Open source is quietly powering a virtual revolution in some countries

What Alexandre and the team didn’t anticipate were the number of KA Lite installations in Europe and the US. Many are grass-roots initiatives exploring the platform in preparation for local projects and taking the platform abroad, but a number are US prisons, particularly in Idaho: “It wasn’t what we were designing it for,” admits Alexandre, “but it happened to be the same types of infrastructural constraints for different reasons, for security reasons in that case.”

Guatemalan kids making good use of KA Lite (Image credit: Jessica Hammer)

Guatemalan kids making good use of KA Lite (Image credit: Jessica Hammer) (Image credit: Jessica Hammer)

KA Lite has also found its way into a private medical schools in Gitwe, Rwanda through a collaboration with Stanford School of Medicine, where Alexandre says, “They are trying to bootstrap medical capacity by training doctors and nurses.” And one step removed from that are the number of frontline workers and public health or village health workers that are being trained in areas such as reproductive health and reducing infant mortality. UNICEF, for instance, is using the Learning Equality software in Uganda to distribute public health materials.

Although KA Lite is a fantastic success – it has been installed in over 175 countries and territories and reached an estimated 4.5 million learners – it wasn’t the whole vision: “[We wanted to] build something that wasn’t just about distributing something like Khan Academy, but was a more empowering bidirectional tool for sharing knowledge and allowing people to include their own knowledge and distribute that, and be included in a global community of knowledge sharing, rather than a one-directional broadcast mechanism.”

Smiling faces all round (Image credit: Adrien Shen)

Smiling faces all round (Image credit: Adrien Shen) (Image credit: Adrien Shen)

Kolibri emerges

Work on the next platform, Kolibri, started back in 2013, but building the platform has been an ongoing project for the last year and half. Although some of the UI design is similar to KA Lite, it’s an updated response built to enable seamless authoring, peer-to-peer sharing and provide compelling education content that can be customised for different educational curricula – and all without the need for the internet.

Instead of only using Khan Academy’s content, Learning Equality now has a content and implementation team creating a vast library of educational content from sources all over the web. Alexandre says they are trying to be “more strategic” with Kolibri: “We want that same grass-roots scale but we want tight feedback loops.” So Learning Equality is now running a phased partner release of Kolibri to “work out the kinks” and is building towards a public launch in early autumn.

Alexandre told us that Kolibri was about to launch into a number of Indian states with a long-standing Learning Equality partner, the Nalanda project, which had previously been using KA Lite. This is a non-profit and NGO that collaborates with the Ministries of Education and several other NGOs, such as Central Square Foundation.

Alexandre enthuses: “The main thing that’s been so exciting […] is seeing how much fantastic work is being done by organisations all around the world, and the conversations we’ve been able to have with all the amazing NGOs and people dedicated to just getting out there and helping people – just being able to be part of that world simply because we’re providing something that allows them to do what they are doing more effectively has been thrilling.”

If you want to help Learning Equality, head to The organisation is particularly seeking help from Python developers in integrating new content sources and is building a community of translators to help translate the platform and eventually all the content.

This feature was first published in issue 183 of Linux User & Developer

Chris Thornett

Chris Thornett is the Technology Content Manager at onebite, editor, writer and freelance tech journalist covering Linux and open source. Former editor of Linux User and Developer magazine.