Over the past three months we have received a huge amount of interest from educators about the BRCK. This has been a real eye opener for us. Because of this we planned an expedition to visit Johnny Long, a long time member of the BRCK community, who runs Hackers For Charity in Jinja, Uganda. He supports local charities and schools with technical support, tools, and trainings. About a year ago he hacked together a bunch of connectivity equipment in a pelican case to get a few schools he works with online. After significant effort he came across BRCK and had a eureka moment. He reached out and has been a huge inspiration to us, and an incredibly helpful community member.
The real take away from our time with Johnny is that there is a massive need to get information, that educational content, into the hands of teachers and students at the edge of the network. Most of these places have a signal for an hour a day or so, at best. So the key is to deliver content locally offline, and then have it update and sync to the greater web during those moments of connectivity. The BRCK can improve that quality of connectivity and increase the amount of time they are online, but with content directly on the BRCK, it can even deliver offline educational content such as school books, Wikipedia, and Khan Academy videos even when there is no connection.
Johnny took us out to a school he works with on Lingira island, which is about 1.5 hour boat ride into Lake Victoria. Some of the teachers at the school had reception on their phones, but the school itself had no connectivity. We spent the day working on getting the school set up. We tested out antennae and different mobile carriers. The latest version of BRCK software worked like a champ.
The most important part was the time we spent with the teachers. This direct user research was invaluable. The teachers have to spend huge amounts of money on textbooks and transporting them to the school. They are out of date and when new ones come out, they can’t procure or afford them. They know how that an internet connection gives affordable access to the entirety of the modern world, a virtual Library of Alexandria.
Access to information is an equalizer. Access to information in its purist form is fuel for education. It shortens the gap between the haves and the have nots, and gives people real opportunity.
(Posted from the banks of the Nile, via a BRCK.)