The developers of a micro computer aimed at promoting computer literacy, especially among learners in rural schools, hope their invention will have an impact on the quality of education in the country.
The device, known as Prism, has been designed for the African rural setting and is aimed at learners from Grades 1 to 12, offering an e-learning platform that harnesses technology to foster inclusive development. The Prism prototype is the brainchild of Luyanda Vappie and Motsholane Sebola, co-founders of Root Tech, a South African technology startup dedicated to the development of innovative products.
Vappie explained that Root Tech wants to improve the accessibility of technology, particularly in rural areas, through the development of practical and sustainable innovations that can be produced on the African continent. Prism can be used in schools in areas with low connectivity as its digital literacy tools and curricula are available offline.
“We are very excited to contribute towards the realisation of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4, namely, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”, said Vappie.
Prism offers wireless connectivity with a USB interface, secure digital (SD) card slot and Bluetooth technology, and runs on Windows 10. It does not require a physical keyboard, mouse or monitor, and allows users to create Word documents, surf the Internet, watch videos and put together presentations, just like on a normal computer. The prototype device has 64 gigabytes (GB) of on-board memory, extendable by SD card to 200 GB. It can be plugged into a power source, and has a chargeable battery that can last for up to two hours. The final Prism product is currently being finalised. Vappie and Sebola’s plan is to commercialise the product and establish a local manufacturing facility that will create more engineering jobs for young South Africans.
The two entrepreneurs are grateful for the R1 million in seed funding they received from the Technology
Innovation Agency, an entity of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). They believe such funding for innovators is vital for addressing key societal problems, such as lack of information and communications technology (ICT) resources and infrastructure in rural areas.
“Just imagine, the entire school becomes an e-learning platform just like that,” Vappie said enthusiastically.
With support from the DSI, Vappie and Sebola were able to attend the fifth session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) in Morocco in April, and the fourth annual Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), which took place at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York in May. The ARFSD is convened by the UN Economic Commission for Africa in collaboration with regional organisations and agencies, and seeks to advance the implementation of both the SDGs and Africa’s Agenda 2063. This year’s Multi-stakeholder Forum on STI for the SDG’s, meanwhile, was held under the theme of “STI for ensuring inclusiveness and equality”.
Reflecting on their participation in the two forums, Vappie said they had enjoyed exposure to some of the initiatives that governments, businesses and non-profit organisations are putting in place to achieve the SDG’s – with SDG 4 being of special relevance to Root Tech. “The experience and feedback we received were invaluable, and we look forward to more engagements with the DSI and also hope to get the Department of Basic Education on board”, he concluded.