Kisii University Launches ‘eLearning’ Program Using Smoke Signals

Kisii University is set to join other Universities offering distance learning programs, although in a very unconventional manner that combines technology and traditions.

Speaking during the launch of the program, the University Vice Chancellor Professor John S Akama said that the Kisii based institution would embark om using smoke signals to communicate to students who are away due to the Covid-19 pandemic, thus allowing lecturers to go on uninterrupted.

“We shall be using smoke signals to do our ‘online’ classes and keep up with other universities that are using different strategies. The choice of smoke signal is informed by the cost of internet in this country, thus allowing our students to stay connected without losing money to telcos.”

The system works by combining digital communication technology with traditional communication methods. The Chief Technologist at the University said that digital communication is binary in nature, using zeros and ones, and thus can be replaced easily with smoke signal which can be sent in two states of present and absent, or zeros and ones. Students will thus employ specially designed decoders to interpret the signal once received.

The technology has already been tested by the University, with several patent applications pending. It is hoped that University will start exporting the technology all around Africa where internet connectivity is a challenge, or to other universities in Kenya where students are complaining about the high cost of metered internet in Kenya.

Students who spoke to our reporter said that the invention will really be useful in ensuring continuity of their studies while away from school, and those around Kisii town were able to receive the signal clearly on any day with a clear sky.

The University is using a modified giant fog machine that is able to produce and fire 50 m3 of smoke per second and firing to a distance of 50 km into the sky.

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