Longhorn targets schools digital plan with e-learning bookstore

Longhorn’s chief digital officer, Evans Rotich, demonstrates how the publisher’s digital web portal works. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU
Longhorn’s chief digital officer, Evans Rotich, demonstrates how the publisher’s digital web portal works. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU 

Longhorn Publishers is shifting its content to digital platforms with an eye on the multi-billion shilling primary schools computerisation programme.

The Jubilee government’s flagship Digital Literacy Programme, which aims to equip 1.2 million primary school learners with digital devices, kicked off in March this year after several false starts.

All Class One pupils in over 20,000 public schools are expected to receive laptops or tablets under the Sh17 billion first phase of the project by March next year.

Distribution of the devices began in March this year with 12,000 devices targeting 150 public primary schools in a pilot stage.

Under the programme, content developers are set to reap big as the government opens the content development to private sector in liaison with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD). Local universities have been supplying the devices.

Longhorn Publishers Group managing director Simon Ngigi said Wednesday the firm has developed adequate digital capacity to provide content for the schools digital learning project.

Mr Ngigi spoke when the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE)-listed firm unveiled a new e-learning platform and a digital bookstore which will see all its publishing content available to customers in digital format.

“The government has brought 1.2 million new laptops, and from what we hear they will be available from the beginning of the next academic year. Since our content is fully approved by KICD and also available in the (digital) platform that we have launched today we consider ourselves to be the natural choice for the government at this stage to be able to give the best quality of books for our children in primary schools,” he said.

Longhorn Publishers revealed in April this year that it has contracts to supply text books and learning materials worth Sh856.4 million to regional governments, underlining the publishers’ heavy bet on public sector deals.

The contracts were with the governments of Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda and were signed between 2001 and 2015 in various currencies equivalent to Sh856.4 million.

Mr Ngigi said the digitisation programme had cost the publisher Sh100 million and will help it shore up dwindling revenues from textbook publishing amid the transition in the market as well as diversify its business.

Longhorn successfully raised Sh533 million through a rights issue in April, part of which it set aside to increase the digital content offering, sign strategic distribution rights and innovate.