More Library (formerly Raspberry) Pi, anyone?

Following up on an earlier blog article about Raspberry Pi, I’m very pleased to share a progress report with you.   

I’m happy to let you know that an independent Library Pi has been launched in Namibia – with a functional 12V solar-powered ‘pico’ lighting & charging kit,  rated as follows – 

7 Ah maintenance-free 12v lead-acid battery, claimed good for 3000+ charge cycles (8 – 10 years)? 
18V 10W solar panel 
4x 12V 3W LED lights (5-6 hours lighting, all lights on), and 


USB output interface @ 5.1V ± 0.15 V regulated 1Amp current, for RPi and other 5V 500mA devices, like android smart-phones and tablets.  

This pico solar powered lighting kit is locally available in Namibia, SA, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland at around US$100 retail price.  Made in Taiwan, redistributed by a local branding and warranty partner. These ‘pico’ solar power lighting & charging kits can likely be re-branded and sold, under warranty, for a much lower price, depending on sales-volume (see picture below).

You may recall Joel Kapanda’s promise of free internet for all Namibian schools on 15 May 2012. If you follow my tweets (@tatejoris2) but on 25 June 2013, you’ll know Frans Ndoroma trashed Joel’s promise – “free internet for schools in Namibia is a pipe-dream says Frans Ndoroma, MD of Telecom Namibia, in spite of MICT’s promise #EduNetNamibia”.

I had proposed earlier that a managed benchmark bandwidth of 64kbps/learner – with some 128 simultaneous users using an uncapped 2 Mb connection at each of some 1100 electrified (and connected) schools) would add up to some N$ 22 million (telecom namibia *retail* pricing!) per *annum*.  The greedy bastards must have at least 30% profit margin built into this uncapped bandwidth, as I remember the math we did with Xnet ‘discounting’ :-).

But then, in this wonderful world of Namibian chicanery, simple math continues to be overlooked – N$ 5 billion – five thousand million namibian dollars, is to be spent on feeding 15,200 defence-force members. This works out at N$ 900 per soldier per day – i.e., N$ 300 per meal! I cannot imagine anyone eating more than N$100’s worth of defence-force ‘food’ per *day*, so someone has to explain the overhead of N$ 800 / soldier / day – Fat cats indeed! 

Enough math.  A mix of some cheap Ubislate tablets from India (or Bring Your Own) Devices, and our very own Library Pi will hopefully go a long way to answer the pressing question of why a *basic* government school education with an astronomical annual budget tries this without adequate books or libraries in a significant proportion of schools in Namibia.  Let alone the hundreds of schools without electricity!  

Library Pi is a low-cost, scalable deployment of the best open-source software and open educational resources (OERs) available. Solar-powered.  With the help of several international collaborators (e.g., Raspberry Pi, COL, World Possible, OER Africa) we can supply locally contextualised OERs, from leading educational resources such as The Khan Academy, Wikipedia and other valuable Wikimedia resources, CK-12, COL and many more.  
Making a digital library available to any web-browser on any device with wifi access in a internet-like environment, Library Pi supports all iOS devices, and provides logical search of content.  Library Pi is free to replicate and can be deployed in any environment with minimal hardware.  Any digital OER collection can be compiled on demand.  Library Pi builds on the Raspberry Pi foundation’s linux-based computer to provide an instant, offline “plug-and-play” web-server solution.  Library Pi allows school library deployments in areas without internet or electricity, and limited technical literacy.   

Solar charge the battery, switch Library Pi on, chose the PiFi network on your wifi-enabled device of choice, open your web browser, type in ‘library’ (or and voila! you’re in the Library with a choice of OER options!

We’re looking at free or very low-cost (32Gb) SD-card replacement – the only moving part in the device – and free Library Pi to qualified individuals and institutions with the generous (branded:-)) support of our funders.   

We’ve also made contact with Jeremy Schwartz of World Possible and Rachel, recognising an important OER compilation which we can deploy to schools without libraries and textbooks, and are discussing OER options for the Library Pi. 

We did initially experience problems with Khan Academy video playback.  We also experienced time-outs and errors when trying to synchronise clips from youtube. That was probably a connectivity issue.  KA on a Stick, however, provides a static listing with video that worked. Our thinking: If the files referenced have the same names in both ka-lite and ka on a stick, just dropping the media from the ka on should work.  Well, the filenames are the same! We copied all the media files into ka-lite’s content directory, and voila!  Mass synchronisation with a predetermined data size closer to 20Gb, and *most* of the content. Not all the clips, but by far the bulk of them. 

There is more information about installing “foreign” media into ka-lite here:

We also updated ka-lite’s installed version of an html5/js player. This may be unnecessary, and may have broken something, but we can now see the KA videos if the RPi is connected to iPhone or iPad. In our case, we created an isolated wifi network to retrieve locally hosted content. 

To achieve this, we installed Dnsmasq, as it provides a local DNS server, as well as a DHCP server, which would also be needed in a NAT / IP Masquerade situation. We’ve also uploaded the latest english Wikipedia collection (not just lite), and are busy adding other locally relevant educational resources. As soon as this harvesting has been completed we’ll set up an FTP site for interested folks. We are about to test the robustness of the system (especially the SD cards!) at a few hot, dusty and (fearless) child-filled schools in eastern Namibia. And finalising agreements with local investors to subsidise the cost of putting, and supporting, these Library Pis in some 600 Namibian schools without electricity. Within 4-6 months. 

 We’ll keep you posted! 


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Posted in free internet, Ict4e, library, Rachel, Raspberry Pi, RPi, school, solar power

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