VS-Pi: Program Background
There are promising signs: Thailand alone has committed to delivering 1.7 Million tablet computers to its students by the end of 2013 under a “One Tablet Per Child” initiative. Computer and internet access is becoming more widely available throughout Southeast Asia.
However, serious impediments remain. Computers and tablets are still too expensive for many people to afford. Electricity to power these devices may be too costly or difficult to come by. Internet access, where it is available, is slow and expensive, making video and image-rich educational content effectively unavailable to students.
What’s more – There’s often no way to measure which content is actually used and needed, nor is there a way to create useful content and to share it with others within their community. There is also often a lack of access to quality content in a student’s native language. It is difficult to find online and is often “Balkanized”, spread among dozens of different websites.
VILLAGE SCIENCE‘s flagship research project for 2014/2015 is designed to find solutions to these problems, bringing together existing technologies and communities to make a low-cost information platform designed specifically for the developing world. Our pilot project is designed to deliver free educational resources and directly measure the information needs of people living in places like Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand.
We’re calling it “VS-Pi” (pronounced “Vespy”): A portmanteau of “VS” for Village Science and “Pi” for Raspberry Pi, which is the inexpensive computer we’re using for our content platform.
VS-Pi has been designed to address every one of these obstacles:
- It’s inexpensive. Fully assembled, we’re aiming for a cost of about US$65 per unit;
- It’s efficient. Our device needs very little electricity to operate and can run on solar power, a battery, or even a water wheel in a stream;
- It’s useful. VS-Pi comes “pre-loaded” with culturally-relevant, local language content from a variety of partners: educational texts, health videos, agricultural information, financial literacy training – all tailored to each community’s needs.
In locations with internet access, VS-Pi does even more. It can deliver real-time data (such as weather alerts and crop prices) directly to communities. It can also allow content providers to update and refine the materials they’re providing to communities, based upon direct feedback. Users can create or improve their own materials and share it with their neighbors.
We have already developed working prototypes that demonstrate the “offline mode” and we are developing and testing units with expanded, internet-enabled features.
We need your help to finish building the VS-Pi, spread the word, and raise money to take this project beyond the pilot project. Visit our Get Involved page to see how you can help, from home or on the road!