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Solar powered oil drum computers help rural Ugandan kids get connected

posted 24 Oct 2011, 02:32 by Mpelembe   [ updated 24 Oct 2011, 02:33 ]

Solar powered oil drum computers provide a cost-effective, weather resistant way for children in rural Uganda to access technology in a country where less than 10 percent of the population uses the internet.

KAMPALA, UGANDA  (UNICEF) - In the green hills of Kamwokya, a rural suburb on the outskirts of Uganda's capital Kampala, school children practice their handwriting with a chalk and blackboard.

Pens, paper and school books are limited here, as they are in schools across Uganda's rural districts. Computers and the internet are almost non-existent.

But not for much longer. Children in this village and others like it are soon to be connected to a host of education and communication tools with their very own oil drum computer. Designed specifically to cater to communities in places all over the world where access to power and technology is limited, the computer - housed in a recycled oil drum - is built to stand all kinds of weather conditions and is powered by the sun.

Its being installed in schools across Uganda by the international Children's charity UNICEF, in an attempt to offer alternative sources of learning for information-hungry kids.

"The objective is to put them in places that are as rural as possible, areas where people don't have access to really any information, a lot of these villages and towns don't have full time teachers so they have schools but students don't really have access to anything in the way of information," said Seth Hurr, UNICEF digital drum project co-ordinator.

The drum computers are pre-loaded with educational content serving as information kiosks where children can access lessons on subjects ranging from maths to science and literature for free.

Being made out of locally sourced recycled material means they're not only cheap to produce, they're also built to last.

"The innovative technologies like these actually help create a digital bridge between those who have access to internet and those who don't, in a low cost sturdy fashion," said Sharad Sapra, from UNICEF Uganda.

It's estimated that less than 10 percent of Ugandans currently use the internet despite the country being one of the first sub-Saharan countries in Africa to get access to mainland servers.

However technology analysts say its fast growing economy and relative peace make it a prime location for rapid development in the technology sector, projected huge growth in internet and computer use in the years to come.