In his speech, the Minister of Culture and Sport said that “ One Laptop Per Child program is key project with a radical impact to eradicate the lack of a reading culture and writing in Rwanda”. Arriving at the library entrance, the first thing you notice is a very nice premise with a larger picture of Rwandan kids using OLPC laptops. That is the outside view of OLPC’s part of the library, branded by OLPC Association and opened in collaboration with the Ministry of education of Rwanda and Rotary Club Virunga.
View of the Library from the outside and OLPC logos on the windows of the outside glasses of the library.
The Rwanda Library Services Project was started by Rotary Club of Kigali – Virunga with the aim of creating the first ever public library in Rwanda. The members in recognition of ignorance as one major contributor to the horrific genocide against Tutsi in 1994, decided to come up with a project that would contribute immensely to the reconstruction of the country.
This is the place where kids will be learning basic computing skills but also enjoy a constructionist approach to learning. It will also offer Scratch and turtle art lessons, logo materials, robotics for the kids to acquire an analytic approach to problem solving. OLPC sees this as a great opportunity to share the OLPC program with the rest of the country.
Given the school servers are being installed in schools countrywide, OLPC program in Rwanda will echo the library in all OLPC schools through the eBooks they have acquired.
As this OLPC corner in Kigali library will be open for all user of Sugar learning environment, free wireless internet connection will give an opportunity for private schools students who are not privileged by the government’s deployment of OLPC laptops countrywide which targets mostly the public schools.
OLPC being a part of the first public library in Rwanda is not surprising because President Paul Kagame has been among the first believers in OLPC technology in education. Since 2009 Government of Rwanda is fully engaged in getting OLPC technology to each Rwandan child in primary education. Before the end of year 2012 they will be closing the deployment of 200 000 Laptops.
Their new Open Library OLPC bookreader is lovely, and has been tweaked to recognize the XO’s gamepad keys for navigation, and to display in both normal and rotated screen modes. Many thanks to Anand and Aaron Swartz for making this work. Web whiz Rebecca Malamud worked up a lovely portal for children, customized to display well on the XO, and Aaron helped make sure the first demo library bundle of OpenLibrary books is available for testing.
With this work, the 1.1 million public domain books of the Open Library are available, OCR’ed text and all, to everyone with an XO and an internet connection. Now we are working on making them work better offline, for children whose primary connection to the Internet’s archives is through a friend with a USB key who visits from time to time.
I hope that we can come up with an awesome collection of reading lists for children, and a scripted way to turn a reading list into a bookshelf available for reading online (via Rebecca’s portal) or offline (zipped up as an XO library bundle) for Gen XO.