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© Spring – Summer 2010

Idea to Implementation

When the SpotBeam dream was first put to pen two years ago with 2010 as its implementation year, we trusted that if we worked hard enough, with the dedication that is due any project bigger than its initiator, and with the urgency of its objectives, then a 2010 kick-off would be an achievable goal.


The previous year culminated with a Beamers' dinner event hosted by the founders and a second SpotBeam briefing dinner hosted by a supporter of the project. At the November dinners, the founders gave a visual presentation of the project and spoke of the need to get the implementation stage started by 2010. Great support and critical feedback came from the guests.
Some of the Beamers
 winter dinner guests

Some of the Beamers winter dinner guests

Of note were ways in which organizations could lend support to student innovations that would be developed into viable products. SpotBeam is about inspiring the genius in students by opening them up to a whole new world of learning using information technology. Use of video-conferencing technology to supplement teaching methods in the classroom is a key component of the project.

We believe that the digitization of the Kenyan classroom can results in the passion for learning and innovation in an unprecedented way. Kenyan students are still wholly subject to a strict academic discipline that focuses of passing exams at the expense of learning that develops one's talents and genius. The change to a learning system that allows students to develop their diverse talents should in the long run lead to the growth of innovation and creativity that drives new industry.
A SpotBeam moment with
 John Githongo

A SpotBeam moment with John Githongo spurred
us on to some useful contacts. Winter 2009

It is therefore important that while SpotBeam focuses on providing technical tools for innovative learning, capable organizations should also be ready to support the ideas that emanate from inspired students' minds. It would be defeatist if we developed an inspired generation and failed to give them a platform to move their ideas towards implementation.

SpotBeam will therefore press on towards its own implementation stage where schools will be fitted with video-conferencing technology, and equally encourage organizations to stand ready to midwife the innovative ideas of students into great products.

Beamers is a network of Diaspora Kenyans and friends of Kenya dedicated to SpotBeam's vision to inspire the genius in students.


2010 started off with important meetings and presentation of project proposals. Our first meeting was with the Minister for Corporative Development, Hon. Joseph Nyagah, with whom we shared the SpotBeam project and pressed upon him the need to have the Kenyan government on board. He fully embraced the project, proposing to have it implemented under his Ministry. Follow-up communication with him introduced us to satellite bandwidth providers who can potentially provide necessary VSAT technology for last-mile zone schools.
Meeting with
 Hon. Joseph Nyagah

Meeting with Hon. Joseph Nyagah. Winter 2009

It is important that the project retain its original purpose to serve schools, especially the most disadvantaged. This means teaming up with stakeholders to provide bandwidth, electricity or solar energy, licensing, computers and software for non-profit purposes that must be sustainable.
Kenya's Speaker of National Assembly,
 Kenneth Marende

A talk with Kenya's Speaker of National
Assembly, Kenneth Marende, on engaging the
Diaspora inKenya's development

While the government is an entity that is commonly approached with suspicion, it must be noted that the government is empowered to serve the people. SpotBeam is not a political watchdog but an intiative striving to bring key stakeholders together towards a common purpose. SpotBeam notes and respects  >  >

that the project needs the support and endorsement of certain government ministries if it hopes to affect all schools across the country, for the benefit of students disadvantaged by poverty and marginalized by a digital divide that separates them from the enormous benefits of information technology. SpotBeam is in an effort to gain the full and unwavering support of the Ministry of Education as its key partner.

Serving the Last Mile

Two meetings between SpotBeam and the O3B (Other 3 Billion) team were held on March 17th and 18th at the Gaylord National Convention Center. O3B, founded by Greg Wyler, is a company that uses medium earth orbit satellite technology to provide affordable Internet access to the "other 3 billion" people in the world, largely concentrated in Africa.
Meeting with O3B founder,
 Greg Wyler

Meeting with O3B founder, Greg Wyler

Mr. Wyler mentioned that SpotBeam was a pioneering project, the first he'd seen that aimed at benefitting schools in Kenya. His experience trying to provide Internet access to schools in Rwanda gave him useful knowledge into the unique challenges that face Africa's schools in remote areas. SpotBeam requested that O3B use its clout and resources to prioritize on benefiting students.

The second meeting was between satellite engineers; Hall (SpotBeam), Mowat and Holts (O3B) where discussion on the innovative technology of medium earth orbits and its viability was key. This may come in handy in places where fibre optics and companies providing bandwidth via existing geo-satellites prove too costly.
Meeting with
 O3B officials

Meeting with O3B officials, L to R:
James Mowat, Payload Technical Manager;
Trujillo Omar, VP, Africa Region;
Preston Hall, Technical Director, SpotBeam;
Brian Holts, Director, Space Programs

SpotBeam is constantly in an effort to forge useful partnerships and grow its Beamers Network to ensure the realization of a daring dream. It is the founders' vision that the youth of Kenya shall become the generation that grows the greatest innovation-based industry, through a realization of their personal talents and genius.

Paradigm Shift

Once again, the 2009 KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) results released earlier in the year were a grim reminder of the "failure" generation the system generates. Only 81,000 students, out of 330,000 that sat the national exam, scored a C and above, the minimum grade required for University admission. That's only 25%. In a country where success is largely measured through academic performance and acquisition of white-collar jobs, the rest (75%), have to fight their way out of the "failure" rut and create some measure of success if they're lucky.

SpotBeam makes a constant reminder that these "failed" youth are a tremendous resource of untapped talent and genius. There is no better way to harness this wealth in an individual than shifting paradigms from the traditional high-strung "teaching to the exam" to a new "passion for learning" atmosphere in the classroom. This passion for learning can be introduced through supplementary teaching methods that are innovative and inspiring. A love of learning should become a life-long attitude that leads a generation to discovering and exploiting the best in themselves.

The best story from the 2010 results is from little known Maasai Girls High School where a rookie mathematics teacher inspired his students through shifting their perspective about a subject traditionally deemed too complex for girls. Said Mr. Benjamin Kimuyu, "I use everyday experiences and the environment to explain mathematical concepts that have been perceived as difficult by students." His class attained the highest math score in the country, with 100% student success. This also proves the SpotBeam point that the problem is not the curriculum; it is in its delivery.
Maasai High School celebrates

Maasai High School celebrates
the highest math score in the country.
Inset – Their teacher, Mr. Benjamin Kimuyu

It's time to shift paradigms, abandon the failure tag that we place of our youth, and give them the tools to tap into their enormous potential.

"Nothing is more powerful than
an idea whose time has come "

~ Victor Hugo ~

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