Direct-to-satellite Hand-held Device Could Revolutionise Learning

Published: 29th May 2014 03:23 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th May 2014 03:23 PM   |  A+A-

BANGALORE: A low-cost satellite-enabled tablet computer developed in India, coupled with two satellites once used for sterophonic radio broadcasts and which have a footprint in 127 countries, could revolutionise the way schoolchildren across the developing world are taught, the system's US-based promoter says.

The Silver Spring, Maryland-based Yazmi's e-learning system requires no internet as the tablet, called "Odyssey", has an in-built satellite receiver. Lack of electricity is also not a problem since Odyssey, priced at $150 (Rs.9,000) has the option of being solar powered.

"We have made this e-Learning possible by combining our satellite-enabled technology with the unique hand-held tablet for school students designed entirely in India," Srinivasan Rangarajan, Chief Technology Officer of Yazmi and formerly with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) told IANS over the telephone from Silver Spring.

"Unlike most other tablets in the market, the design of Odyssey was demand-driven and it is the world's first and only satellite-enabled tablet designed and developed for education," Rangarajan said.

Yazmi's system was formally launched on Wednesday at an international e-Learning conference in Ugandan capital Kampala by Noah Samarah, an Ethiopian-born lawyer and the company's founder. Samara proposed to take education to far flung areas in the developing world by deploying Yazmi's two geostationary satellites - AfriStar and AsiaStar.

The satellites were originally owned by WorldSpace, the the first operating satellite radio network in the world also founded by Samara. After WorldSpace went bankrupt in 2009, Rangarajan said, Yazmi acquired the satellites and "repurposed to offer an 
end-to-end learning infrastructure to serve remote or otherwise unreachable students".

Providing education in far-flung areas has traditionally been difficult and expensive due to inadequate numbers of trained teachers, insufficient learning resources and poor local infrastructure.

"Our satellite-enabled education tablet, especially built for the educational needs of students and teachers is not only the right solution to raise the educational standards but is also cost-effective and easy to deploy," Rangarajan said, adding: "With the proposed service, the role of teachers is enhanced rather than diminished."

The Odyssey tablet is pre-loaded with approved curricular content and software tools for learning and teaching.

Traditional models of e-Learning content delivery rely on internet connectivity or cellular networks. Internet is not usually available in geographically remote or poorer regions while "cellular networks can be prohibitively expensive for the government or students' families," Rangarajan said.

In contrast, he said, Yazmi's system "has extensive geographical coverage". Students can use their personal device for storing text books, notes taking and automatically updating course content.

"In the Yazmi system, governments provide the curriculum content, including live lectures, and the content originator can uplink to the satellite, while local teachers can control what gets into their students' tablets," Rangarajan said.

"Students participate in live classrooms from the convenience of their homes and teachers can reduce the time spent in writing on the blackboard and increase classroom interaction," he added.

It is to be seen whether Yazmi's e-Learning approach will appeal to India's human
resource development ministry, whose "One Laptop Per Child" scheme for improving
the skills of primary school students introduced in 2009 failed to take off.

(K.S. Jayaraman can be contacted at


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