Digital Drum

Exhibition: Cities | October 6, 2011 by

Access to information is an important tool in empowering individuals, combating corruption, and promoting good governance in cities experiencing rapid urban migration. The Internet is available in Uganda via mobile phones, yet less than 3% of Ugandans over the age of sixteen use it, compared with 15% in neighboring Kenya. In 2010, UNICEF Uganda representative Sharad Sapra and his team devised a simple, cost-effective way to bridge this digital divide. Inspired by the successful “Digital Doorway” deployed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa, the creative team developed a rugged solar-powered computer kiosk called the Digital Drum. Built affordably with readily available materials, the first prototype was created in three days in a car-repair shop in Kampala using oil drums, basic angle grinders, and a metal arc welder. Mechanics switched from fixing UNICEF vehicles to working with its engineers to fabricate and weatherproof the keyboards and laptops with inner tubes and sealant.

UNICEF plans more Drums, which will include critical information such as the national education curriculum; school-safety guidelines; and videos on topics such as school lessons, public health, campaigns encouraging girls to stay in school, and efforts to combat widespread teacher absenteeism. UNICEF plans to have local vocational schools manufacture more Drums, and will install them in up to a hundred outdoor locations throughout the country over the next two years, with the eventual goal of making the Drum cheap and easy enough to manufacture for every city and village in Uganda. Once finalized, the Drum’s design will be made open-source. Madagascar, Fiji, and the United States have shown early interest.

Concept: Khalid Arbab, UNICEF; prototype 1: Jean-Marc Lefébure, UNICEF, and Grant Cambridge, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Meraka; prototype 2: Jean-Marc Lefébure, UNICEF; prototype 3: Seth Herr and Jean-Marc Lefébure, UNICEF. Fabrication: Jean-Marc Lefébure, Grant Cambridge, Emmanuel Ezabo, Seth Herr, Islam Khairul, Cissy Majoli, Malik Abdul, Abdul Ahmed, Francis Ssemukte, Hamid Bbossa, Jacob Odere, Amos Okello, Fred Kiyemba, Charles Mubiru, Fred Ssenyimba, Henry Samula. Partners: UNICEF, Motor Care Clinic Ltd. Kampala, Uganda, 2010–present. Steel oil drum, steel bar stock, steel sheet, threaded bars, Plexiglas, sealant, nuts/bolts, bicycle inner-tube (seal), car inner-tube (laptop fastening), weatherproof keyboard, laptops, solar panel (3x55W), charge controller, battery

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