EriReader, a team of young Eritrean volunteers based in the US and UK, using funds it raised from Washington, DC and London, UK, via ERA-UK, have delivered 70 E-reader for a pilot project as it prepares to launch an ambitious “A digital library in the palms of every Eritrean student” project. Sixty five of these are equipped with 16GB micro SD memory cards expanding their storage capacity to 32GB and five have 40GB storage. It is expected students in the different colleges will be using them come the new academic year.
Everyone agrees that education is the cornerstone of national development and the foundation of society. It empowers individuals with the knowledge and skills essential to contribute to the economic development of a country and improvement of quality of life. Since achieving independence in 1991, Eritrea has made significant progress in rehabilitating and expanding the education sector. Described as the cornerstone of Eritrea’s national development efforts, the education sector has seen a 400% jump in student enrollment at all levels of education during the last twenty years. Eritrea has also seen the expansion of college-level education from one university: the University of Asmara to the establishments of seven colleges in different parts of the country. These colleges provide a wide range of programs including arts and social sciences, business, agriculture, and marine science and technology. Despite these landmark achievements, Eritrea’s new colleges face a challenge in delivering education. Courses are traditionally tough using paperback books which are not easily accessible, expensive and quickly become outdated.
Larger than a mobile phone but smaller and cheaper than a laptop, e-readers are portable devices that allow for storage of thousands of low cost digital books. With the recent emergence of digital libraries throughout Eritrea, e-readers will springboard reading and learning by providing students with access to numerous textbooks and other reading material, essentially a library, at the palm of their hands. E-readers contribute to capacity building and sustainable development as well as provide students with the most current global education technology. The limited availability of textbooks and libraries in Eritrea due to high cost of books along with increased student enrollment make e-readers and digital libraries a cost-effective, scalable platform to disseminate teaching materials to students.
EriReader is a project with a mission to make digital books accessible to students in Eritrea through the use of e-readers. The project’s team consists of young Eritrean-American professionals in the Washington DC area, partnered with the Eritrean Relief Association – United Kingdom (ERA-UK). Sharing a passion for educational development and a desire to create a solution to the educational challenges in Eritrea, EriReader launched its pilot project beginning of October 2012 with the aim of providing 50 e-readers to colleges and institutes in Eritrea.
After earlier sending four different types of e-readers (Kindle fire, VIZIO, CobyKyros and Lenovo IdeaPad) to Eritrea and getting a feedback on which one best fits the need and support system in Eritrea, the EriReader team presented a pilot project to the Washington, DC area community. For the pilot project, the community was asked to either contribute financially or to purchase and contribute the chosen e-reader, the Lenovo IdeaPad. The pilot project received an overwhelming support and success. Together with the generous help it got from ERA-UK, in a matter of three weeks, EriReader exceeded its initially goal of providing 50 e-readers and was able to send, despite the shipment hurdle that the team faced at the beginning, 70 IdeaPad e-readers and one donated Kindle Fire, 70 covers for e-readers, 70 micro SD memory cards. Each of the tablets has the ability to store, on overage, over 10,000 books of 300 pages each. The same memory capacity can store over 500 hours of MP3 audio lectures which is enough to store a year’s worth of lectures for an average college student. The tablets are also capable of playing video lectures. It is envisioned that students would be able to store a combination of digital books, audio as well as video lectures.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who participated and contributed to the success of this pilot project. At the same time we would like to appeal to all Eritreans and friends of Eritrea to chip whatever way they can to make the project “A digital library in the palms of every Eritrean Student” a roaring success and testament to our national motto of sustainable self reliance. All those who are willing to help can contact the EriReader team via e-mail using the address: firstname.lastname@example.org .