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Samsung Africa launches solar powered internet schools

By Carole Kimutai, Nairobi, Kenya

Samsung Africa has unveiled a continental project to boost computer literacy and expand internet access at the basic education level, with a Solar Powered Internet School model.

The model, unveiled in a pilot project in South Africa, features a fully-equipped containerised computer school kitted with Samsung PCs and remote access internet connectivity.

The pioneering project at the Samsung Engineering Academy in Boksburg, South Africa, is also set to be replicated in other parts of Africa, including Kenya.

Speaking in Nairobi, Samsung Electronics East Africa Business Leader Robert Ngeru confirmed that plans for a similar Kenyan launch are in high gear as Samsung races to support initiatives geared at raising computer literacy in East Africa.

Describing the project, Ngeru explained that the new model features an exclusively solar-powered, mobile and completely independent classroom designed for use in remote rural areas with limited or no access to electricity.

The school’s model addresses one of Africa’s largest economic challenges – electrification.  On average, less than 25% of rural areas on the continent benefit from electricity, resulting in isolated communities with limited access to education and connectivity – both of which are key to fast-tracking a nation’s development.

“We have set an ambitious goal for ourselves in Africa: to positively impact five million lives by 2015,” confirmed Ngeru.

“We believe that this can most effectively be achieved if we connect our CSR initiatives with our history and core business. With the goal to grow our business on the continent, we also know that we have to sustain our level of innovation."

This can only be achieved if we invest in education to facilitate African thought leadership and to ensure we have access to a large workforce of skilled engineers in the future. The Solar Powered Internet School is a great example of this strategy at play,” added Ngeru.

The launch follows the rollout of Samsung Africa’s ‘Built for Africa’ product range and the Samsung Electronics Engineering Academy earlier this year. Each Solar Powered Internet School is built in a 40 foot (12 metre) long shipping container, making them easily transportable via truck to remote areas.

The schools are built for energy scarce environments, harsh weather conditions, and for transportation over long distances. Fold-away solar panels provide enough energy to power the unit for up to nine hours a day, and for one and a half days without any sunlight at all. The solar-panels themselves are made from rubber instead of glass to ensure they are hardy and durable enough to survive long journeys across the continent.

“The amount of power generated by the schools each day means they can be used beyond the traditional school day as an adult education centre in the afternoons or a community centre over weekends,” adds Tessa Calleb, Samsung’s East Africa CSR Manager.

“Our goal was to create an environment that would facilitate learning for whole communities in remote areas that otherwise don’t have access to education tools or internet connectivity.”

The Solar Powered Internet School prototype is currently being piloted at the Samsung Electronics Engineering Academy in Boksburg. It will then be sent to Qunu in the Eastern Cape to undergo further testing as a functioning learning and teaching environment, with the aim to e Schools thereafter.


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