School-centered community "archive" project uses tech to make world seem smaller

Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Wanted to share the results of some of the first student interviews conducted over in Kwala, Tanzania, by students participating in the Smallbean Citizen Archivist Project.

For those who haven't read my previous points about the organization, Smallbean is a non-profit based in the Boston area that is piloting programs in Tanzania (and soon, in Kenya) to create computer and technology labs in secondary schools. The equipment being used are from donations and refurbished equipment; solar tech (including panels and chargers) is a big part of the equation. The idea is to teach kids how to use the technology by getting them to collect information about members of their community. Smallbean is hoping, ultimately, that students in the United States can learn from the community archives being produced by their peers in other countries. The video below is an example of one of these videos.

Smallbean Citizen Archivist Project interview of Peter Msia Nkorosoni from Smallbean on Vimeo.

Sean Hewens, executive director of Smallbean, says during the organization's first pilot in Kwala, Tanzania, 11 students were selected to learn computer skills. These students, in turn, are being asked to help share these skills with others like them. Approximately 50 to 75 students are now using the lab, which runs using solar panels, each week.

The next phase of Smallbean's work will see the group deploying portable versions (citizen archivist in a bag) of the archiving technology (including cameras, software, recording equipment and a solar powered backpack) to libraries in rural portions of Kenya. Smallbean will piggyback on the work being done by the Maria's Libraries organization.

Incidentally, Smallbean is always lookging for donations of technology from individuals, although this created some training challenges for its team in Kwala. Something it didn't anticipate: With the language barrier, the discovered it is easier to train students when products have the same feature sets. So now, Smallbean is hoping for multiple models of certain items, so knowledge transfer is quicker.

Another idea being considered by Smallbean, Hewens says, is how the excess solar capacity being generated to power these computer labs for other purposes within the community, in essence creating a revenue generating opportunity for the school. That idea has the fun nickname ESCARGO, which stands for excess solar capacity as a revenue generating option.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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