"Javelin is the most
logical and cost-effective way Africa can solve its problem of
students' access to digital and re-usable content to enhance
education in our lower level schools. It certainly provides a
level playing field and guarantees equity and inclusiveness for
hinterland schools with network and power infrastructural
challenges." Rev. E. K. Dadebo, Co-ordinator, ICT in
Education Programmes, Ghana; Country Coordinator,
The GLOBE Programme.
Project Objective: Primary
and secondary schools in Africa to access educational resources
on the Internet and digital textbooks in spite of cost and poor telecommunication
Open source software mirrors and
creates a library of educational websites
on a school’s server, provides local e-mail access
as well as stored scanned textbooks.
Long range narrowband UHF and VHF Data radios deployed for slow update
of mirrored sites and e-mail handling.
Brief Summary: Javelin is a free open source software suite.
It provides access to a library of educational Web sites, e-mail
and stored scanned textbooks for
primary and secondary schools in Africa.
More than 90% of schools in Ghana have no link to the Internet.
This is because connections are too expensive, or are simply not
available. [This situation is quite consistent in several other
African countries]. As a result, students are excluded from the
educational resources available online. Required textbooks
for the students are also mostly unavailable.
Rather than waiting for high-speed lines to become practical
and textbooks to be acquired, Arrow
Network Systems developed Javelin, a low-cost system to save Web
sites and scanned textbooks on local servers at each school. The servers give quick,
easy access to information. Meanwhile, slower data radios
connect students and teachers to e-mail, and periodically
refresh these educational resources. Schools with no
connectivity at all may still refresh the resources in other
schools or Internet kiosks.
Ghana has increased by 1200% over the period 2001-2006. The
voice mobile phone industry is however responsible for almost
100% of this growth. While overall teledensity is estimated as
20%, the teledensity of fixed-line phones (the main Internet
access medium), is about 3%.
The cost of a 2mbps (million
bits per second) Internet access is over $4,000 per month. The
investment cost for installing VSAT to connect a remote location
to the Internet is about $20,000 with a monthly charge exceeding
$600 for 64kbps.
The effect of the unavailability
of telecommunication infrastructure and connectivity cost is
that over 90% of schools in Ghana have no regular connection to
the Internet. Students and teachers therefore have no easy
access to educational resources on the Internet. Textbooks
are also on short supply or simply unavailable.
waiting for these challenges to be solved, Arrow Network Systems
has developed the Javelin solution. Its main objective is to
enable primary and secondary schools in Africa
to have access to mirrored educational websites, scanned
textbooks and e-mail on
local servers in their schools. Javelin is open-source software
and made available for free. Arrow has combined Javelin with
wide-reach wireless narrowband technology (up to 192kbps) from Racom (www.racom.eu)
to enable schools in remote locations have access to e-mails and
to get the educational on-line resources occasionally refreshed.
this approach, it is practically possible to enable any school
anywhere in Africa have access to the educational resources
available on-line at minimal cost. Schools with no means of
connecting to the Internet for the occasional refresh may
transport their server to nearby schools or other centers for a
1. Key web sites
needed by schools to train students are available to teachers
and students on
their LAN (local area network). Scarce textbooks are available
in digital re-usable forms.
Restricts students from using school resources to access
unauthorized web sites.
without any form of telecommunication solution may still access
4. May be used with any telecommunication link.
of wide reach UHF radios makes it possible for email/Internet
access to be granted to
any school, anywhere.
of connectivity and maintenance is very low as students are
involved in the
for skill training.
7. May be used as an e-mail only solution for large
corporations located in remote areas.
E-mail access only mode may be used to conduct searches on the
Internet and resulting
sites returned via e-mail to be browsed on a local drive.
1. A local area network with
as many computers as may be afforded.
server running the Javelin™engine doing mirroring and caching of
web sites, and fetching
user mails from various sources into one consolidated mail box
on the LAN.
range UHF wireless narrowband radio to create WAN (wide area
network) connectivity to
the absence of a WAN connectivity, Javelin server may be
transported to another location
to refresh sites and send/receive e-mails.
Javelin: Frequently Asked Questions
What is Javelin?
Javelin is a free software suite
written with open source Linux tools and routines. Its prime
purpose is to mirror and create a library of educational websites on a school’s server
so that students and teachers located in poor areas with little
or no access to the Internet can access hundreds of selected
websites needed for education, and can also send and receive
e-mails, even if delayed. Textbooks in short supply are
scanned and stored on the Javelin server for student and staff
What’s its origin?
Javelin was originally proposed
and designed by Kwaku Boadu, CEO of Arrow Network Systems,
Ghana, in 2001; development work was done by staff of Arrow
Network Systems (Ghana) and Racom s.r.o. (Czech Republic).
Why the name Javelin? Any
We only thought the next thing
after an ‘Arrow’ was a ‘Javelin’ - just having fun with names;
no special meaning. Then when we had to explain what Javelin
meant we organized a staff contest and succeeded in forging it
is an acronym for “Just Another Very Easy Link Into the ‘Net”.
Who is Arrow Network Systems
Arrow Network Systems is a
private data telecommunication company in Ghana started in Nov
2000. Our primary goal is to use wireless narrowband
technologies to provide data connectivity in Ghana and export
proven data telecom solutions to the rest of Africa. Our
telecommunication links are mainly used for financial
transactions e.g. interconnecting Bank branches for ATMs and
on-line banking. Our clients include Banks and Government
on-line border post clearing. Arrow also assembles
wireless modems in Ghana for both local sales and export to
other African countries.
Who is Racom s.r.o. (www.racom.eu)
Racom is a wireless device
manufacturer in Czech Republic and Arrow’s foreign partner in
the deployment of wireless technology in Ghana and Africa.
Racom assists Arrow with technology, technical support and
training. Arrow has so far used Racom’s flagship product, the
U/VHF Radio called Morse® Radio to install long range radio
links to provide schools with Internet access using Javelin.
Who may use Javelin?
Primary and Secondary schools in
Africa may find Javelin most useful. Why? These are the
poorest schools in Africa, most likely to be left out in funding
for Internet connectivity, and moreover they have better use for
static websites. Bigger schools and universities mostly need
dynamic websites and are also more likely to be successful in
raising funds to establish expensive Internet connections on
their campuses. These are also schools that cannot afford
libraries hence lack essential textbooks on campus.
How does it work?
The Javelin engine is delivered
to a school on CD with hundreds of educational websites already
installed on it (mirrored). Javelin occasionally visits the
original sites, if a telecom link exists, to check whether a
site has changed. Any difference is downloaded, including
incoming and outgoing e-mails for as long as the link is
available. Otherwise, Javelin waits until it senses a connection
to the Internet. Schools that have no way of connecting to the
Internet may therefore occasionally carry their Javelin server
and plug it onto a LAN in another school or Internet café.
The content delivered to the schools included scanned textbooks.
How much does it cost for a
school to have Javelin? How does that compare with other
known solutions for establishing Internet connection for
Javelin is supplied free on CD to
the school and may be used without a permanent or reliable
telecommunication link in the school.
However, it has typically cost
Arrow about $5,000 in hardware costs alone to establish up to
150km point-to-point link to connect a school. [Cost may
increase if a repeater has to be built to overcome a major
landscape barrier.] This one-time cost compares favorably
with an estimated $20,000 needed to provide a VSAT link to
remote locations. While monthly recurring and maintenance fee
for VSAT is higher than $300 per month, we estimate a monthly
expenditure of about $10 to maintain a Javelin link.
Maintenance is much lower if the school chooses not to have a
telecommunication link but rather depend on another school for
occasional updates of the server data – e-mails and websites.
For a period of 10 years, we estimate that a primary or
secondary school shall require about US$26,200 in direct
assistance to install a Javelin-based Internet access using a
narrowband link and modestly sized local area network.
Maintenance of a Javelin-based Internet access is estimated as
US$120 per annum. This directly impacts the lives of over
children over the period per school, without counting the impact
on the school's community.
Does Arrow or Racom depend on
Javelin for revenue?
No, Javelin was developed with
the sole intention of making it freely available. All internal
costs for developing Javelin are borne by Arrow and Racom.
However, hardware costs for
installing Javelin need to be recovered. Schools that have
links already or wish to use Javelin without a link therefore
spend no money.
We have also collaborated with
institutions like the World Computer Exchange, Hull, MA, to
obtain free, slightly used up-to-date computers for the schools
we install Javelin for.
Does Arrow or Racom intend to
own and control Javelin?
No, it is our intention to make
Javelin an open source project. In fact, we look forward to
students continuing the development process and plug holes that
we have not had time to fill or at least get rid of our bugs.
Why did Arrow use Racom’s
Morse® technology? Can Javelin be used with other telecom
Racom’s Morse® technology is
the greatest technology in the world (no kidding!) for building very long range,
absolutely reliable, narrowband data links - mainly used for
telemetry and point-of-sale/payment system networks. We
used it for our first contract - building a telecommunication
platform for Ghana’s Department of Lotteries (Simnet) in 2001.
We have continued to find this technology the ideal solution for
difficult terrain and poor infrastructure areas. Racom has also
been kind to Arrow and offered us technology and training at
very reasonable demands with clear long term objectives. Racom
contributed software routines into Javelin. I believe you can
see why we have stuck with Racom.
Javelin was however written with
no specific telecom technology in mind. It only senses for a
link to the Internet and uses it, irrespective of the technology
behind the link. You don't have to use Racom's Morse®.
What are the benefits of
Students and teachers have access to educational websites
and digital reusable
textbooks even without having Internet
access in the school.
Students located in remote and poor locations with no
access to the Internet get to have
the feel of browsing the
Internet and sending/receiving e-mails.
Students are restricted to using the Javelin mirrored sites and
therefore blocked from
school facilities to access
iv. Reduced cost for providing Internet access to students.
Students can have access to source and get to work on Javelin
itself and evolve both
software and hardware solutions
for further improvement.
Can schools with high speed
Internet connection also use Javelin?
Yes, it would only mean faster
update of sites and e-mail messaging. Such schools may install
Javelin for its benefit of controlling students’ access to
What happens when a site
needed by students is not found on Javelin?
Javelin has a module which allows
students and teachers to complete a form requesting for new
sites. When this new request is approved by a designated
authority in the school, Javelin commences the job of mirroring
the site(s). Mirroring a site may take upto a couple of days
over a slow or poor link. Thereafter, this site becomes
available locally to all users on the school’s LAN.
How long does it take to send
and receive e-mails on Javelin?
Javelin acts as a store and
forward server for e-mails and therefore creates the illusion of
instant delivery. Over a slow narrowband link, e-mails without
big attachments may be sent or received within a couple of
minutes. Schools with no links at all have to wait till someone
carries the Javelin server to go and plug onto a LAN in another
school or Internet café to have their e-mails delivered and/or
received. During this same time, websites which are out of date
get updated with new changes to the original site.
How does Javelin handle
web-based mails of its users?
Javelin pops user mails from
web-based e-mail addresses like HoTMail, Yahoo and Gmail, if pop
is permitted by this e-mail system. This enables Javelin to
integrate all of the user’s declared mailboxes into one local
How deep does Javelin go to
mirror a site?
Javelin can forever dig deeper and
deeper into any mirrored site to trace and identify other sites
referenced within the site to mirror these sites as well.
A parameter may however be set to control how deep it can go, or
the size of site it may mirror. Manual interventions have
sometimes been used to control the extent of mirroring.
Is Javelin a completed and
Not yet. Although Javelin is
usable in its present state, some portions require further
rigorous testing and fine tuning to fully implement all intended
features. This is due to the voluntary and ‘spare time’
approach we have adopted so far. It is therefore our hope that
a successful deployment in schools will get a lot more voluntary
hands on the product to let it grow faster. We at Arrow and
Racom see Javelin as an excellent idea to help schools in Africa
and have therefore continued pursuing it, albeit slowly. The
matured publicly owned product we are working towards is yet to
Has Javelin been deployed on
a wide scale anywhere in Africa?
Nop. Javelin is yet to go beyond
the first five installations in Ghana. Why? Many schools have
learnt of Javelin and would want to use it. However, the
problem is, after giving them a free CD for Javelin, they also
want Arrow to install a long range link for them for free. And
that means at least $5,000 per school in hardware costs for upto
done only three of such locations. We hope to convince our
government to put low cost links into the schools.
Why can’t I download Javelin
from Arrow’s website?
Now you can. Get Javelin
files from http://www.arrownetworks.net/Downloadables/Javelin-Source/javelin.tar.gz The schools which really need Javelin don’t have
connections to download anyway, so we give Javelin out on CD.
Training College is the first training college in Ghana to
install a computer laboratory with 40 computers connected to the
Internet. This was simply made possible by Arrow Networks’
Javelin product. There is no way we could have afforded the
cost of establishing the communication link and also to pay for
Internet bandwidth. My students and staff have access to
educational websites and e-mail [first time for over 90% of
students]. I am particularly thrilled by Javelin’s default
behavior of preventing students’ access to unauthorized sites.
We have now been able to introduce ICT training in our
curriculum.” - Rev. Sr. Elizabeth Amoako, Principal,
College, Cape Coast, Ghana.
installed Arrow Networks’ Javelin product for a couple of
schools in Ghana. I consider this simple approach of
combining mirroring and wireless narrowband technology to
provide Internet access to schools a major breakthrough for most
schools in Africa. It is indeed a very welcome solution in
view of the present state of our telecom infrastructure.
Many thanks to Kwaku Boadu for this idea, and many more thanks
to Racom for providing a wonderful UHF data radio technology for
this project. Double-Thumbs up for Arrow Networks!” -
Assan, CEO, e-Techniques & Systems Limited, Ghana.
makes a lot of sense for our schools due to the cost and
telecommunication infrastructure issues in Africa. I applaud
this innovative use of technology for education. We at AITI-KACE have committed ourselves to further testing with Arrow
Network Systems towards a successful deployment in schools in
Ghana.” – Dorothy K. Gordon, Director General,
Advanced Institute for Information Technology Kofi Annan Centre
of Excellence in ICT, Ghana.
our school on the same level as any school in big cities which
have direct Internet access to education sites. It makes
available to me all useful sites that I think I shall ever have
to visit on the Internet. It gives me access to notes on
Mathematics which complement classroom notes in no small way.”
– Student, OLA Training College, Ghana.
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