Connecting Students to Textbooks

Young Entrepreneur Uses Data to Connect Students to Affordable Textbooks
Mbeya, Tanzania


As a secondary school student, 18-year-old Kokubanza Timanywa noticed that many of her classmates lacked the textbooks they needed to prepare for their exams. She was happy to lend the books that she had, but she also recognized that she could have a far greater impact by creating a service that allowed other students to do the same. Increasing the availability and affordability of textbooks would help other students not just in her own school but all across Tanzania.


Koku recognized the opportunity to act on her vision for a book exchange service when an organization called Apps and Girls visited her school. Using the training, mentorship, and support that Apps and Girls offered – and after attending a Data Innovation Workshop at the dLab, Koku created a web-based platform called Vitabushelf, or Bookshelf, to enable her fellow students to get the books which they need at affordable prices or through a process of textbook “exchange.”


Apps and Girls provided Koku with the coding background she needed to begin work on Vitabushelf. Not long after, she had the chance to attend a three-day Data Innovation Workshop, a collaborative effort between the dLab, University of Dar es Salaam ICT Incubator (UDICTI), She Code for Change and Apps and Girls. As part of the workshop, Koku learned how data analysis could help her locate the students most in need of textbooks and how she could use data to track the impact of the Vitabushelf platform. During the training she also had the chance to develop and deliver a pitch for her innovations and refine her idea.


Since Vitabushelf came online earlier in 2017, 50 people have used it to purchase books, and 70 have used it to borrow books. As the platform grows, it will increasingly ensure that students have better access to learning materials by making them more affordable.

Key Collaborators

Vitabushelf is Kokubanza Timanywa’s platform committed to offering affordable books to students who might otherwise not have access. More information at

Apps and Girls is a social enterprise in Tanzania that works to bridge the tech gender gap in Africa by empowering young women from 10 to 18 years of age with the coding and entrepreneurship skills to become effective leaders and drivers of change in their communities. More information at and @AppsAndGirls.

Tanzania Data Lab (dLab) is a national data hub that promotes data innovations, literacy, data use and multi-stakeholder data collaborations.  More information at and @dLabTz.


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