Education: The Aakash Tablet

aakash

1. Aakash – What’s the content?

One of the motives to make Aakash available for students was to have the NPTEL courses accessible on them. Now, with the launch of the Sakshat Portal,  can you think of ways to improve the standards of suitable educational content, and how they can be delivered directly to these tablets? Availability of MOOCs – similar to the availability of Coursera courses on the iPad, might be a first step. Is there another model?
Feel free to create Native apps/web apps/mock apps that can run easily on an Android platform (Ice cream sandwich) that proves to be student friendly.

Debate Question: Is it time to rethink how we deliver content on these tablets?

Video

Pros:

  • Understandable
  • Colorful and engaging
  • Ability for the best teachers to really get across to students

Issues and solutions

How to deliver video content to millions of tablets?

In house streaming is difficult since most places do not have high enough bandwidth to provide uninterrupted video to many students (3G coverage is very low, and GPRS is too slow).

So another option is to distribute videos via physical USB connection or wifi connection at schools. This might work better, since now the students will also have an incentive to go to school. A physical connection is also needed for another reason described later. We can compare these options now. We are assuming that there is a dire shortage of teachers and hence everybody has to get video for all subjects, and most of the learning happens through videos. Teachers are there just to resolve doubts as in the inverted classroom model.

USB

Four or five fair quality videos of 1 hours each can be ~ 2GB. Assuming these tablets are pretty low end, and can only get a 5 MB/s transfer speed, this transfer will take 400s = 6 minutes, which is not too bad. If we assume all the transfers will be done within a timeframe of 4 hour, and there are ~ 400 students, we will need ~ 10 usb outlets, which might not be too difficult to provide. We can share one usb port from a computer via usb hubs.

Wifi

Assume our low end tablet can again get wifi speeds up to 1 MB/s (802.11b is 11Mbps, which is similar). The videos now download in 40 minutes, which is reasonable enough. But, too many students downloading will definitely reduce the overall bandwidth to each student. Assume we have to provide the videos within a timeframe of 4 hours to all the students. Now, there needs to be at least 75 wifi outlets which will be much more difficult from a cost perspective.

Battery consumption

Videos consume lots of battery unless we have specialized video IP blocks within our processor. Even then, a low end tablet will not have more than 4 hours of battery life, which means our student will have to recharge in < 2 days if he is watching 2 hours of video everyday. Considering the poor penetration of electricity, probably providing usb outlets for charging at schools will be better. Assuming a tablet takes 1 hour to charge, this will require ~ 50 outlets per school (again assuming we have a 4 hour window in which anybody can charge their tablets).

Thus it seems video distribution needs a USB hub at every school containing ~ 20-50 outlets. One option to lower this is to provide one tablet every 4 or 5 student group, which will then lower the necessity for these outlets. Such groups will also spur group interaction, which can be a good side-effect. If USB is the way to go, it makes sense to build in more storage capacity so that students can refer to older material, which is a big advantage of online education. A 32GB model still can hold only last month’s videos.

Audio + ebook

Pros:

  • Easier to distribute
  • Consumes less battery, thus overcoming the larger hurdles of video distribution
  • Can have fair amount of interactivity, if we include a pdf reader with each device, in audio questions can be done in the pdf.
  • Low storage requirements. Assuming audio is 1/10 of size of equivalent video, we are looking at a full year’s audio + pdfs all in one 32GB device.

Issues and solutions:

  • Not interactive, difficult to show logical steps than video, but better than books, and can be nicely complemented by a book or pdf with pictures.

  • Fairly cheap devices can still have interactive text and audio which can again be downloaded via USB. Cheaper devices will also mean the government has to foot a lower bill.

  • It seems better for each student to have one such cheap device. This can be based on e-ink technology like kindles, which will then cost much less and last much longer.

  • Fairly sophisticated or specialized material can also be distributed via this method to interested students.

  • This model is fairly non-interactive within different schools. In order to remedy this, we can encourage students to participate in question answer communities through their common tablets. Maybe we can also provide an SMS-based interface to asking/answering questions through the kindle-like devices.

Challenge:

Build a cheap and efficient device for reading pdf’s and listening to audio lectures by using an e-ink display. One can use reused displays from kindles available from ebay for ~ 25-30$. A resistive touchscreen can cost ~ 10-20$. After having a proof of concept on a board such as raspberry pi, one can look into building a more self-contained device. Intuitive alternatives to a touchscreen (joystick/arrow buttons) can also be investigated, since alternative keyboards in various indian languages can be difficult to mass produce.

2. Aakash – Time for an update

With several no-name manufacturers in Asia churning out tablets for less than $60 and with big companies like HP, Samsung and Intel working towards bringing high quality tablets for less than $100 this holiday season, how do you think the Aakash be improved in its hardware aspects and at the same time remain in its cost category?

We have a detailed list of specs that interested participants can go through to hammer out the best possible configuration, given the cost constraints.
P.S. – People are more than welcome to bring their own Raspberry Pis or Arduinos to test out stuff and show their work.

Link: Detailed draft spec sheet

3. Aakash – What’s the price?

The Aakash is also commercially available in the stores for a cheap price. Make a detailed price point comparison between the UbiSlate 7C+ and other consumer tablets and provide an abstract business model that can help Aakash boost revenue.

4. Networking of Campuses in India

Under the National Mission on Education through Info and Communication tech (NMEICT), each university and college is touted to get a broadband internet connection and standalone network-based solutions are being thought about for very low cost connectivity to student’s home. What are the ways to implement this (topology, cable type, server hosting capabilities, etc)? Can we extend this to schools, to build the primary internet access backbone for students?

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The Parishudh Sanitation Initiative

Introduction

The Parishudh initiative aims to increase access to sanitation infrastructure in rural Northern Karnataka.

The program began in 2011 October, and has the following goals:

  • Help 10,000 families in North Karnataka have a toilet of their own in 40 villages, and educate at least 100,000 families about having a sustainable toilet of their own

  • Encourage entrepreneurs to get started in the area of building sanitation facilities for the public and to sustain this as businesses in the long run

  • Build reusable artifacts including designs, partnerships and processes to make the initiative easily repeatable elsewhere in India

Parishudh has built more than 11,000 toilets for individual families in the region already. The team has also held awareness programs for more than 200,000 people, such as toilets summits, IEC sessions, competitions for school children, sponsoring youth fests and so on. Parishudh has also created Nirmal Gram Samithis in villages with the intention of helping people to organize and implement other developmental initiatives. The NGOs partnering with Parishudh are SPRED, Indus foundation, RUDISET, Vikas Academy Yadgir and Gram Yuva Seva Sangh Kannal.

Methodology

Parishudh has set up a process for the construction of toilets for rural homes.

Awareness

First, it performs a village-wide awareness event to talk about the problems related to open defecation, and the many benefits of having toilets at home. This awareness event addresses several issues such as privacy concerns, convenience for women and children, the problem of female students dropping out of school when they hit puberty, disease and so on. A survey is done on all villages in the area, and this awareness program is usually attended by 200-300 families.

Cost-sharing

When rural homeowners sign up for the program, a cost-sharing arrangement is set up. Parishudh pays for half the costs of construction, the NREGA program pays for a quarter and the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan program pays the remaining quarter (both are government-backed programs). The total cost of construction of a toilet for one family is R. 15,000 ($240).

Construction

When the payment structure is settled, construction is completed in less than a fortnight, using as much local labor and material as possible. Care is taken to ensure strict standards in design and implementation. The handover happens when construction is completed.


Challenges

1. Parishudh Real-Time Progress Webcaster

How can we design a method for people from all over the world to check in on Parishudh’s progress in real time?

An interesting map, video chat, instant messaging and real-time update mash-up would serve to allow people to see the progress of awareness programs, surveying, construction and hand-overs of completed toilets. This can also serve as an excellent method for people to develop a core understanding of the impact being made by Parishudh, and to contribute their time, money and ideas to its progress and expansion.

Program recommendations – Parishudh maintains a Salesforce account to administer master data of all projects – current, completed and planned. The web app could pull the records from here, build necessary custom reports and automatically update real-time progress on a map. The areas the app could generate reports for include – construction dashboard, awareness campaigns conducted, events planned, families in queue etc. Whereas Salesforce will remain to be a management database, the Parishudh Webcaster will use this database to share progress online.

Sustainability – Parishudh will implement and maintain the app, and take it forward after the hackathon. Interested participants could most definitely continue to work with Parishudh in the future. Volunteers who wish to follow up are welcome!

2. The Nudge App – pushing Government programs to deliver on their promises

How can we nudge government departments who run important development-focused programs to complete their deliverables on time?

Need: One of the reasons why toilet construction in rural areas is not up to speed is that the government incentive announced (of Rs.9,200 or $150 per toilet) is NOT reaching the families on time. Currently, the time to deliver varies anywhere between 30 days to 2 years, with many families still not having received the grant. As a result, people keep postponing construction until they are sure that the money will be disbursed.

Functionality:

A benchmarking application that allows for the following activities would help:

  • Downloads the data from government departments of people who have reported that a toilet is built, or submitted an application for construction

  • Keeps periodically checking the progress related to the application

  • Generates a weekly alert on days it is taking for an application for moving from one stage to another (submitted, approved, inspection due, certified for payment, payment done).

  • Publishes a state wide, district-wise, gram Panchayat-wise comparative performance report. A publicly open comparison of performance would create a sense of urgency in concerned gram Panchayat officials and also create more awareness in people about the benchmark.

The crux here is to build interface with the NIC (National Informatics Center) that maintains the government data.

Sustainability – Parishudh will implement and maintain the app, and take it forward after the hackathon. Interested participants could most definitely continue to work with Parishudh in the future. Volunteers who wish to follow up are welcome!


Images from Parishudh on the field

World Bank – Where’s the money?

Map

An auto-rickshaw driver outside the World Bank office in Chennai openly wondered – “They have no ATMs?”  Jokes apart, the World Bank can be a distant entity for some.

How can the World Bank’s data be made more comprehensible for common citizens to track money for development projects in their local contexts: for both public and private sector? Is there a possibility to provide feedback on projects and contracts to ensure that funds are being spent for the intended purposes? Can an application help mobilize citizens in specific locations to visit projects and share their feedback on contracts data?

Find out more about the World Bank’s financing and projects in India – and help get the most of development funding. To learn more about this challenge (and several others), check out the hackathon here .

The Parishudh Initiative – Nudge

Parishudh Awareness

The Parishudh Initiative aims to increase access to sanitation infrastructure in rural Northern Karnataka.

One of the reasons why construction projects in rural areas are not up to speed is that the government incentives announced do not reach the families on time. How can we nudge government departments who run important development-focused programs to complete their deliverables on time?

Find out more about the insights that the Parishudh team has learnt from the field, and how to start nudging the government to deliver. To learn more about this challenge (and several others), check out the hackathon here.