William Sachiti (Pasihapaori Chidziva) a serial entrepreneur from Zimbabwe has published open-source technology known as ‘Trees of Knowledge’ to improve access to education through smartphones in Africa. Sachiti, was educated in Zimbabwe before moving to the United Kingdom where he started his first technology company at 19 years old. He studied Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in the United Kingdom where he runs the company Academy of Robotics which designs and builds self-driving cars for autonomous delivery.
Trees of Knowledge is a community-driven, secure and cost-free solution. Anyone within a roughly 100m radius can then access the content on any mobile device free of charge. Users can also charge their phone by plugging it into the accompanying solar-powered battery charging station.
The micro-computers will run on the power equivalent of a small rechargeable battery and can run for years without maintenance. All the user needs is a wifi-enabled device such as a phone, tablet, laptop or computer. There is no need for the phone to be connected to a carrier or any network provider, removing the issue of expensive data charges.
The Zimbabwean AI expert said: “One of the challenges in providing education through smartphones is that, while many people have access to a basic smartphone of some description, in many areas 3G coverage is still patchy. The data costs are high for most people and in rural areas, keeping the phones charged is a problem when there is limited or no electricity. Trees of Knowledge aims to address all these challenges.”
“Every day, millions of children walk for hours to get to school in the hope – often a vain hope – that they will find a teacher present at their school. In other cases, children are unable to attend school because they need to take care of the family’s cattle or support their families in other ways. There is an urgent need to improve access to education for these children. For many children in their classes are taught gathered under the shade of a large tree, so ‘Trees of Knowledge’ seemed a natural technical extension of this existing system.” Sachiti noted.
The pre-loaded learning content is likely to be largely video-based and would be free to access by anyone at any time. Whilst the system can work with existing educational content packages, ultimately, society hopes that content can also come from local educators.