OLPC and FabFi mesh networks bring Internet to Afghanistan

OLPC is working in 9 schools and 5 cities in Afghanistan. Many of the schools have some limited Internet connectivity at home, but most families still don’t have Internet (though they may get GPRS coverage if they have access to a cell phone) in their neighborhoods or home compounds.

In Jalalabad, this is changing in part thanks to a mesh network run by FabLab Jalalabad. Through their FabFi network, many children with XOs and their families have access to the Internet (and Wikipedia) for the first time. Fast Company wrote up a good story on this, following the New York Times’s lead last Sunday (commentary).

Similar FabLabs with mesh networks have sprung up elsewhere, most notably in Kenya. I hope to see them spread more widely in Africa and Asia – it seems like a robust and scalable model for engaging communities in maintaining their own networks.

OLPC Afghanistan recap

Part of an ongoing series on OLPC in Afghanistan.

Since 2008, we have worked with the Afghan Ministry of Education to build capacity for OLPC in Afghanistan. The initial pilots over the past year have been with 4th-6th grade students, in MOE schools and community-based education groups.

OLPC has committed  5,000 laptops to pilots throughout the country, starting with Esteqlal High School in Nangarhar Province’s Jalalabad city.   There the program engaged all fourth, fifth and sixth grade students, with a ’3 phase implementation model’ (below) used by the ministry.

The next project involved five schools in Kabul city. Initial feedback has unfortunately only been measured in terms of standardized test results (in math and literacy), but initial results showed a 20% increase on those tests.

In the coming months, national team plans to include schools in other provinces.  They also aim to recruit and train more technical people to help with planning and preparing teachers and connectivity teams for schools across the country.

Parts of this post were drawn from the recent report “Briefing Note – One Laptop Per Child in Afghanistan,” by Lima Ahmad (AIMS), Kenneth Adams (AIMS), Mike Dawson (PAIWASTOON), and Carol Ruth Silver (MTSA)