The Government of New Zealand will look into possible mobile-learning initiatives to connect rural schools, following its announcement to subsidise the costs of ultra fast broadband.“The Ministry of Education is currently looking at how to harness the potential of digital devices that nearly all students have already – their mobile phones,” Colin McGregor, Ministry of Education, group manager of curriculum teaching and learning design, told FutureGov Asia Pacific.
“An ‘m-learning’ pilot has already been successfully implemented by Onehunga High School. The Ministry is currently supporting a second project at Howick College in partnership with Waikato University and Vodafone.”
The government has identified broadband as a significant driver for e-learning and equity in education and has committed to providing 97 per cent of schools with access to speeds of 100Mbps or more via the national fibre rollout. The remaining 3 per cent in areas too remote for optic fibre currently receives 10Mbps via satellite or wireless technologies.
The ministry has been using the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), which provides mainly rural students with access to online courses. In 2010, more than 2000 New Zealand students took part in these virtual classes over the VLN.
Other initiatives include the Ministry of Education’s Laptops for Teachers and Principals scheme, which subsidises the leases on laptops for permanent, full-time or part-time teachers at state and integrated schools. The Ministry has about two thirds of the lease cost of the teacher’s laptops and fully subsidises the base model for principals. More than 43,000 laptops are currently on lease, representing an 88 per cent uptake.
(Source: Aisa Pacific futuregov)
Connectivity and quality access to ICTs is essential for survival in this era of digital revolution. Mahabir Pun foresaw this in 1997, when due to his immense efforts his mountain village of Nangi in Nepal first embraced computers. A simplistic website connected his village to the digital world bringing along a large number of foreign volunteers to support his cause. The project had a humble beginning with donations of used computers from Australia, Singapore and Malaysia and several design topologies for wireless connectivity being tested, details here (all with help of volunteers). The computer was assembled into a wooden box integrating the discrete components. This was the beginning of digital age for students in Nepal.
By now, his initiative has evolved into Nepal Wireless Networking Project which has connected around 42 villages in rural Nepal through wireless technologies, creating new opportunities of education, agriculture, Tele-medicine and E-commerce for the villagers providing them with an opportunity to trade goods from live yaks to handicrafts. Numerous institutions and technology firms such as the Donald Strauss Foundation, the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology at George Mason University, the World Bank, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), smartBridges, Pacific Wireless, and others provided support in this endeavor.
Nepal wireless project is working with Open Learning Exchange for developing educational content in line of the national curricula. The main goal is to use the network for live teleteaching transmitted from one school to other schools in remote areas to overcome the shortage of quality teachers. Another aim of project is to link the health workers to the doctors and even doctors directly to the patients.
“We are using the wireless network for health, providing telemedicine services to the remote villages,” said Mr Pun.
The project is also helping establish communication centres in the Villages to enable the villagers to have VOIP calls for communication to other villages. The project has been replicated under the name of Makawanpur wireless networking project. A detailed report of the project is available here. The vision of Mahabir has inspired many people and now Himanchal Education Foundation is working to use the school as a community centre. Connected school through the wireless project would mean a connected community through connected school.
Nokia Siemens Networks Village Connection is a connectivity solution enabling operators to capture the rural market potential by offering affordable voice and sms service to villages for a relatively low investment, serving a dual purpose: providing access and connectivity to remote areas while helping NSN to fulfill its target of reaching 5 billion mobile subscribers’ target. The project targets population with very meager income (less than $2 per day) and provides them affordable access by making it economically viable for the telcos (by significant reduction in CAPEX). The major advantage lies in the cut down in the prices of infrastructure and equipment.
“The coverage uses modular, compact GSM Access Points, comprising radio frequency, power and a standard PC with Access Point software.”
Such is the potential of this project that it introduces a new business model for telcos. Other vendors like Huawei is also considering the Village Connection solution. The local access point is generally installed with an omni-directional antenna with customer premises equipment (CPE) which can be hosted with a local entrepreneur, moreover, very little network planning is required. Diesel powered generators and solar panels ensure power access during electric supply outages. The solution ensures that local calls are switched locally and the billing services can also be pushed to local entrepreneurs handling the equipment.
The Village Connection solution supporting voice and SMS can be easily expanded into range of value added services. Internet Kiosks provide internet access to the locals through the village connection. The inherent IP connectivity of GSM access point ensures internet connectivity. The solution has been successfully implemented in many countries, starting from India and extending out to Tanzania (by Vodafone). The brochure of Village Connection can be accessed here.
SchoolNet is an initiative that promotes the effective use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in learning through supporting the connection of schools to the Internet and by creating a network of schools. The UNESCO SchoolNet project, “Strengthening ICT in Schools and SchoolNet Project in ASEAN Setting”, was initiated in recognition of the need to assist teachers in integrating ICT into teaching and to facilitate participation of teachers and students in the Asia-Pacific region in SchoolNet telecollaboration activities.
The project was launched in July 2003 and focuses on three subject areas, languages, mathematics and science. SchoolNet activities have been piloted in 24 schools in8 participating countries of the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) region: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam.
The UNESCO SchoolNet project aims to encourage use of ICT in teaching-learning, improve connectivity, expand access to the wealth of educational resources available via the Internet and establish and promote SchoolNet in the Asia-Pacific region. National coordinators facilitate project implementation in each participating ASEAN-region country. Project partners include Japanese Funds-in-Trust and ASEAN Foundation.
Source:UNESCO SchoolNet Project resource
The Intel Rural Connectivity Platform (RCP) is a low cost, low power, low touch long-range Wi-Fi solution designed to bring connectivity to remote areas. The technology behind this research was developed by personnel in the Intel Research Berkeley lab. It is a wireless long distance back hauls solution that operates on non licensed spectrums to provide the perfect product for emerging markets.
“It is an appealing way to connect remote areas that otherwise would go without the Internet”, says Jeff Galinovsky, a senior platform manager at Intel. “Wireless satellite connections are expensive and it’s impractical to wire up some villages in Asian and African countries. The rural connectivity platform (RCP), will be helpful to computer-equipped students in poor countries. And the data rates are high enough–up to about 6.5 megabits per second–that the connection could be used for video conferencing and tele-medicine, he says.
The demo that was presented at the Berkeley Lab open house had two antenna transmitting video via WI-FI connection. One of the antennas was on top of the Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) at the UC Berkeley campus which is about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away from the lab in downtown Berkeley.
Already, Intel has installed and tested the hardware in India, Panama, Vietnam, and South Africa. One of the research projects connected rural villages in India with the Aravind Eye clinic to provide medical eye exams via the wireless antenna relay system. In Panama, it is bringing the internet to a remote village in the rain forest.
More details can be found in RCP product brief and this video.
Sources: Intel blog, Technology review