Zimbabwean Entrepreneur Invents Tech That Turns Trees Into Wi-Fi-enabled Content Hubs For Kids

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Zimbabwean entrepreneur
A Zimbabwean entrepreneur invented tech to enable a tree to broadcast a Wi-Fi connection giving anyone with a smartphone free access to educational content. William Sachiti discusses his Trees of Knowledge invention in an interview with eNCA. Image: YouTube/eNCA

Zimbabwean entrepreneur William Sachiti is giving the term “tree of knowledge” new and literal meaning with an invention that can be mounted onto landmarks or trees, turning them into Wi-Fi-enabled content hubs.

Sachiti has made the designs and schematics for the product, known as “Trees of Knowledge”, available for free as an 18-page, open-source white paper and guide in the hope that private companies, governments or other organizations develop the idea without requiring a patent or his permission.

He claims to have interest from NGOs and he is hoping that those organizations take the product and use it across Africa, he told ENCA in an interview.

An artificial intelligence expert, Sachiti moved to the U.K. when he was 19. He is the CEO of the U.K.-based robotics and artificial intelligence firm Academy of Robotics.

The inventor-entrepreneur has devised several patents on driverless vehicle technology including drone delivery systems.

Sachiti has published the open-source Trees of Knowledge technology to improve access to education in Africa through smartphones, according to a statement.

Around one in five children — 32 million — of elementary-school-age in sub-Saharan Africa are not receiving any education, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Sachiti’s technology enables a rural landmark or tree to broadcast a Wi-Fi connection that gives anyone with a smartphone in a 328-foot radius access to a pre-loaded package of educational content, SusAfrica reports. And it’s free.

The Wi-Fi connection is transmitted from a microcomputer that Sachiti describes as being the size of an apple. That microcomputer device, which looks like a calculator, is embedded into a landmark or tree to protect it from theft or environmental damage.

It is designed to run off a renewable energy source that is expected to last for about a year, according to Sachiti.

Anyone within range can access the video-based content for free, allowing children who cannot go to school or would typically walk long distances to access a school, to learn via a mobile device without the need for a teacher to be present.

That means, for example, that a child herding cattle to help support his family could sit in the shade of a tree and learn math equations while his cattle graze nearby — providing some form of education to a child who might otherwise not be able to attend a school.

Zimbabwean Entrepreneur
Children in a rural area learning under a tree. Image supplied by Academy of Robotics

All the child needs is a Wi-Fi-enabled device like a phone, tablet, or laptop. There is no need for the phone to be connected to a carrier or any network provider, solving the issue of prohibitively expensive data charges.

A solar-powered battery charging station accompanies the micro-computer to keep it operating but those accessing the content can also use the station to charge their mobile phones, according to the statement.

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Sachiti invented the Trees of Knowledge devices to improve access to education in Africa by overcoming the obstacles of high data costs and poor coverage through the prevalence of smartphones.

Smartphone penetration is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa with 33 percent of people having access to a smartphone. That number expected to rise to 50 percent by 2025, ITWeb reports.