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Kytabu app out to rescue poor students with cheaper books

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Photo/Diana Ngila  The Kytabu app is primarily for android tablets though it is downloadable on the iPad and other OS devices such as the OLPC tablet. It was developed from a collaboration between apps developer Tonee Ndung’u (pictured) and his father, school manager Francis Ndung’u.

Photo/Diana Ngila The Kytabu app is primarily for android tablets though it is downloadable on the iPad and other OS devices such as the OLPC tablet. It was developed from a collaboration between apps developer Tonee Ndung’u (pictured) and his father, school manager Francis Ndung’u.  

By FRANKLINE SUNDAY

Posted  Wednesday, April 11  2012 at  17:36

Most of the applications that break through the Kenyan tech scene on an almost fortnight basis have their origin in one of Nairobi’s incubation labs or app competitions.

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Not so with Kytabu, the first textbook subscription app for tablets designed and developed in the country and which targets the 8-4-4 curriculum.

Kytabu, which went live in February, allows the buying of books or chapters of books on a tablet through mobile money transactions.

It is the brainchild of a unique father and son partnership.

The application will be installed in the affordable Aakash tablet (or an equivalent) from India that retails (with subsidies) at an average of Sh3,320 ($40) and introduced to the Kenyan market at between Sh4,150 ($50) and Sh4,980 ($60).

The Kytabu app is primarily for android tablets though it is downloadable on the iPad and other OS devices such as the OLPC tablet.

The concept for the application came together when Mr Tonee Ndung’u, an application developer, and his 65-year-old father, Francis Ndung’u, who manages a primary school for underprivileged students, came together to fill a gap that the latter had noticed in the education system.

“I run a small school in Marurui slums in Nairobi and most of my students come from poor households. It emerged that their greatest hindrance to learning was lack of text books,” explains Dr Ndung’u.

“A student is required to come up with almost 10 text books in each class with each book costing anything between Sh400 and Sh1,500.

"You can imagine what this translates to for poor and middle class parents who have children at different levels of education,” he states.

In addition, most of the books are defaced or misplaced and within a year there is hardly anything left to hand down to siblings.

Dr Ndung’u took the idea to his son, one of the founders of Nailab.

“My father asked if there was a digital solution we could come up with to provide school children with affordable textbooks in an interactive and engaging platform that would ease the cost burden for their parents,” said Mr Ndung’u.

“Kytabu is set up to work through an encryption and subscription model where we have taken school textbooks covering the 8-4-4 syllabus from Class Four all the way to Form Four and provided them in a digital and interactive format through low cost android tablet devices.”

Users are offered the books at a lower price than the shelve price.

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