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For quite some time now, we have been working on a project called “Nije Shikhi” (নিজে শিখি. It has been something very close to our heart, not just because we developed the concept, worked on bringing different technology and content together on one platform, but rather for the potential we see in it in terms of helping to bridge the digital chasm.
The project targets 6 - 15 year old youth, including both in-school as well as those outside the school system, by creating edutainment kiosks using local language desktops based on open source and utilizing open-access / commons content. A critical factor in the project involves placement of the kiosks in an openly accessible place in the local community when the target group can access the units without requiring adult supervision.
The project envisions being a key enabler in terms of the e-governance readiness among the masses, specially the youth. To empower them to become early adoptors towards the goal of creating an inclusive, knowledge driven society.
We wanted something low-power (as in energy efficient), mobile, dust-resistant, low heat-generation/thermal profile. At the time when we started, the AMD Geode was the platform readily available to us. It ran off 12V DC, was fan-less in design (this dust-retardant), and ran with minimal heating. Thanks to AMD Far East Ltd (India) for loaning us one of their initial test units in India for our work. Thanks to Jayarama Kasargod of AMD, who helped with detailed hardware specs and assurance to undertake even drop tests if our work warranted one
The hardware assembly based on the AMD UVC (now available under the Wipro brand name of Protos PC) and a localized (BN_IN / HI_IN) open source OS and apps stack placed on the HDD or booted and run via an USB stick. The solar panels came from West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA), with a lot help from the director, Mr. S. P. Gonchowdhury
The project has been taken up for deployment by the West Bengal University of Technology, which plans to set up ~ 500 - 600 units of Nije Shikhi kiosks, with the option of using solar-generated power, in collaboration with West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA).
The initial pilot phase goes into putting 22 of these boxes out into the open. One of these pilot deployments is happening in collaboration with UNESCO and an NGO in West Bengal. This involves a solar-powered, mobile tele-centre using the AMD UVC platform and our Nije Shikhi software stack. The tricycle van with the solar panel is now ready. The journey of the UVC is just about to begin.
More pictures from our experimentation are here. So, buckle up, the journey is about to begin.