A pre-analysis of Jubilee’s One Solar Laptop per Child Initiative(OSLPCI)

Samsung Solar Laptop

Samsung Solar Laptop

During the recently concluded electoral campaigns President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto captivated the minds of Kenyan parents with a promise of delivering to every Standard One pupil entering school in 2014 a solar powered laptop to enhance and aid their learning environment(see video below).

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As expected many Kenyans were sceptical given the perception that many Government projects begin with pomp and fury but end up as duds; wasting billions of shillings that could otherwise have gone to more basic and immediate needs.

I thought it would be prudent for us to examine through a Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat( SWOT) analysis the feasibility of such a project in present day Kenya.

Strengths

  • Kenya has a reasonably developed ICT Sector with 3G and Fibre internet connectivity across most of the country that can support remote management of the project.
  • Kenya has a good number of Hardware Companies that have a track record in assembly and distribution of hardware that can be relied on to install and deliver the necessary equipment if need be.
  • Kenya is home to major technology players such as Samsung, Huawei, ZTE, Microsoft, IBM and HP who can be entrusted to deliver both the hardware and software platforms needed to create the eco-system needed for such a project.
  • Kenya has a sufficient number of trained personnel at every level of the project delivery chain to sustain the project albeit if well organized.
  • Kenya has the capacity to train personnel should there be a shortfall within the aforementioned value chain.
  • Kenya has many Non Governmental Organizations(NGOs) that have built vast experience in delivering similar projects across other sectors. This experience can therefore be tapped into to help create a robust plan to mitigate against the following weaknesses.

Weaknesses

  • Many Kenyan educational institutions are stuck in what we could call an “Analog” mindset due to many years on poor funding and lack of training in modern educational techniques. Mindsets would need to change through an evolutionary process that all stake holders buy into.
  • Kenyan Governmental institutions have only recently begun improving their professional standards and therefore they would need to continue to up their efficiency levels to sustain such an ambitious project.
  • A lot of the backbone infrastructure needed to support this project is either lacking or outdated in many parts of Kenya. This includes electricity, data connectivity, storage facilities as well as the school infrastructure itself.

Threats

  • This project could have a single point of failure that could easily be overlooked which is the Social/Cultural adoption of this new technology by all the stake holders in society. This is because this project attempts to bridge the old and the new, the Analog and the Digital,  the Traditional and the Modern. How will the Jubilee Government address this cultural issues facing this project? Will parents trust their children to their devices? Will communities appreciate the content their children are being exposed to such an early age? Will experienced Government technocrats in the educational sector work with youthful “geeks” at the same level to deliver this project successfully? Will chalk board teachers adapt to new methods of teaching?
  • How will the project be financed and sustained while mitigating threats such as corruption and wastage of funds?
  • I trust there are experts within the Jubilee team who will address these issues given the efficiency with which they ran their election campaign. In my humble opinion the Opportunity this Initiative presents in terms of addressing a myriad of societal problems is to huge to be ignored or poorly executed.
Opportunities
  • The biggest opportunity of this project lies in the early exposure of young minds to technology and information that could allow for development of individual talents and skills from an early age. If you think about some of the Worlds best technological and scientific brains like Steve Jobs(Apple Inc) and Mark Zuckerburg(Facebook Inc) many had exposure to technology from a very young age (Watch Video Below). It is likely that a sustained OSLPC initiative will in the long run create our own local technological giants and safeguard Kenya’s position as a Technological Hub i.e Silicon Savannah.

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  • While the Technology Sector is likely to be the biggest long term beneficiary. The OSLPC Initiative is likely to have a positive socio-economic impact in the following sectors Education, Health, Energy and Agriculture given the kind of content that is likely to be adopted and curated for these school going children. I would actually advocate for localization of content to County Level to meet the societal needs and aspirations of Kenyans wherever they are.
  • It will also be important to expose the children especially as they grow older and head into their Secondary School years to more Open Internet Based Platforms like the Khan Academy which provide engaging content that can equip young people with access to information more relevant to their passion and needs. In my view Interests Based Education could be much more effective than Formal and Standardized education. They beauty about this approach is that it is something that can be implemented fairly quickly for older students through other initiatives like One Computer Lab per School.
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Indeed the opportunities the One Solar Laptop per Child Initiative offers are endless. The question remains what innovative ways can we come up with to ensure this project kicks off in the new year in a sustainable way.

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