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Outernet broadcasts free educational content from space

Outernet is a global satellite broadcast that ensures everyone can access a basic level of education for free.

Photo of Rachel Feinberg
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Technology has yielded many resources and materials that can be used to improve education for refugees, but there remains the challenge of providing access to this content efficiently and affordably in locations that lack infrastructure, such as refugee settlements. Outernet can solve this problem of access to information by delivering valuable education solutions from different expert sources via satellite broadcast. In addition to providing access to high-quality, up-to-date educational content, Outernet is also a source of information that can benefit refugees in other aspects of their lives.

What is Outernet?

Outernet delivers digital information to places where the Internet cannot reach. We broadcast the web's best content from satellites to the entire planet, like a global radio station that sends files instead of music. This free-to-receive broadcast is accessible to everyone, independent of income, infrastructure, or geography; all that is required for access is a receiver, either Pillar or Lantern, and a Wi-Fi device. We can deliver this information in any format (e.g. text, audio, video), and in multiple languages.

What Information Does Outernet Provide?

The broadcast’s curated Core Archive includes educational content, news, health information, and more, to ensure all of humanity can access fundamental information, including a basic level of education. Outernet also offers organizations an efficient and scalable means of sending digital content to remote areas. By distributing content from different organizations, Outernet leverages the collective strengths and resources of these groups into a unified solution.

How Does Outernet Work?

Outernet continuously broadcasts data from space using conventional geostationary communications satellites. Ground receivers connect to the satellite signal and translate it into data files, which are saved on its local storage. The receiver acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot that allows anyone with a device (e.g. smartphone, tablet) to interact with the Outernet content saved on its drive. Users can also download and save the data files to then share with others via ad hoc device-to-device networks, all without an Internet connection.

How Outernet Can Improve Education for Refugees

Because Outernet is a global service that requires no terrestrial infrastructure, Outernet receivers can be deployed quickly and easily to transform any location into a hub of learning, whether it is a permanent school, a temporary structure, or tent. Once a receiver is available, users never pay to access the data. Crises and conflicts already come with high costs, and access to information is a luxury. Outernet ensures that refugees do not have to bear the financial burden that comes with getting access to information that will help them build their lives in a new place.

The Core Archive includes educational resources, including Wikipedia, Khan Academy, and Project Gutenberg, but we can also work with organizations to deliver any type of digital educational content to meet the unique needs of refugees. Because Outernet is an information delivery system, content can be added or updated at any time to meet changing needs. For example, if a group of children arrive speaking a different language from their peers, new content in this language can be delivered immediately. Outernet can be used to improve learning in different ways:

  • Schools - Schools in refugee settlements face shortages of educational materials and trained teachers, and quality often suffers under the strain of demand. This interruption of education diminishes the opportunities available to children later in life. Outernet reestablishes education services by providing a stream of rich, dynamic, educational content to an unlimited number of users. Any digital content for education – including video courses, textbooks, learning applications, or resources for over-worked teachers – can be delivered directly to refugees over the Outernet system.

  • Adult Learning - Adult refugees trying to rebuild their lives in a new place often find their previous education and skill set does not translate to opportunities in their new home. Outernet provides access to resources for vocational training, learning a new language, building new skills, or simple personal enrichment. Education bestows resilience and a sense of control to its beneficiaries. Training can be tailored to meet needs within a refugee settlement; for example, Outernet can provide training to adults who want to become teachers for under-staffed settlement schools.

Enrichment and Value Beyond the Classroom

There are other factors beyond limited access to class materials that can negatively affect a person’s ability to learn. Refugees often live without the infrastructure that supports a base level of community health and safety. Education in the absence of basic needs is not sustainable, so Outernet also delivers information essential to a general livelihood:

  • News and Announcements - Refugees live amid constant uncertainty and often feel powerless. They want to know what is happening to the home they were forced to leave, or they may be looking for missing family members. Outernet can be used as a communication system within a refugee settlement to distribute news, make local announcements, and help reunite families. Even information as simple as a weather report can provide refugees a sense of control.

  • Information for Adjustment - Refugees are often left without any information about their host country, its language, what resources available to them, or their legal rights. Outernet can ease this transition by providing answers to these basic questions.

  • Health Resources - When demand for healthcare or medical attention exceeds supply, the Outernet broadcast can provide medical information to fill in the gaps by both supporting professionals and educating the general population.

  • Art and Cultural Content - Art has the power to strengthen the spirit as well offer common experiences around which community can be built. All people, especially those in desperate living circumstances, can enjoy the multitude of benefits that literature, music, and art provide.

More information:

TechCrunchGizmodoBBC, BBC/ClickCNN


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dave Levin

Hi Rachel, I read about this before...really awesome project. If Za'atari Refugee Camp is on your radar, please let me know. Good luck!

Photo of Rachel Feinberg

Hey Dave, thanks! I would love to explore how to make Outernet available to the people in the Za'atari Refugee Camp. I just read your contribution about the Fab Lab and I love the idea.

Photo of Rachel Feinberg

We are currently broadcasting information from Radio Netherlands Worldwide for Syrian refugees, so naturally we want to be where they are. I'm curious, have you started building the Fab Lab?

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