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2022 2022 Winner Project | Engage Science Engagement (Falling Walls Engage)

The strongest source of free encyclopaedic knowledge is Wikipedia, which currently contains about 6.458.000 articles in English. At the same time, the switch from analogue to digital TV signals and the development of flat screens have made myriads of tube TVs obsolete. A smart combination of these devices can help bridge the digital divide at low cost. A Raspberry Pi, a single-board computer, and an old TV make a low-cost Linux-based PC. The free software Kiwix allows downloading offline versions of valuable sources such as Wikipedia, around 60.000 free ebooks, PHeT science simulations, and so on.

This combination creates OfflinePedia: open-source computers built out of TVs and packed with academic content, enabling vulnerable populations to access knowledge. Because the hardware and software components are free, they can be easily replicated and shared.

Potentially reusable e-waste is everywhere and can be brought back to life with the right open source tools. It is more than a computer, it has transformed into a non-profit initiative by volunteers that allows knowledge to be freely disseminated/donated without the need for a high budget or a full telecommunications infrastructure. In this way, it complements science communication activities in rural areas where people want to learn but do not have the resources.

Joshua Salazar Mejía is an Ecuadorian free software activist and PhD student in physics at the University of Vienna, Austria. He grew up in the outskirts of the capital city, Quito, where he became aware of the digital divide in rural zones in Ecuador. His passion was learning about the mechanics of the universe, so he chose science as a career. His research experience is related to Materials Science, using Density Functional Theory, and he currently focuses of Micromagnetics for magnetic sensors design. While getting involved in research activities, he started to share his passion through science communication talks in rural areas. This experience further developed into founding OfflinePedia, a project focused on reducing the digital divide in vulnerable populations without access to internet or computers.