DigiTruck: A solar-powered container classroom for Africa

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The DigiTruck is a 40-ft (12.2-m) shipping container on a trailer that serves as a solar-powered digital classroom

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In remote areas of Africa, there aren't always schools nearby, let alone ones equipped for teaching digital literacy. An alternative is to take digital education to such remote locations. The DigiTruck is a fully equipped solar-powered mobile digital classroom that can do just that.

In simple terms, the DigiTruck is really just a 40-ft (12.2-m) shipping container on a trailer. Where we've seen shipping containers used to construct classrooms in Africa before, such as in Cape Town and Malawi, the DigiTruck is designed to be both mobile and to operate off-grid.

"More than 75 percent of the population in Africa live in rural communities where infrastructure presents a huge barrier," says founder and managing director of Close the Gap Olivier Vanden Eynde. "Modern information and communication technologies, coupled with solar-powered solutions like the DigiTruck, are able to help bridge this digital divide and to bring quality training and education to remote communities."

Run by the digital literacy non-profit Close the Gap, in partnership with Arrow Electronics and Hoops of Hope, the DigiTruck project began in January last year with the construction of the first truck. The truck can accommodate up to 18 students at a time and is equipped with refurbished IT equipment, including 20 fully configured laptops, an LED screen, a printer and two routers.

In addition, the DigiTruck has insulation to protect against heat, steel doors and bolted window shutters for security, and LED lighting. Its solar panels are reported capable of powering it for "several days at a time," meaning it can serve rural villages that have no access to grid electricity. If needed, the truck could be reconfigured for use as a mobile health center, for community training or to double as a cyber cafe.

The DigiTruck was built by local workers in Arusha, Tanzania, and is currently in situ at the Neema International-supported Tuleeni orphanage, which is located in the remote village of Rau in the Kilimanjaro Region of the country. The orphanage is said to be home to almost a hundred orphaned or vulnerable children and the truck is providing an educational environment to around 80 of those children.

It will spend several more months at the Tuleeni Orphanage before moving onto its next location in 2016. When it does move on, its current laptops and IT equipment will be donated to the Tuleeni Orphanage and the truck fitted with new equipment for its next stop.

There are plans to build a number of other DigiTrucks for deployment across Africa.

The video below provides an introduction to the DigiTruck project.

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