Zimbabwe, Apple to partner on solar iPads

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – The government of Zimbabwe and Apple are set to collaborate on a project that will deliver solar iPads to Zimbabwean schools, according to a recent announcement by the country’s Education, Sport, Arts and Culture minister, David Coltart.

If put into effect, this development will certainly be a game changer for schools in Zimbabwe, many of which are rural based and lack appropriate tools and infrastructure to advance education. The programme will certainly reduce the digital divide between rural and urban areas and drastically improve access to teaching aids and tools.

Zimbabwe’s education system, once among the best in Africa, has suffered from a detrimental decline in public funding in conjunction with hyperinflation and political unrest over the past decade. UNICEF state that 94 percent of rural schools, serving the majority of the population were closed in 2009 and 66 of 70 schools abandoned. The attendance rates plummeted from over 80 percent to 20 percent. Efforts are underway to resuscitate the educational system and Apple’s involvement will definitely be revolutionary to say the least.

Coltart said that he met with Apple executives in Paris, working on a new ‘School Box’ which will use solar power and micro projectors to help bring iPad teach aids to some of Zimbabwe’s poorest schools.

Announcing the news on his Facebook, Coltart said that the solar iPads would bring teaching aids to scholars in rural and remote areas.

“Great meeting with Apple today in Paris – unveiled a fascinating new “School Box” which will take iPads to the most remote rural schools – using solar power and micro projectors we will be able to bring computerised teaching aids to the poorest schools. I hope we will get the first pilot programmes started early next year. I am very excited that Zimbabwe is collaborating with Apple in this ground breaking use of technology to advance education in the most remote schools. If we can get it to work in Zimbabwe I am sure it will spread to poor schools throughout Africa – and beyond,” he said.

Students will be able to use the iPad to write reports, research topics, read electronic books and use them to study. With the micro projector, iPads can be used to share presentations also. The device will also let users browse the Web, send e-mail, share photos, watch videos, listen to music, play games and read e-Books.

“This is amazing and just what our schools need. So much can be done with access to computers, it completely changes the way you teach! Great news,” said Rebekah Marks on Coltart’s Facebook wall.

The project could be the start of a sustained effort by Apple to bring computers to developing countries but supplying tablet devices that are portable, have good battery life and can be shared amongst a group of students.

Pricing of the device will obviously be a major consideration in making sure that Zimbabwean children are not disadvantaged when it comes to accessing computing technologies.

Steve Jobs’ Age of the Digital Lifestyle

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Steve Jobs without doubt affected my world view through his trendsetting personal computer designs.I know this post is rather overdue but its something that I had to take off my heart. I’m so convinced as exemplified by Steve Jobs’ genius that when you follow your purpose you can touch the soul of the world.In my world, celebrating genius and excellence in whatever shape and form it comes is as vital as my every breath.

I first encountered Steve Jobs through his trendsetting  “Think Different” advertising campaign. Even though I didn’t own an Apple computer I – just like the rest of my friends – could not resist the temptation to just hang the “Think Different” campaign poster in my room.

Apparently, the campaign was created for Apple Computer in 1997 by the Los Angeles office of advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day. That campaign made me think of anything Apple as a smart alternative, an idea that was confirmed by the out-of-the box designs that defined Apple products. I guess the miracle lay in the text of the campaign which set Apple products apart by influencing a way of seeing the world:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. – Apple Inc.

Apparently, the ad campaign marked the beginning of Apple’s re-emergence as technical giant. Isn’t it interesting that the “Think Different” has been criticized as a slogan for being grammatically incorrect. “Think” is a verb and should take the adverb, “differently”, not the adjective, “different”. The bottom line is that is broke the rules, and the campaign symbolised counterculture and leftist artsy intellectualism.

As I see it, the underlying philosophy of that ad campaign was that it did not trumpet product features and price but instead focused on brand image. In fact, a key rule of the campaign was that there would be no products in the ads.

Besides the products that he fashioned and his apparent genius, Jobs was tenacious, persistent and resilient. He suffered so many setbacks in his career but always came back with super-fantastic personal computing designs that wowed the whole world. According to Newsweek.com, Jobs didn’t just create products that instilled lust in consumers and enriched his company.

All in all, Jobs was a brilliant and protean creator whose inventions so utterly transformed the allure of technology. To me, he left behind a concept that I will forever seek to apply in my life and work: the simplicity of intelligent design. Jobs valued simplicity, utility and beauty in ways that shaped his creative imagination. He certainly left a significant mark that will forever influence the age of the digital lifestyle.