2 June 2014

Kenya: Samsung Starts Kenya Schools Project

Photo: Julius Mwelu/Urban Gateway
School children hold up one of the Samsung tablets used at the library.

Samsung Electronics East Africa has launched the first Solar Powered Internet School (SPIS) in Kenya, in a move that is set to improve the quality of education provision by ameliorating scarcity in the provision of learning material, low electricity connectivity in public schools as well as access to information, communication & technologies (ICTs).

Through the Hope for Children initiative, Samsung Electronics donated the SPIS to Arap Moi Primary School, in Kajiado County in its quest to complement the efforts by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in the implementation of ICT integration in primary schools. The SPIS at Arap Moi Primary School is set to benefit 9 other nearby schools, namely -Kiserian, Nakel, Naro Moru, Nkoroi, Ole Kasasi, Oloosurutia, Olteyian and Rongai Primary Schools.

Samsung's Vice President for East and Central Africa, Mr. Robert Ngeru, describes this initiative as being in line with the company's global vision of strengthening the minds and fostering the creativity of young people as well as a holistic effort on education transformation in Africa.

"At Samsung, we are keen to support societies and their communities in many different ways and the Solar Powered Internet School will provide better knowledge transfer, learning and research opportunities both for learners and teachers alike, as well as equip them with the necessary employable skills for the future," said Ngeru.

The initiative focuses on the deployment of ICT infrastructure, professional development of educators, content development and management, school administration and management as well as sharing best practices in the integration of ICTs in enhancing learning and teaching in the classroom.

The SPIS is a 40-foot shipping container that Samsung equips with 24 Samsung Laptops plus one for the teacher, a multi-purpose Samsung printer, a 50-inch electronic board, a server, internet access and the solar panels. All these devices are optimised for use in a solar-powered environment.

The e-board allows for cross-group collaboration between and among educators and learners across geographical boundaries. It can run video conferencing, access the internet, and connect to the computers in the container, all simultaneously, providing an interactive learning and teaching experience for both the educators and learners.

The schools are built for use in remote rural areas with little or no grid electricity infrastructure and are easily transportable via trucks. The fold-away solar panels provide enough energy to power the classroom's equipment for up to nine hours a day. The solar-panels are made from rubber instead of glass to ensure they are robust and durable enough to survive long journeys across the country.

In cases whereby schools have electricity and a secure classroom, Samsung is able to supply the Galaxy tablets, e-board, servers and internet. These are known as Samsung Smart Schools.

Samsung has partnered with Intel and Korea Education and Research Information Service (KERIS) to pre-install content on the computers. Two teachers from Arap Moi Primary School were amongst several teachers that were trained by KERIS in Korea for two weeks. The training is designed to equip the teachers with requisite skills in curriculum development and integrate technology with this curriculum.

Samsung has collaborated with Safaricom in the provision of internet to the SPIS to facilitate connectivity to the world of information and research - this has been provided for a period of 5 years at no cost.

"We are also working with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) in the development and deployment of content aligned to the official schools' curriculum," added Mr. Ngeru.

Lauding Samsung's contribution to the education system, Deputy President William Ruto said that with the government's plan to expose all Standard One pupils to technology, the private sector will play a pivotal role in supporting the roll-out of technology to more primary school students.

"The integration of ICT in our education system will undoubtedly raise the quality of education in our country. Teachers will have been empowered to engage in more research while preparing their lessons and the students will have a chance to gain more knowledge from online content," said Ruto.

The progressive Solar Powered Internet Schools concept, places Kenya (as well as Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Gabon, Ghana and South Africa) at the forefront of nations adopting and integrating ICT in their education models.

Meanwhile, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd moved deeper into the wearable technology market on Wednesday as it unveiled a wristband that it claims can give a range of real-time health and fitness information.

At a press event in San Francisco, the world's biggest handset maker announced Simband, a new "investigational" device that can be used to measure body temperature, blood oxygen levels, motion and other metrics on a continuous basis.

The prototype "smart" band is not intended to be sold as is but serve as a "foundation" for third party developers to build a device that incorporates "optical, acoustic and electronic sensors," Samsung's vice president of digital health Ram Fish said.

"We want to bring in talent from the outside," said Young Sohn, president and chief strategy officer for Samsung Electronics' Device Solutions.

Samsung unveiled the Simband at a time when Apple Inc is said to be developing its own wrist device to compete in the wearable technology sector.

Executives for the Korean company said Simband features a shuttle battery, which charges when the wearer is inactive, and is equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

The device was developed in concert with researchers from Belgium-based IMEC and the University of California San Francisco.

This new platform goes hand-in-hand with Samsung Architecture Multimodal Interactions ("SAMI"), a "bank" to store sensitive health data on the Galaxy S devices. The goal for SAMI is to gather data from various health and fitness applications, and offer "insights" to consumers, Samsung said.

"Samsung doesn't own the data, you do," said Fish. "We are a custodian of it."

Samsung plans to market SAMI by hosting a developer challenge and setting aside a $50 million fund for early-stage digital health entrepreneurs. Sohn said the company has already begun investing, recently providing funding to an early-stage entrepreneur building a noninvasive glucose monitoring solution.

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