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FIRE Africa Case Study: Shona E-Reader Project

 The Fund for Internet Research and Education – FIRE Africa – is Africa’s leading Grants and Awards programme designed to encourage, support and develop innovative online solutions to Africa’s education, information, infrastructure and communication needs.


Case Study: Shona Early Learner E-Reader

Project: Design a Text-to-Speech (TTS) E-learning application for a low cost Android tablet to enable children in rural Zimbabwe to learn to read using their own languages (including Shona) as well as to engage children with learning disabilities.

Country: Zimbabwe

Category: E-Development, FIRE Africa Grants 2013

Making it Happen

The University of Zimbabwe secured a US$ 10,000 FIRE Africa Grant in 2013 to support this ambitious project. The grant enabled them to invest in several low-cost Android tablets, which were used to test the pilot version of the app, NatiV, with a group of 30 school children. FIRE Africa provided mentoring, advice and training as part of its commitment of support. "Through funding and mentoring, FIRE Africa was instrumental in giving us the opportunity to make a difference in young people’s lives by using existing technology to create a new solution that caters directly to the environment in which they are growing,” says Ian Mutamiri, project leader. “Over 700,000 children in grades 1-3 in Zimbabwe could benefit from the NatiV suite of apps, which cost less than US$ 5 per year per child. Receiving this Grant also enabled us to improve our skills and showcase our work to the world as well as to network with global partners and innovators."

Update 2015

NatiV now has a proper home in the form of a new Learning Center for kids called ‘St. Tropez’ in Harare, Zimbabwe. St. Tropez was set up in January 2015 and is an important part of the project’s business model to ensure sustainability. The design team also enjoys the constant, free interaction with children and teachers as they use NatiV, enabling them to fine-tune the apps in preparation for the much-anticipated countrywide release.

The phonetic library for a second Zimbabwean native language, Ndebele, is already complete. The team has made sure that all its research is easily replicable and portable to other “Bantu” languages – and it’s all available online, open-source, for free!



More about FIRE Africa

21156674863 397f019808 oFIRE Africa provides funds for projects, initiatives, tools and platforms that harness the power of the Internet to empower the local and regional community to solve the region’s unique online communications problems. Since we ran our pilot project in 2007 to identify innovative ICT solutions to the challenges faced by local communities, FIRE Africa has grown into a fully-fledged programme that has helped over 30 initiatives in 16 countries over the last eight years.

Calling all African innovators and Entrepreneuers
Have you got a great idea? Does it use ICT to solve an issue in your community? If your ideas are aligned with one of our funding categories, you could have the chance to win a FIRE Africa Award or receive a FIRE Africa Grant.

Calling all Potential Sponsors and Partners

FIRE Africa is actively seeking organisations and individuals to support Internet-based innovation in Africa. We have a wide range of sponsorship and partnership packages available and can tailor packages according to your needs. In addition to funding, FIRE Africa’s partners and sponsors offer their experiences, advice and regional insight so we are constantly aware of innovation initiatives taking place out in the community.

All Photography (c) Ian Mutamiri/www.mynativ.com

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