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Media release

Time Magazine inventions list features UNICEF/CSIR innovative solution for computer learning

25 January 2012
The Digital Drum, a co-creation by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has been cited by the world's largest weekly news magazine, Time Magazine, as one of the top 50 inventions in the world for 2011.

Grant Cambridge CSIR Meraka Institute Technologist on left with Unicef's Jean-Marc Lefebvre with the completed Digital Drum.

The Digital Drum is a computer system that gives people access to information on health, education and other relevant issues. This innovative solution is based on the CSIR's Digital Doorway, a robust stand alone computer system to promote self-learning of computer literacy and information skills. The Digital Doorway initiative is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (dst).

The UNICEF/CSIR team was tasked to come up with an alternative in Uganda, using local materials in a simplified housing. Khalid Arbab, the UNICEF Uganda IT specialist, suggested that since oil drums were readily available, they could be used as a basis for the new housing. Cambridge worked with Jean-Marc Lefebure from the UNICEF Uganda office to come up with a prototype Digital Drum, which was mounted on the wall.

The CSIR's Grant Cambridge explains, "Manufacturing the Digital Drum in Uganda was impossible as the country lacks the suitable technology - powder coating and laser cutting equipment - to manufacture it to specifications. The Digital Drum design proved to be an innovative way for UNICEF and the CSIR to address a need through a solution developed in the absence of technology," Cambridge explains.

The Digital Drum has two work stations, with content adapted from the standard Digital Doorway suite.

The original prototype, as well as a subsequent iteration of the Digital Drum using a second oil drum as a stand, is on display at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. It features in the museum catalogue, "Design with the other 90%: Cities."


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Last updated : 25 January 2012

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