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Engineering Education in Democratic Republic of Congo

Nzolantima Swasisa pointing to a map of Democratic Republic of Congo and holding his invention. (Photo credit: Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) Science Visual Documentation.

Electronics Technician Nzolantima Swasisa has his sight set on boosting education in his homeland.

Using his invention – a tiny black box called a Lokole that can provide web and email access in a 25-metre radius for up to 100 users – he is establishing a library in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It will house books, desks, and android tablets for users to access the Internet.

The 63-year-old employee with Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton recently launched a Go Fund Me campaign to help pay the costs of the library in DRC’s capital city Kinshasa.

“I am reaching out to any individual or organization that supports education for vulnerable populations for help,” he says. “Donations of computer tablets and the services of software engineers would also be greatly welcomed.”

The need for access to information and digital educational materials through the Internet or offline is dire in this third world country, says Swasisa. With a population of approximately 90 million, less than 18 per cent have Internet access. The primary reason for this, he says, is poverty. Most Congolese people live on less than $2 per day; one gigabyte of data costs $1 and is limited to 48 hours.

“It is easy to see they cannot afford this, so the only solution is to use offline applications. The is where a digital library fits in.”

His digital library will be called “Bibliothèque Lokole Numérique Zéro Méga, a nod to his invention.

The name Lokole is derived from a Congolese drum used in pre-colonial times as a means of imparting vital communication between villages.

While developing his invention, he received technical assistance from Microsoft software engineer Clemens Wolf. Wolf was so enthused by Swasisa’s project that he got the attention of company executives who provided access to a professional, high-volume cloud server for Lokole.

Then his co-workers in the shipyard, Shawn Bathgate, Gerald Risma, and Joel Pineau helped him create a physical case to house the tiny digital server. In 2017 Forbes Magazine named Swasisa a finalist for the Innovation Africa Awards.

He launched his Box Lokole Numerique fundraising campaign in February with a goal of $12,000 by April.

The money will stock the library with the entire curriculum taught in DRC schools from kindergarten to Grade 12. Adults and children can use the offline materials to advance their education in math, geography, science, history, physics, French, and English.

The initial goal is to have 11 desks and chairs equipped with headphones and android tablets in a building powered by solar energy and its own Wi-Fi to access online educational materials. Guiding the users will be a paid librarian.

To donate: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-implement-a-digital-library-in-the-congo-drc

By: Peter Mallett, Staff Writer, The Lookout Newspaper (Canadian Forces Newspaper)