Open Collaboration for African Techies
“An Investment In Knowledge Pays The Best Interest”
This classic quote by Benjamin Franklin is the driving force and mantra behind one of ActivSpaces’ educational initiatives. Access to academic resources is a noted problem in Africa. Even with technological advances in e-learning, it’s still a challenge to develop sustainable libraries, generate end user engagement and deliver a seamless experience to students and academics interested in leveraging e-tools for research. DataZone, an innovative virtual library developed at ActivSpaces, was built with the purpose of tackling all these issues. After months of planning, designing and constructing, DataZone has recently been awarded a grant of 1,119 GBP from The Indigo Trust towards developing and deploying a prototype of the virtual library on the University of Buea campus.
DataZone | A Virtual Library
DataZone is a virtual library of educational material (digital books, audio & video files, etc.) that is accessible to students subscribed to the service free of charge. The objective is to facilitate the task of finding course material and creating a more vibrant learning experience for university students in Africa.
The benefit for the students is having an archive of educational material available to them right on campus and cheaply accessible. This saves them the effort and expenditure in having to obtain this material from internet cafes. Also, by providing this virtual library over a virtual on-campus network, they are able to provide much faster download speeds thus increasing productivity time for the students.
The Indigo Trust
The Indigo Trust is a charity organization that aims to assist under-served communities with innovative solutions to social problems. After awarding a grant to ActivSpaces last year, Dr. Loren Treisman, trust executive at The Indigo Trust paid a visit to Cameroon and ActivSpaces. You can read a little more about that particular visit in her blog post “Cameroon’s Growing Social Tech Community“. We presented some of the projects under development at ActivSpaces, never suspecting that months later individual projects would be open to grant opportunities.
Boosting DataZone’s Entry to African Universities
The DataZone grant will be used to complete deployment: acquire hardware, publicity supplies and hire a system operator for a few months. In Dr. Treisman’s own words, the trustees at The Indigo Trust believe that DataZone “should be in a position to achieve financial sustainability after piloting in Buea”. We do not disagree .
As pleasing as the grant was the effort Dr. Treisman took to connect the DataZone team with organizations influential in ICT4E, notably the Web Foundation, l’Agence Française de Développement and l’Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie. According to Sebastian Prengel, co-founder of DataZone “…this reflects Loren’s astute understanding of our challenge, which is not so much at a financial level but more at an executive one”.
DataZone: Coming To A Campus Near You
There’s still a big challenge ahead before DataZone can make the impact it intends to on African universities. However, it is boosts like this grant, MIT’s provision of a local cache of OCW, and support from the global innovation community that bring us closer and closer.
The DataZone team wants to collaborate with its sister hubs across Africa in developing regional teams to implement the DataZone project in applicable institutions. Promoting transparency, we are happy to share the DataZone proposal and grant letter to interesed parties. So contact us for details or follow @ActivSpaces on Twitter for the latest updates.
This blog is a resource for news, project updates, member profiles and community events at ActivSpaces, an open collaboration space, innovation hub and startup incubator for African techies. Based in Buea, Cameroon.