Recently we had the benefit of a weeklong visit from a volunteer engineer from World Possible (www.worldpossible.org) who installed their newly developed Spanish language version of RACHEL (Rural Area Community Hotspots for Education and Learning) in four of our libraries in Guatemala. As you might imagine internet connectivity is challenging in these rural communities. Often when it does exist it carries monthly limits and bandwidth limits. Additionally, it is beyond the financial resources of many of the communities. Using a donated conventional network router and an inexpensive device called a Raspberry Pi it was possible to give library users immediate access to over 2000 Khan Academy math and science videos, a fully indexed and searchable Spanish language version of Wikipedia, hundreds of books, health guides, educational games and more.
Interest was very high among not only the library users but the librarians who had lots of questions. Aging computers were brought back to life with software upgrades and were soon broadcasting math and science in Spanish.
Norberto Mujica, World Possible volunteer, spent time showing the librarians the content available in Rachel and how best to use it with their community members.
RACHEL content continued to be available to tablets, cell phones and laptops during a power outage with the addition of an inexpensive battery pack.
In San Juan La Laguna, Sololá, Guatemala the location of the network router allowed the signal to travel outside making the RACHEL content available to anyone in the community space outside of the library seven days a week.
While our dream is for a high speed internet connection for all of our libraries RACHEL is an interim solution which can give the libraries an “internet like” experience and also something that can be used offline leaving the bandwidth for other uses.