Revolutionary new technology for Third World Education

A revolution in disseminating educational and vocational information!

In an average third world country, computers are still a rarity.  In fact, smartphones seem to be the way to get quasi-computers out there.   Initiatives like Vodafone’s Webbox (TV/keyboard/set-top-box as computer & internet for $100) are good and to be welcomed, but are essentially a way to get the consumer to spend money on data services and internet.

DVD Players however, are pervasive.  In places without televisions in the home, you will find a TV and DVD Player in the bar or in special video parlours – which are like mini-cinemas.  Action movies are a staple, and they can play all day.  Generators are used if there is no mains supply.

People like me who want to get practical technical development information out there are already going down the computer route, but we need to think about reaching groups who at the moment are below the computer threshold. 

If you can get the MNP (Mobile Network Provider, i.e. the Orange, Airtel, Vodafone, Safaricom, Virgin etc people) to host data without connection charge (like a toll-free number), then there is definitely scope for using smartphones or even CIEM’s (sub-smartphones – Cheap Internet Enabled Mobiles) for free browsing of educational and vocational content.  I am trying this path, but without any success so far, because the fat-cat MNP’s have zero social conscience and are fixated on legal and illegal money-making and on bribing presidents.  The main drawback is the small size of the screens (even a 3.5 inch touchpad can feel cramped).

Coming now to DVD Players, converting what is at present text-with-photos into pure video is an expensive and bulky process.  There are cases when it is justified and justifiable, but in general the cost/benefit ratio is too high.

This leaves us with putting text-with-photos onto dvd’s or flash rams which will play on dvd players.  There are 2 approaches:

1. The CDi-type of approach, which was tried by Philips some years ago, but which seems to have died a death.  It was CD Interactive, and could as far as I can tell read htm and pdf files.  I have tried to make contact with Philips and others on this but am not getting past the usual bureaucratic brick walls…..

2. Using photo-to-slideshow technology – software packages which are designed mainly for home photo collections and maybe business and/or marketing presentations – they can have voice-over also and they can be paused on any or every slide with no loss of picture quality. 

Of these 2 options, (1) is not really an option, so it seems.  The main disadvantage to (2) is bulk – similar to scanned PDF files, there is a serious bulking effect, which greatly increases cost of dissemination.
Htm-with-jpg or gif
40k per page, 100,000 pages per dvd
Pdf from text-with-photos
40k per page, 100,000 pages per dvd
Scanned pdf (colour)
800k per page, 5,000 pages per dvd
Photo-to-slideshow (colour) at 720×576 resolution (DivX4 standard)
400k per page, 10,000 pages per dvd
Spoken audio with 60 words/minute, 3000 characters per page, 5.2 characters/word, mp3 with 1-2 MB/minute
20,000k per page – 200 pages equivalent per dvd
Spoken video with 60 words/minute, 3000 characters per page, 5.2 characters/word, mp3 with 2.4 MB/minute
28,000k per page – 140 pages equivalent per dvd

One must mention also here that one may need to issue both PAL (European standard) and SECAM (USA standard) format DVD’s, depending on the type of dvd player being used and its location/country.  That will double the volume required if dvd’s need to have both formats side-by-side, but will have no effect if separate dvd’s are issued.  Generally, SECAM is used in America North & South, and PAL everywhere else (?).

One additional proviso – to read/play the videos I am creating, one needs a DVD player which has DivX or DivX4 capability – I have checked that out to some extent – DivX and DivX4 have been around since 2003 and are I guess on almost every dvd player these days.  This might merit some further checking and/or feedback from readers *** of this blog?

From some work recently elsewhere on my blog (https://alexweir1949.wordpress.com) , I have determined that school textbooks required per year are typically 1300 pages (130 pages x 10 textbooks) per year at the age of 11.  We can assume that they increase with age, and therefore from the age of 5 till 18, one would expect probably 20,000 pages of textbooks.  This would require 2 x dvd’s as per above (costing $0-40), or if bought as conventional softback paper books would cost probably $2,000-4,000, depending on local pricing.  Of course one would need a TV ($200 – $800 depending on screen size), DVD Player ($30), and electricity supply and cost to view the books-on-dvd, but the TV and DVD would be used also for general family entertainment.
Of course it is better to have a computer-based and interactive system, but if we are realistic, then the DVD option offers excellent value for money, both for the classroom (one TV) and for the home.  It can be a temporary solution before we have universal computer ownership and globally free computer software for education.  My guess is that the DVD solution will have at least 5 years lifetime, and probably 25-50 years.
The impact?
1. Every child and every parent  with electricity, TV and DVD player can afford a complete primary and secondary school text books collection for $ 0.40! 

2. Home schooling may increase

3. State schools will benefit greatly (if they can procure the in-classroom TV’s and DVD’s)

4. Textbook publishers and printers may suffer.  Also authors. Unless some measures are put in place (e.g. funding universal textbooks creation globally, with also localisation programs.  These can be part of International Development Cooperation Budgets)

5. Hopefully some increase in the quality of education

Will this revolutionary move occur easily?  I think we all know the answer.
Will it occur despite opposition? I think we all know the answer.
Will it benefit mankind?  Undoubtedly!

Alex Weir, Gaborone, Botswana, Monday 8 August 2011
PS – it is obvious in going through my 11-year-old granddaughter’s curriculum/textbooks that there is a lot of useless and obsolete material there as well as a lot of good stuff.  Also there is a lot of good stuff missing.  The orientation of existing Third World Education towards western templates (which themselves are inadequate, demotivational and unproductive) and towards educating the elite at the expense of the sub-elites is something which needs to be examined and to be changed.

PPS – although dvd’s cost about $ 0.20 to procure and burn, they typically sell in the Third World for $ 2 – 3 each.  Even that is no barrier to what I propose here.

PPPS – regarding economics of education, additional numbers: class sizes are typically 35 pupils/class, private school fees $2000 – 4300/year, state school fees $300/year, teachers’ wages $2,000 – 10,000/year, direct teaching 1000 hours/year (30 weeks/year x 32 hours/week)

Appendix A
Software required to master the dvd’s:
1.  Scanner stuff – ideally scan to pdf or else directly to jpg – if you can rip apart the book(s) then you can use a sheet feed scanner with output probably 1000 pages/hour or faster.  Otherwise manual scanning to a $60 printer-scanner is very feasible but output limited to 600 pages/day plus requires huge patience.

2. Manipulating pdf (e.g. upside down rotation) – PDFill Pdf tools (free). Plus removing any imperfections (cropping).  You don’t need this is if you scan to jpg.

3. Converting pdf to jpg – http://www.a-pdf.com – pdf to image free software. Free version leaves unobtrusive watermark along top.  About $30 to get pro-version I think, but not really necessary.  You don’t need this if you scan to jpg, but jpg manual rotation can be tedious, therefore if doing manual scanning remove platen cover.

4. Creating slideshow – http://www.in-mediakg.de – slideshow XL – costs about Euro 29 or $41 to get the version which allows more than 10 slides per slideshow – well worth the money!

5. Note – these 3 software downloads are about 10 MB each.  All regrettably I think for  windows only – hopefully there are linux alternatives – linux people please advise *** and I will add to / update this blog.

Appendix B
Possible Impact on my http://cd3wd.com/cd3wd_40/cd3wd/  project

1.  I will shortly issue on the dvd mailings (and later on the bittorrent downloads) the above free software for mastering these dvd’s, along with this document.  Then people with cd3wd can produce dvd-player-suitable dvd’s for specific projects if and when they want

2. I will also of course include at least one sample

3. I plan very shortly to produce a learning-to-read dvd-player dvd product, which will initially be aimed at 5-year-old children learning English but may very quickly expend to Adult Education, TEFL, and other languages outside English.  The great advantage of the dvd will be the audio voice-over capability (which books simply don’t have!).  I would prefer to do this with a proper primary school teacher or TEFL teacher, but no one has come forward yet….***

4. I am already making moves to convert those bulky cd3wd scanned-pdf files to OCR’d pdf’s or htm’s.  Should that not go ahead for any reason (like economic) then it may be advantageous to remaster those scanned pdf’s as dvd player slideshows – computers will still be able to access them (but not quite so conveniently), but there will be a huge positive accessibility impact.  We may even give the downloader and/or the dvd recipient the choice which format to receive….

5. Note that the advantage of OCR’ing those scanned pdf’s will open them up to machine translation.  But no one has ever yet shown any interest in translating cd3wd (amazing isn’t it?….)

Alex Weir, Gaborone, Botswana, Monday 8 August 2011

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About alexweir1949

software developer, inventor and innovator, Fraud Proof Voting Systems Inventor, founder of cd3wd.com. Based in Botswana and Zimbabwe, work everywhere.
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One Response to Revolutionary new technology for Third World Education

  1. danny says:

    Terms of reference re 3rd World – please consider deveoping nations / economies or even Countries of the South?

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