Serial entrepreneur William Sachiti, responsible for the driverless delivery vehicle Kar-go has published a white paper on his latest invention dubbed Trees of knowledge. This project uses trees or other landmarks to house a small computer that broadcasts a wifi network that allows those connected to view preloaded content on the network. The initiative will be used to provide access to information for communities particularly in remote areas where access to the internet is limited but has applications beyond education.
As mentioned above the computer is built into a tree or other landmark and provides anyone with a wifi enabled device to access whatever content is preloaded on the system. This can be used to provide learning resources for example video lectures and talks on desired subjects to overcome the prohibitive costs associated with reproduction of content such as textbooks and supporting material. The concept can be likened to having a local library based on digital content. The computer does not provide access to the internet per se but rather to content on the device.
Considering the access problems associated with internet connectivity and print learning material in rural and underprivileged communities the project is envisioned to reduce these problems. The setup uses an open-source, Linux based Tree OS to run the machine. An individual unit can be set up for a cost of approximately US$105 according to the white paper. While access to wifi-enabled devices is increasing access to the internet still has an especially prohibitive cost in many African countries.
Trees of knowledge is based on offering free access to users. Consider the rural setup in Zimbabwe where the cost of textbooks alone is prohibitive. The idea is to enable access to a cornucopia of content with the devices being the cost that individuals would still have to bear. The project concept is promising. While the paper focuses on rural communities it is easy to see how other underprivileged communities can benefit.
There are many applications beyond education for the idea. Consider the current outbreak of the coronavirus which there is very little information on in the Zimbabwean health sector. Having such a system at health centres with the tree preloaded with informational videos that explain the virus and issues around it would help in terms of readiness to combat it. The same could be said for educating communities on the current rainfall conditions or a pest outbreak such as the current east African locust scourge.