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30/05/2020 The Communication Science magazine

Spreading Digital Literacy With a Donkey

In order to increase digital literacy Dayn Amada brings his Community Tablet to rural communities. This device and its education, which can be transported by a donkey, is linked to culture and uses gamifcation to enhance the learning process. Eva explains this alternative way of learning and why it is successful.


In rural communities, the education system is often rigged with challenges ranging from infrastructural issues to lack of teachers. Driven by the desire to close the education gap, a Mozambican education entrepreneur Dayn Amade created a digital platform called the Community Tablet to increase digital literacy and subsequently empower the population. In the past three years, Amade has brought his project to 90 communities in Mozambique’s remotest areas and reports tangible results.

Tablet Comunitário
The Community Tablet, originally Tablet Comunitário, is an interactive, digital platform through which people can be educated and informed about issues impacting their lives. The technology was created by a Mozambican entrepreneur Dayn Amade, the founder of Maputo-based technology company Kamaleon. His main objective is to close the education gap by promoting digital literacy in rural communities.

The reality of Mozambique is that the quality of education is extremely poor and that is why we remain poor

The technology consists of six large, solar-powered LCS screens that broadcast the educational content as well as cameras and loud speakers. Is is also equipped with four touch screens that allow user-interaction such as online access and internet access for post-presentation feedback sessions. The device is transported on a trailer, which can be attached to anything from a car to a donkey. This mobility has enabled Amade to reach even the most remote rural communities.

The content transmitted via the Community Tablet focuses on five main areas, namely public health, digital access, family planning, banking and voting. Amade believes that improving education about these topics is essential for prosperity. “The reality of Mozambique is that the quality of education is extremely poor and that is why we remain poor because people are not being empowered properly.” He hopes that his invention can be a way to zmensit the education gap: “By explaining to people and showing them, you can solve many problems, including the poverty we live in.”

Message received
Amade believes that the failures of foreign-backed initiatives to fight for instance diseases in Africa can be attributed to lack of understanding about how to successfully communicate their message. He has said that “aid efforts are being hampered by a failure to educate people on the question of why [change] is needed and by organisations’ ability to tailor messages to local communities”.

The Mozambican entrepreneur admitted that finding an efficient way to communicate his message has been somewhat of a struggle. “I’ve made mistakes along the way and sometimes content can offend,” he said. In his recent interview with The Guardian, he recalled an instance when he was showing an animated video explaining the importance of hygiene to prevent cholera: “In the animation, the character, having answered the call of nature, cleaned themselves using their right hand, something that we had not noticed. However, the Muslim audience did – and failed to adopt the message, disgusted because they use their right hand to eat.”

Now, all used content is first shown to anthropologists and psychologists based at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo. Anthologists help the content creators to understand local cultural, economical and geographical contexts. Their engagement is aimed at minimising misunderstandings and misrepresentation of the message by the audience by tailoring the content to the designed audiences.

Post presentation, people play a game which allows us to collect data on how well the presentation received

Another way Amade attempts to find out whether his message was understood is a feedback session that follows every presentation. “All too often, NGOs give talks, or give out information, without knowing what the impact has been. We do this through gamification. Post presentation, people play a game which allows us to collect data on how well the presentation received, what was actually learnt, how they felt about it, what areas they did not understand and what impact it has had on their decisions, ie will they change their behaviour?”

Utility Over Looks
There have been various initiatives to increase the use of digital technology in rural communities but their results have not always been favourable. One of the most notable examples of ambitious yet unachievable goals to transform education is the project One Laptop per Child. The project has been praised for pioneering low-cost and low-power laptops as well as advocating for computer literacy as a mainstream part of education. Nevertheless, it has also received criticisms ranging from the project’s US-centric focus that ignores bigger problems, high total cost without any tangible results and its limited success so far.

It cannot be broken, it cannot be stolen [which makes it] an adequate way of supplying digital education to people in rural communities

Mr. Amade put it simply: “It’s impossible to give a tablet to everybody – it is too expensive and you don’t know if they are going to use it or are going to sell it.” That is one of the reasons why Amade’s device was constructed to be safe and robust. “It cannot be broken, it cannot be stolen [which makes it] an adequate way of supplying digital education to people in rural communities.”

Ken Banks, an innovator in mobile for Africa and the head of social impact at digital ID company Yodi, praised the simplicity of Amade’s innovation stating “Projects like the Community Tablet are a great example of appropriate, almost frugal innovation – focusing on what works rather than what looks good.” He continued by pointing out that it is possible “to solve many development problems with tools available today – but often, we’re too busy chasing the next shiny innovation.”

As of April 2019, Kamaleon reports that the tablet has travelled over 4,000 kilometres visiting 40 schools. The Community Tablet has been granted a UK patent and there are plans to further build upon the initial innovation by franchising it. Amade aims to expand beyond Mozambique and introduce his device to more urban communicates. As of now, he is experimenting with utilising his technology in schools in order to advise children about their career prospects. As he put it: “…and for those who did not have the luxury of an education, the tablet could be an incredibly powerful tool”.  

Cover: Unsplash/MarkusSpiske Final Editor: Ivo Martens

 

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