Friday 17th of February 2017

Bringing broadband to rural Africa

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Satellite-powered broadband at schools in rural Africa is being opened up to local communities.

There are 38 million children in Africa currently not in school, with 80% of those in rural areas. In total 25% of African children are illiterate, and even those children in school are on average two years behind their international counterparts.

As part of the drive to close that educational gap, the innovation alliance has piloted a project which brings high speed satellite internet connectivity, quality math and literacy content and the latest teacher training resources to a public school in Uganda.

Chairing the innovation alliance is Avanti, an international satellite company with outreach in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. With the support of funding partners, Avanti has been installing satellite-powered broadband in rural African schools in an initiative called iKnowledge. Other partners in this pilot project include The Varkey Foundation (providing teacher training), Whizz Education (providing math content), Papagei (providing literacy resources) and Carnegie Mellon CREATE lab and LEGO (providing robotics instructions and kits).

St. Peter’s Nantabulirwa school in the Ugandan District of Mukono – 20 km outside the country’s capital of Kampala - caters to 900 students and has 23 teachers. It is currently part of Avanti’s iKnowledge project and is a Varkey Foundation Satellite School - government-run schools that have been adopted by the Varkey Foundation.

Since the project has only been in action for less than a year, we have not had enough time to gauge our true impact. However, it is worth noting that at the end of the last academic year, Whizz Education saw improved exam results in Grade 7.

Community rollout

When a public school in Uganda that never had access to computers or the Internet starts actively using and engaging with this technology, the possibilities of what this can translate to are endless. With St Peter’s school enjoying the benefits of satellite broadband, in April 2017 it will become an ECO school with a Wi-Fi hotspot to also provide sustainable broadband connectivity to the wider community.

ECO is a new sustainable digital inclusion initiative by Avanti which is focused on providing affordable, superfast satellite broadband to schools and their local communities across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Solar-powered ECO Wi-Fi hotspots are hosted at schools that will in turn benefit from subsidised Internet access. These Wi-Fi hotspots will be connected to the Internet via the HYLAS satellite fleet.

Consumers and local businesses, within range of the ECO Wi-Fi hotspot, will also benefit from connectivity by using the ECO mobile app to make micropayments for broadband usage. Avanti believes that ECO can deliver sustainable digital education to every excluded child in Africa.

To find out more about ECO, visit www.avantiplc.com/eco

Author: Erik Childerhouse, AVANTI

These are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official position of the Varkey Foundation.

 

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