Computer Science graduate helps schools in Zambia

For the past year, Swansea-based IT services company GiaKonda has been supporting education and IT development in Zambian schools through the use of the Welsh-made Raspberry Pi computers.

Connor Smith helps Zambian schoolsNine pilot schools in the Siavonga region of South Zambia had Raspberry Pi computers installed by GiaKonda as cost-effective low-power platforms which enable pupils to learn about programming as well as office software. As the schools typically lack access to mains power, solar powered systems were included in the installations. The schools were also provided with RACHEL (Rural Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning) and Khan Academy, thus providing them with a huge off-line encyclopaedia of information relevant to rural communities.

This project is now being rolled out to a further 26 Zambian schools in an effort led by Connor Smith, a 2015 FdSc (Computer Science) graduate, who will travel to Zambia at the end of January to carry out this work. Connor will assess how the pilot schools have used the resources provided as well as the effectiveness of the solar powered systems. His task will then be to identify the schools on which the project will focus and be involved in the new installations. He will also work with Bridget Muyuni, a young Siavongan woman recruited and trained by GiaKonda to support the pilot schools, to set up a server and secure wifi at Siavonga High School, as well as train and help a group of their pupils to solder control units to use with the Raspberry Pi.

The Owner and Technical Director of GiaKonda IT, Howard Kirkman, is a member of the Industrial Advisory Panel for the Foundation Degree in Computer Science, and enrolled Connor onto the two-year degree programme. Howard was a Keynote Speaker at the FdSc Graduation Dinner held at the Liberty Stadium last year where we celebrated the success of Connor and his fellow graduands. On the Foundation Degree programme in Computer Science, Howard said, “I see our relationship with Swansea University very much as a partnership”; and in regard to Connor, he noted that “The Foundation Degree at Swansea University gave Connor the skills and confidence necessary to undertake these tasks for us; we benefit from Connor's enthusiasm for new challenges, and he benefits from a sound theoretical foundation for the practical work we need him to perform”. Howard noted that he witnessed Connor mature and grow in confidence during his two years of studies, and that with his FdSc qualification he is now able to tackle problems that he would not have attempted before.

Professor Faron Moller, Director of the FdSc programme in Computer Science, welcomed this success story arising so quickly from a member of our first cohort of FdSc graduates. He said “Howard Kirkman and GiaKonda were early adopter of the FdSc programme, and I am delighted that its effect has benefitted the company, through educating Connor, and contributed towards the successful and very worthwhile project”.