Nakuru pilots on internet service provider to increases information technology literacy

OuterNet in Nakuru County as connectivity reaches new highs. Photo Courtesy
OuterNet in Nakuru County as connectivity reaches new highs. Photo Courtesy

Schools across the country may soon get access to one of the global’s newest cost-free data startup, — Outernet — once a piloting project in Nakuru succeeds.

Outernet is a digital library that makes information accessible without the internet. It is one of a kind broadcast to be the first fully free wireless signal  having turned on their first public satellite in August last year in North America, Europe and parts of Middle East.

The project which was launched in Nakuru in April, this year by then Cabinet Secretary for Information Communication and Technology Dr Fred Matiangi, is spearheaded by Lanet-Umoja Chief Francis  Kariuki, who rose to fame for his use of twitter in curbing crime.

Project Outernet is the newest global broadcast incubated by Media Development Investment Fund, a US investment fund, and the success of the first model might put Kenya as among the first African countries to access free digital content from the web.

Towards the end of last year, Project Outernet had earmarked South Sudan and Namibia among the first countries in Africa to be provided with free data service beginning this year.

According to Kariuki, the first model which was installed at Jomo Kenyatta High School in Nakuru is fully operational and serves more than 500 students and residents living next to the hotspot.

A plan to work on a second model at Thuku School in Elburgon is underway before the project can be declared a success.

“The model at Jomo Kenyatta High School is currently operational and students are already using it,” said Kariuki.

He explains: “We are still working on the logistics and when ready we can showcase the project and seek for sponsors. From then on we can roll out to schools country wide.”

Kariuki has liaised with the Ministry of Information to kick start the project which was suggested to him by World Bank officials during one of his presentations in advocating for the use of technology in society.

This kind of technology is expected to bridge the global information divide through the broadcast of digital files aimed at promoting basic level education and information as well as reducing overreliance on costly data plans for high-bandwidth digital media consumption.

The modern version of ‘shortwave radio’ aims at put over three billion people globally who cannot access the internet due to cost, geography or jurisdiction.

While using Outernet users will, however, be required to have Wi-Fi enabled devices to access the source of signal.

Outernet uses satellites to beam information to their receivers on earth either through a community receiver named Pillar or a smaller one named Lantern.

The receivers have the capacity to store high volumes of multimedia content which includes audios, books, videos and web pages which can be accessed using wireless enabled devices without the need for an internet connection.

To access the information, passwords are not required. Once an Outernet receiver is plugged in, one starts seeing data being relayed.

While Outernet will help individuals to download music, images, e-books, researches and other documents, it will also provide a virtual library that helps students’ access education easily by using Lighthouse, a digital receiver that stores information.

“Teachers and students can connect to Lighthouse Wi-Fi signal to browse the contents,” indicates information on Outernet’s official website.

Teachers, students or a school can also share information with its students or add a topic which they want to study or are currently studying to Lighthouse. One can add content to a small group or can make it available to anyone.

Outernet’s multicast is publicly editable making it easier for a teacher to use WhatsApp or Twitter to request specific material.

“Since users view content on Lighthouse in their browser, it looks and feels like the web. We can even create custom apps to display your data in its own way like Twitter,” indicates Outernet in its official website.

Outernet is non-interactive hence one cannot send or receive e-mails or other chat facilities. Organizations that are connected to the internet can, however, pay a fee to have their own material added to broadcasts at specific times.

Among the key areas Outernet is expected to impact includes; disaster recovery, rural communication, education sector, religious institutions, hospitals and in refugee camps.

“The project will provide content pertaining to global news and information, international and local news, agricultural information for rural farmers, healthcare information, e-books for learners and researchers and many more appliances,” said Matiang’i during the project launch in April.

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