparing before.

Every 5000 People or even small village if they have support from outside. We could set up something like this below.

Level 1: ATM Machine styled knowledge base Machine

  • A pre-ready made all the videos downloaded from KhanAcademy.org is placed in a safe place of their village
  • This look like a Kodak photo machine (what you see in the image)
  • Anyone can come and transfer this files to their Memory Card, Smartphone via wireless, USB Drives(Thumb drive, Hard Disk) or Even CD/DVD

This sort of system is easy to build using Rasberry Pie based systems ( especially with Linux OS to avoid virus and other security when multiple people memory cards are used)

Wouldn’t be the courses be outdated?

  • There could be one admin per village who could connect that device to his mobile network or Thumb Drive based wireless modem.
  • So whenever he has time, he could download the recent update to that kiosk.
  • Once there is a stable internet network, we could change the system to auto download and keep it offline.

 

Some questions on this:

Usually, people who think from their environment perspective would think, people can easily download from the internet on their mobile. True as I shared it’s only for remote areas where things are not stable. Even though this is like an old school method but it is stable and ease of use.

Level 2: REAL computer itself is present on any buildings the village have.

An improved version of Level 1

Contents in Khan Academy for digital Library

We could crowdfund the money from the village people and buy a basic level computer.

  • Any contributor to our organization or even we can teach the people on how to set up this computer as a knowledge base Machine
  • Actually, it’s nothing but making sure they know where they can download this education files, bulk downloads, subtitles according to their language need
  • So all the students or whoever need could come to that system and transfer the file to their systems
  • A digital library is ready!

Level 3: Like an Internet cafe but a digital library

IT center, Digitalcitizenfund.org from Afghanistan helps girls and women in developing countries gain access to necessary skills to succeed in today’s expanding global market.

(PS: While trying to find an image of a computer lab, I found this above interesting image from Afghanistan)

  • Same as Level2 but once we have more money or when we see the demand for this system is increasing, we could crowdfund and get more systems
  • Allow not just kids but anyone to come and use that system

Some questions you may ask:

Isn’t all these things need to be done by schools? Indeed. But this is the mindset we need to change here. When we always think someone is going to do, we going to depend on those organization. And when it’s not done, we going to keep blaming them. There is a power behind the crowd whether it’s funding or organization building. It’s similar like a union of workers. Now we need a union for students and kids. Let the schools keep continue what they are building. We could do our part of setting up this library for our kids.

Not just for kids, even the 40 years old person who wants to learn something and who doesn’t even know how to use the internet.

If you are reading this, you are already a digital person and your answer is youtube and another educational porta but it’s only available for people who have good infrastructure. Also, we need to make a system which is simple to use and focused features which don’t distract them. Like a kindle for books. we need a digital library for the knowledge base.

Solving the root cause of different problems

Hence by solving the root cause which is quality of education by setting up a digital library which is cost-effective and scalable. Also making it easy access for many people in the remote areas by getting the educational resource they want would automatically allow them to teach things by themselves and get an exposure to world knowledge. By that, they will learn how to create products or services living in the same rural areas and avoiding the difficulties of moving to another place and finding a job.

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