Mark Horner

Project manager: Siyavula

How many nuclear physicists do you know who made it all the way through their PhD only to decide to change careers? In Mark Horner's case, it was a bold but easy decision. Time and again when speaking to students at science fairs he was struck by how few of them had textbooks. Simply put, not enough children could afford them and not enough schools managed the books they purchased responsibly. Horner's mission became clear: to provide South African students with open-licence textbooks that are affordable to print and free to access through the internet and other mobile devices. In 2002, together with Sam Halliday, Horner started the Free High School Science Texts project. With a pool of volunteers they produced maths and physical science books for grades 10 to12. In 2007, when he finished his studies, Horner was approached by the Shuttleworth Foundation and asked to expand the project to include every major subject in every grade from R to 9. So it was that Siyavula (Nguni for "we are opening�) was born, with the result that today all these books are available free online in both English and Afrikaans. More importantly, the millions of cellphone users who don't have access to the internet can get them through their cellphones. The positive response to the project has been overwhelming. Siyavula is changing the way educators and learners access the information they need to be successful. In the absence of royalties Siyavula can sell the open-licence books for as little as the printing costs. On average, that comes to a third of the price of textbooks sold by traditional publishers. It's no wonder that, in 2011, Siyavula expects to have its books placed on the government approval list, so schools throughout the country can access more information than ever before.�Eric Axelrod

Twitter: @marknewlyn