Opinions

Information is the major driver in development

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The Yazmi story starts with two satellites, in orbit above Africa and Asia, originally used to broadcast radio across the Eastern hemisphere. It is in these two satellites that company Chairman and CEO Noah Samara has found a solution to one of education’s major global problems: that of delivering quality content and information where it is most needed.

“The problem is not the organisation of educational material – that we have found ways of solving,” he says. “The main issue as we understand it is of taking content and delivering it in a quality form into the minds of the population.”

The solution he has found involves the confluence of old and new technologies developed over his long career in telecommunications. “In the last 5 years lots has happened” – says Samara – “especially the tablet, which has allowed us to take that next step to fulfilling our desire, our vision, to deliver information affluence.”

The satellites, once re-engineered, are capable of transmitting Internet content straight to satellite-enabled tablets on the ground – wherever they are. Yazmi is using this phenomenal reach to deliver information and education to people and places out of the scope of terrestrial infrastructure: something which for Ethiopian-born Noah Samara, has become a life’s endeavour.

“I have spent the last 30 years,” he says, “trying to solve the issue of giving information affluence to areas that have a dearth of it. This comes from my belief that information is the major driver in development.”

The area covered by satellites AfriStar 21 E and Asiastar 105 E is inhabited by 5 billion people living in 127 different countries – many of them living in areas afflicted by poor or non-existent connectivity.

tablet“Whether you’re in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of somewhere… you could be in the desert, far away from villages, towns or cities, far from telecommunications infrastructure: so long as you have a satellite-enabled tablet, PC or notebook we would be able to deliver content of high quality to you anywhere in Africa, Asia or the Middle East,” says Samara.

Yazmi’s network can transmit a wide range of materials – from vital information and news to whole e-libraries, and from videos to live streams. What’s more, it can deliver it on a personalised basis, pupil-by-pupil, tablet-by-tablet. This versatility ensures that every student can receive not only the best materials available but also the highest-quality teaching.

For example, you could have the best teachers in the country educating other teachers via a live stream. Rural schools could by connected to a virtual library allowing every pupil to access the worldwide collection of e-books. It could deliver just-in-time educational materials, so that teachers can keep ahead of their pupils, training themselves on the job.

The just-in-time concept is one of the reasons Noah Samara sees the Yazmi network as a solution to further problems – problems with “education in the broadest sense”. People working in rural areas are frequently in need of up-to-the-minute information – farmers need advice on weather, crops and market prices; health professionals must have access to diagnostic and treatment information. It is in these situations that the satellite network could provide an essential channel of instruction and advice, supporting human development across the board.

But what about the other problem with educational access – the problem of cost?

Not a problem at all, says Samara. He envisages partnerships developing with governments across Yazmi’s range to distribute satellite-enabled tablets where they are needed – with the accompanying economies of scale bringing the price of connecting to the network down “to between 1/300 and 1/700 of what it would cost a typical person”.

Access to the educational materials would then be completely free.

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