Cote d'Ivoires Tech Solutions to Local Problems

Computing

When Ivorian Thierry NDoufou saw local school kids suffering under the weight of their backpacks full of textbooks, it sparked an idea of how to close the digital gap where it is the largest  in local schoolrooms.

NDoufou is one of 10 Ivorian IT specialists who developed the Qelasy  an 8-inch, Ivorian-engineered tablet that is set to be released next month by his technology company Siregex.
The parent- and teacher-controlled tablet replaces all textbooks, correspondence books, calculators and the individual chalkboards often used in Ivorian classrooms.

It is more than me feeling sorry for them. It is also about filling the digital gap between the south and the north, and bringing Ivorian education into the 21st century, NDoufou tells IPS.

Qelasy means classroom in several African languages, including Akan, Malinke, Lingala and Bamileke.

The Qelasy team began by converting all government-approved Ivorian textbooks into digital format.

We were obligated to process everything in a way to have quality images for high definition screens. It is a lot of work, explains NDoufou, who is CEO of Siregex.

We also enriched the curriculum with images and videos in way to make the educational experience more convivial.

A solution to Ivorian problems

The tablet uses an Android operating system and is resistant to water splashes, dust, humidity and heat.

The Qelasy is protected against everything that an African pupil without transportation might encounter during their walk home from school, says NDoufou.

We knew we needed our own product  Our clients needs are very specific, he explained.

The parent- and teacher-controlled tablet replaces all textbooks, correspondence books, calculators and the individual chalkboards often used in Ivorian classrooms.

It can also be programmed to allow kids to surf the web or play games according to a pre-defined timetable. Siregex staff have also developed a store where parents and educators can buy over 1,000 elements like apps, educational materials and books.

While the Qelasy is currently focused on education, its marketing director Fabrice Dan tells IPS that users will soon be able to use it for other things. We believe in technology as a way to create positive changes. And we believe in education. But eventually, we will present solutions in other fields, like agriculture and microcredit, he says.

Qelasy was launched at Barcelonas Mobile World Congress 2014.  Exactly how much it will sell for has not yet been determined, but it is expected to be priced between 275 and 315 dollars.

Thats a steep price in a country where, according to government figures, only two million of its 23 million people are classified as middle class, earning between two and 20 dollars a day.

While NDoufou expects the government to purchase a few tablets for use in schools, this product will mostly benefit the countrys middle and upper classes.

For now, it is only available for the Ivorian market, but the firm is targeting Francophone and Anglophone Africa.

However, the biggest challenge to the success of the product remains the electricity deficit. In a country where, according to the World Bank, only 59 percent of the population has access to electricity, a tablet with an eight-hour battery life faces limited penetration.

But NDoufou says There is an 80 percent cellphone penetration rate in Cote d'Ivoire in spite of the low electricity penetration. People find solutions in villages. They will for this too.

While NDoufou says most of the know-how comes from here, the Qelasy was assembled in the Chinese manufacturing hub of Shenzen, where 10,000 units have been produced.