VeSeL is a research project, part of the Bridging the Global Digital Divide network, sponsored by the EPSRC in the UK. The aim of the VeSeL project is to enable rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa to use advanced digital technology to improve their agricultural practices and literacy levels.
We will present the Village e-Science for Life project results in a seminar on Science, technology and innovation for poverty reduction, organised by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, and EPSRC. The VeSeL kit, including solar-powered laptop, GPRS modem, and handheld sensors, along with free and open-source blogging and other software tools, has shown some degree of success in the villages in rural Kenya we've worked with. Further details about the event here.
The University of Nairobi visited Kambu on 31 July. The area has been hard hit by drought and famine, with the result that some students are forced to drop out of school, and people are concerned mainly with obtaining their next meal.
Prof. Waema donated a flash disk for transferring data to Silanga School. The school had also run out of credit for mobile internet access, and Prof. Waema donated Ksh 1000 for this purpose; the next payment will come from the school board.
No soil measurements have been done using the VeSeL soil sensor due to lack of rain - the soil is so dry there was concern that the soil sensor could not be inserted for fear of breakage.
Some teachers have been using the computer for preparing teaching materials and marking, as can be seen in recent postings on the school's blog. Prof. Waema suggested more training, including in Powerpoint.
Farmer group the Mtito Andei Initiative (MDI) will explore various sustainability plans, including charging to cover events with the digital camera and providing photocopying services.
The University of Nairobi (UoN) visited Kiangwachi on 30 July 2009 and met with the Karia farmer self-help group and teachers at Kiine Primary School.
The farmers have requested additional training in organic farming practices, and in computer skills such as MS Word and internet use. The group recruited two teachers for ICT training. Some farmers have already received training in Word and Excel, and will go on to train in Internet and email.
Due to persistent problems connecting to the mobile phone networks, the farmers have requested a fiber optic connection. As an interim they will be trained by the university to use mobile phones to access the internet at locations where the network is available, and the team will explore the purchase of WAP phones
VeSeL partner sites Kambu and Kiangwachi are to become official Digital Villages. Details to follow...
An online donations mechanism has been set up for Silanga School in Kambu, through the Institute of Education. Donors can go to this link and select The VeSeL Project.
First tests with E-5 soil moisture sensor and ECH2O handheld monitor (not strictly a datalogger since it doesn't store readings). An identical set was recently tested with Kenyan students by VeSeL member Cecilia Oyugi. It can relate to soil information, for example here.
Newick Primary School Year 4 class took part in their first activities as part of the VeSeL project, as a mobile resource kit, nearly identical to the one at Silanga School in Kenya, was delivered and used. This included a Macbook laptop, solar charging panel, and assorted small electronics. Photos of the hardware can be seen here.
Pupils created photo stories about a typical day at their school using the digital cameras delivered, which will be posted to the school's blog and used to communicate with Silanga School.