As a result of this partnership and in appreciation of the collaborative initiative between Star Cloud, an Estonian educational technology company, Risk Africa Innovatis with local publishers led by Kenya Literation Bureau, the Opiq platform was commissioned and demonstrated Estonia President Kersti Kaljulaid, on Friday, 10 September, 2021. UNICEF and Liquid Intelligent Technologies are working to map and connect high speed internet to schools to enhance reach of digital technology in Kenya.
Speaking at the event, the President of Estonia affirmed her commitment to support ICT in education in Kenya to enable access to Learning and Teaching Materials (LTMs) for all learners.
“Estonia is a relatively young nation, but we have focused on building a country where each generation should grow digitally. Crucial to achieving this objective is a high literacy rate, so we have built a highly skilled national teaching workforce and created a learning environment that supports achieving quality learning outcomes for all children. With the launch of the Opic platform, a technology developed by an Estonian ICT start-up – Star Cloud, Kenya is now working towards digitising the school curriculum. This will allow both teachers and students access to online education, providing the opportunity to create an egalitarian school system,” President Kersti Kaljulaid said.
Antti Rammo, the CEO of StarCloud Estonia said that he is very excited with the objects of the partnership they have with KLB and the interest the Opiq platform has generated in Kenya.
“Digitised study materials will significantly improve the availability of high-quality study literature and education in general, including the creation of opportunities for distance learning,” Rammo said adding that access to broadband internet is a key component in enabling learner’s access interactive digital content on Opiq platform.
He stressed the importance of working together with Kenyan publishers saying Opiq is a universal digital platform, but the school curriculum is country-specific in design.
On his part, Kenya Literature Bureau MD, Victor Lomaria, expressed his appreciation of the engagement, singling out the quality output and speed of conversion of books into ePub3, HLML5 and interactive digital content formats.
“The support KLB received from the consortium of StarCloud Estonia and Risk Africa Innovatis when developing interactive digital content for Class Seven (7) and Grade 5 Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) Learning and Teaching Materials (LTMs) demonstrates the technical expertise and commitment they have towards ensuring learners access quality online materials for academic excellence. It also adds value to Kenya’s Digital Literacy Projects,” he said.
KLB is a textbook publisher in Kenya mandated to publish, print and disseminate quality educational, scientific, periodicals and other reading materials. It also offers high quality editorial and printing solutions to individuals and institutions a competitive price, making the Bureau a valuable partner in e-learning and book trade in Kenya.
The concept of digital learning is not new in Kenya, though it remains a distant reality for many who don’t have access. Risk Africa Innovatis is set to resolve this challenge since there was a gap identified when pupils had to stay home due to Covid-19 restriction, while others were learning from scattered content that was not necessarily in the curriculum. KLB’s keen interest in technology solutions has seen the firm establish working relationships with leading technology firms in Estonia.
KLB has partnered with Star Cloud and eKool to provide a complete digital learning experience combining Learning Management System and School Management System for pupils, teachers, parents, and Government institutions. As the local partner, we have built the digitisation concept and brought on board publishing houses and schools in the public and private sector to implement this initiative in Kenya. “It is a big achievement today to launch Opiq after a year and months of struggle, it is only the beginning, the bigger task is to ensure every learner in the country is using this platform as part of their normal study and we will not sleep until this is realised says Henry Mien, CEO Risk Africa Innovatis.
According to Ben Roberts, the Group Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Liquid Intelligent Technologies: “The success in achieving digital education will definitely be about such partnerships. At Liquid Intelligent Technologies, we have previously partnered with UNICEF to connect schools to high-speed internet to primary schools across the country, and with KENIC to provide domains and websites for all the connected schools. This has enabled learners and teachers to access approved KLB content on the Opiq platform, as well as to deliver the necessary training for teachers remotely.”
Under the alliance, Liquid will work towards mapping schools across the continent, enhancing the collected data to include the availability of broadband connectivity. In keeping with the worldwide initiative of Project Giga, Liquid has successfully connected 4000 schools to the internet across Africa. The company aspires to continue empowering schools with digital technology and has further mapped 150,000 schools through the continent.
In Kenya, Liquid has connected eight schools to internet via six VSAT connections, one Fibre connection and one Wireless (P2P) in partnership with UNICEF. It is now working on the next phase of the Giga initiative called ‘Accelerate’. The aim is to connect more schools to explore diverse technologies, business models, and regulatory arrangements, and also to provide broadband connectivity and unlimited internet to schools and communities.
Further, through innovative testing of newer technologies and prototyping of business models, the mutual goal is to provide broadband connectivity with a minimum of 20 Mbps to the hardest-to-reach schools, thus refining and redistributing digital infrastructure to communities nationwide.
While the adoption of digital technologies is vital for the survival of businesses in the current economic climate, the need for education to be digitised is equal, if not more important. The pandemic caused massive disruption to the education system in Kenya, the primary reason – lack of basic infrastructure to encourage remote learning. The partnership should be the stepping stone for a more significant and much-needed transformation in the education sector. It is time to unanimously work towards ensuring that we secure the futures of the youth of our country and pave the way truly inclusive and high-quality digital education system locally.
KLB has published Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) textbooks for Early Childhood Education and technical books for County Polytechnics and Vocational Training Centres. Nyandarua County is among the first eight  devolved units that have books branded in their name for greater appeal and ownership.
Star Cloud was founded in 2014 to develop software for the creation, distribution and use of digital learning resources. The company collaborates with the leading educational publishers and public sector institutions to provide a comprehensive fully digital curriculum service for the schools, teachers and pupils. Now the Opiq platform developed by Star Cloud is the most popular digital learning content environment in Estonia. The goal of Star Cloud is to provide the best possible support for the creation and use of high-quality digital learning materials and with it provide intelligent data-based insights about the delivery of the curriculum. Star Cloud partners with publishers from different countries – including Estonia, Finland, Kenya, Uganda and Kazakhstan.
Opiq is a set of technologies aimed to challenge and develop the existing learning content industry and use of learning materials in education systems. Opiq solutions enable to digitize existing and create new core curriculum learning content (mainly textbooks, workbooks and teachers’ manuals) and offer schools (teachers, pupils, parents), educational policy creators and content industry access to opportunities arising from digital technologies.
Opiq aims to provide better access to high quality education, making it more personalised and create conditions for a data-based approach to learning and educational strategies.