Less than a quarter of the population in Cameroon has access to internet. EduAir is developing a solution to distribute digital content for education.
How does one make the more remote villages benefit from the digital world, the inhabitants of which, isolated, only get a little electrical power and a nonexistent internet connection? In Cameroon, the penetration rate of Internet is still very low (21%) and the cost to access it mostly remains very high. Add to this a very poor reception capacity in training centers and you will get an inkling of the challenge that the startup EduAir is taking on.
Created around Yann Nkengne, a young entrepreneur who is also a technical contributor for the Wikimedia foundation, by a team of passionate people (that I joined recently), EduAir aims to propose to all a platform allowing you to remotely access, with or without an internet connection, quality educational and cultural content, originating from the best sources.
To make the solution affordable, one needs to rethink local, working from what is done in the world of makers. A Raspberry Pi, the off-line Wikipedia platform Kiwix and homemade software, all embedded in a Raspberry Pi 3 platform for the first version, then on an Intel Nuc when more processing power was needed. Regarding the tablet, a Raspberry Pi with a screen and a software layer dedicated to the Rasbian operating system permitting to offer a tactile solution, affordable and reproducible. And what’s more, a by-no-means-insignificant detail, you can get hold of all these elements in Cameroon.
The moment a prototype demonstrated the tool, the project rose interest with universities as well as schools. It has to be said that other countries, such as the Ivory Coast, where the solution is based on Emmabuntüs and Jerry, have already thought about it. Even the Cameroonian Postal and telecommunications ministry decided to support the startup in its accreditation process with the ministry of Education. EduAir also got the prize for the best startup EduTech 2016 in Cameroon and was a laureate at the Marrakech COP22 in the EduTech category.
EduAir has just launched a franchise offer to allow the use of the solution in other countries, in order to distribute the technical solution while favoring its development through small local entities. And to each user his solution: contexts are very diversified, from the Douala university library to mobile fablabs and library-bus projects.
For large infrastructures, the company proposes the EduAirPipeline, a solution installed with operators allowing the beneficiaries to access content from their personal connection without having to pay any data expenses. This shrewd solution, seeing the high diffusion rate of smartphones in town, allows students to make the best of the content proposed by their schools, but also eventually to carry out self-assessments and collaborate to prepare common projects.
At the University Institute of the Coast (IUC) and at Douala university, teachers as well as students can now put on line course materials, exercises, workshops and videos made during Arduino club meetings, in conjunction with kits bought by the school. The long term goal: “We wish to turn each student into an entrepreneur of his training by taking part in its construction, explains one of the directors of the IUC. Each protagonist has his brick to lay, whatever his condition or training, marks do not matter.” The platform allows students showing a lower level to spotlight their skills and results of personal work, thus making the follow up easier for the teachers who can guide them towards fields in which they will be able to succeed.
This platform could play a very important role for professional training in Cameroon. Many students have a small informal job that completes their apprentice or intern wages, and consequently, do not have the time or the means to attend evening courses, often far away from their workplace. This digital solution brings them what they needed to succeed: training at home, adapted to their needs, and especially much more affordable than the numerous websites, the rates of which are not adapted to the income of a Cameroonian student.
More information on EduAir