It’s been an exciting few months here at eKhaya ICT as we prepare to release awareNet-in-a-box. This is a social networking product for education, the goal of which is to turn any ordinary Windows computer into a social media hub, giving schools and communities access to communication, publishing and collaboration tools similar to those so widely used in the developed world, but designed to operate in the unreliable and bandwidth-poor telecommunications environment of rural South Africa.

These hubs can then be linked together into a peer-to-peer network – to allow chat, messaging and document sharing between different local networks – making very frugal use bandwidth while allowing near-real-time collaboration where a connection exists.

Most importantly, awareNet-in-a-box acts as a content manager – hosting local copies of much of the amazing free content available on the internet, bringing the Schools Wikipedia, Gutenberg Books, Kahn Academy video lessons and much more into this integrated social environment, into disadvantaged schools, and exporting it to student’s mobile phones.

To make all of this happen we’ve had to make a lot of changes to awareNet – getting it to work on Windows (awareNet was first built for Linux), simplifying management and installation, and making the P2P protocol simpler, more reliable and able to operate behind firewalls. Many features have been expanded, and development and administrative features added to the awareNet core. The main thrust of this effort is to allow volunteers and educators to be able to set these hubs up with a minimum of training and technical knowledge and have them work reliably.

We’ve also had a lot of content to import, reformat and package for distribution on DVD. We’re very grateful to WikiHow for providing us with access to their enormous collection of how-to manuals, The Village Scribe Association for arranging gigabytes of remedial video lessons from the excellent Khan Academy, SOS Children’s Villages for curating the Schools Wikipedia, and all the other sources of libre, gratis and copyleft resources that we’re making available via our software.

Thank you to them.

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