Offline Internet to revolutionize access to education and vocational training

Our solution aims to disrupt the higher education model in Senegal through the use of Offline Internet technologies.

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Eligibility

  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Jérémy Lachal

Initiative's representative date of birth

20/11/1984

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Man

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • France

Where are you making a difference?

Sénégal

Website or social media url(s)

https://www.bibliosansfrontieres.org/ ; Facebook: @bibliothequessansfrontieres ; Twitter: @BSF_Inter

When was your organisation founded?

01/2007

Focus areas

  • Helping people adapt to technologies of the future
  • Financial skills and capability
  • Creating digital tools

Project Stage

  • Pilot (have done first proof of concept)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $500k - $1m

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

Bibliothèques Sans Frontières / Libraries Without Borders (BSF) has been founded in 2007 to bring access to knowledge to those in need. A key moment in the creation of this particular initiative took place some time ago in Senegal. At the end of a presentation of the Ideas Cube (the nano-server we use in many projects to give access to rich digital resources offline), half the participants came to see us. Not to set up projects, but to find out if it was possible to buy a server for personal use, especially to be able to give access to educational content to their children. Beyond those in need of humanitarian assistance, this pointed to the more general need for many Senegalese to have access to quality educational digital resources.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

A lack of access to high-quality education is a huge problem, causing the knock-on effect of a population underprepared for the job market. This is especially true in West Africa, where only 4% of youth attend university, due to financial and societal constraints. Whereas technologies could be a fantastic lever, it is limited because a large part of the population is not connected to the Internet, in particular in rural and peri-urban areas.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Our solution aims to disrupt the higher education model in Senegal by tackling both the distribution and the quality challenges of digital resources, in particular in rural and peri-urban areas. To address the connectivity issues and reach future students across the country, we will partner with local universities and training centers to distribute SD cards that turn smartphones into a virtual campus. Uploaded with MOOCs and learning resources, the cards will give access to hours of learning and allow certification without needing any connectivity or use of data. Because we know that students learn more efficiently when benefiting from a group dynamic, we will also equip existing collective spaces with nanoservers, where teachers and facilitators will be able to intervene and that will be our primary distribution channel for SD Cards. With local universities, we will design digital learning tracks to address a great variety of topics, from basic and informal learning to vocational training and life-long learning resources in agriculture, entrepreneurship and business, to more advanced degrees in engineering,technology and sciences.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

To implement this project, we will set up a partnership with the UVS (the Virtual University of Senegal). It was created in 2013 to respond to a growing demand for access to higher education and to use technology to reduce inequalities. However, connectivity problems severely limit its impact: many students drop out during the course of their studies because they do not have access to a regular connection. No more problems of this kind with our solution: SD cards make it possible to always have courses in one's pocket!

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

The program will combine individual access to learning material via SD cards with the equipment of collective learning spaces with offline servers. The spaces will also serve as meet-up centers between employers and students. The program will include existing training material from the UVS that has been validated by local authorities and key sectors of employment for the relevance of the targeted competencies. In partnership with the Ministry for Higher Education, we will also create new content to correct current discrepancies between job opportunities and available workforce. Vocational training modules will be deployed in programs in which students spend half their time at the university and the other half as interns within a company. They are therefore connected to potential employers and acquiring practical skills that will facilitate their integration on the job market.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

The project will target key development sectors that generate jobs and our tracks will be aligned with current existing national priorities: digital economy, science, renewable energy. Among the first learning tracks we want to propose are “Digital communication”, “Engineering for renewable energies”, “Big data” or “Cybersecurity”. Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected continuously, relying on automatic synchronization of usage and certification data, as well as active data collection (focus groups and key informant interviews, combined with polls pushed through SMS-campaigns).

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The actors involved in higher education are of course numerous. The project does not aim to compete with them, but rather to strengthen their capacity to address students in remote areas by leveraging the potential of digital. While the creators of MOOC are often in the North, we aim to provide resources tailored to the needs of the communities through collaboration with local actors, in particular the UVS. As for the tech solution we propose to make available rich digital content and ensure interactivity with users without the need for an Internet connection, we believe it is unique!

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

BSF has been implementing Offline Internet projects since 2016 using Ideas Box (a media-center in a kit) and Ideas Cube servers in nearly 30 countries, partnering with 400 organizations. Each of these projects offers unique content & activities tailored to the target groups’ needs, reaching 200 000 end users since 2016. Since 2014 BSF has gathered evidence showing the impact of Offline Internet on education (+23% in academic scores for students - internal study (2015) using a RCT), but also psycho-social impact, community participation, etc. In the first phase of this new initiative and after the PoC that was done recently, BSF aims to reach 5.000 young people in Senegal by the end of 2021. Our solution is designed for the most vulnerable groups living in urban and rural areas of Senegal, and particularly young women, youth from underprivileged families and first-generation students.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

The project is designed to be very cost-effective. The launch of the initiative requires front investment to develop technology and content that can then be leveraged to scale the program at the national level. Once the initial investment is done, the operational costs to deliver offline access to 10,000 students is around €700k over 2 years so around 350€/year/student for this pilot phase (which is particularly low compared to international standards). To fund the project in the long term we aim to engage both public authorities and private companies interest in developing specific learning tracks to match their needs in terms of skills.

10. Team

Key members of our team are involved in this initiative. HQ level: CEO and co-founder (negotiation, management of organization transitions, Ashoka fellow), Operations Director (coordination, partnerships, cross-sectoral project design, HEC Graduate), Education Director (management of education programs, researcher in cognitive sciences, ENS Graduate, PhD), CTO (design of IT projects, advocacy). Field level: Head of mission, Programs Coordinator, Content curator, Facilitators to be recruited.

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