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Manchester MBA Bringing Information To Uganda

Khalid Arbab’s eco-friendly computers are a new educational lifeline for remote Ugandan villagers

By  Harriet Murdoch

Thu Dec 15 2011


UNICEF’s Digital Drum has been chosen as one of the Best Inventions of 2011 by Time Magazine. The Digital Drum was designed by Manchester Business School MBA Khalid Arbab who is Manager of UNICEF Uganda’s Information Communications Technology Unit.

The Digital Drum is designed to help rural communities in Uganda access information about health, education and other issues. The solar-powered computers are made from metal oil drums making them durable against the harsh elements. They come preloaded with multimedia content which is changing the lives of Uganda’s most isolated people.

UNICEF plan to deliver 200 Digital Drums to all parts of Uganda over the next two years and eventually throughout the whole of Africa.
With only 10% of Uganda currently online the majority of the population live with very limited access to information about health, education, job training and protection from violence.

UNICEF’s Representative in Uganda, Sherad Safra, said that the Digital Drum “helps create a digital bridge between those who have access to the Internet and those who don’t, in a low-cost sturdy fashion.”

Khalid Arbab had “noticed that rugged computing solutions were very expensive, and required a very specialised workforce with specialised tools. I realised that we had to come up with a solution for rugged computing for Uganda and other countries like Uganda, and that meant reducing the price of the shell.” After contacting metal workers he came up with the idea of the cost-effective oil drum design.

The Senior Engineer and Project Co-Ordinator for the project, Set Herr, says that UNICEF plan to place the Digital Drums “in places that are as rural as possible. Areas where people don’t have access to really any information. A lot of these villages and towns don’t have full time teachers, so they have schools but the students don’t really have access to any thing in the way of information.”

Khalid will commence the final stages of the Manchester MBA, entering his final taught semester in January. After that he will start the Live Company Project, where 4-6 Global MBAs from different industries and countries work as consultants for one of the students companies on a specific project.


More stories about students, alumni and programmes at Manchester Business School here