ViPi Kenya aims to kindle the interest of kids in computing. We believe that exposure to computers, and in particular to computer programming, at an early age will lead to a tech savvy generation capable of transforming the nation in the future. For Kenya is to be transformed into a regional tech hub complete with a “silicon Savannah”, then seeds will have to be planted at an early age.
We laud the efforts of the Kenyan government to increase students’ exposure to computers through the free laptop project. If the project is implemented successfully, it will vastly increase the levels of computer literacy among young children. While we realize that there is still a dire need to increase the number of children who are exposed to computers, our goal is not to reinvent the wheel by duplicating the work of the government and a plethora of other organizations whose goal is an ICT curriculum focusing on user-end software such as word processors and internet browsers. Our goal is to expose kids to the inner workings of a computer.
The raspberry pi, a tiny, inexpensive and “barebones” computer aimed at exposing kids to the inner workings of a computer, is our platform of choice. The Raspberry Pi makes a suitable platform because of its low monetary cost and low power requirements. Most importantly, the “bare-bones” nature of the Pi computer removes the “black-box” abstraction common in other computing platforms allowing children to explore the computer firsthand. Children are able to see the processors, IO ports and memory without worrying about breaking them. In addition, the computer boots into a programming environment that allows users to hone their programming skills. The raspberry Pi is also able to boot into a graphical Unix environment allowing users to use familiar software such as internet browsers, word processors, spreadsheets and games.
It would be preposterous to claim that we have all the answers to the problems of developing nations. Neither do we claim that technology is the silver bullet. We do believe, however, that development comes through significant advances in all fronts; be it in government, social reforms, medical care, business, agriculture, education, technology and arts. It is our hope that by exposing children to computers at an early age, we will ignite an interest that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. We hope that they will eventually become the next generation of inventors, engineers and technical entrepreneurs. We would like to see a tech savvy generation with plenty of employment opportunities. For this reason, we encourage other organizations to emulate our course. It would be great if programming a computer were normal to kids rather than an esoteric venture.