Solar cyber cafes head for Africa

Computer Aid International has sent its third solar-powered cyber café-in-a-box to Africa, and is seeking donations to help send more.

The units, called ZubaBox, have been sent to Kenya and Zambia.

These much-needed resources are already being used to capacity by communities long cut off from information society.

But donations are needed to equip and ship more.

ZubaBox is a shipping container fitted with a thin client computing system running 11 PCs and powered by solar panels developed by Firefly.

The containers, fully equipped at a cost of around USD35 300, can take PCs and internet access to areas where there is no connectivity or power.

Solar energy supplies all the system’s energy needs on a sunny day, with several hours of full service energy possible on a rainy day.

The ZubaBox connectivity depends on available services, with satellite connectivity used if none other is available.

Reports from Macha say the first ZubaBox is making its much-needed presence felt in the isolated community. It is being used on a rota system – schools use it in the morning, teachers and nurses receive training in the afternoons, and general sessions are held for adults later.

A bank kiosk attached to the unit is also allowing for people to receive their salaries in Macha, rather than having to travel to the nearest town.

The ZubaBox is also making it possible for locals to carry out tasks, such as registering births and deaths and making tax arrangements, which previously would have required them to travel long distances.

The flying doctor service Amref is also making use of the facility to establish a video link with larger hospitals to help assess patients’ conditions.

The second Zambian installation was made after the local chief at Chikanta, about 60km from Macha, approached Computer Aid International to install one at his village too.

Each ZubaBox includes a refurbished Pentium 4 PC, with 3Gb of RAM and a 80Gb+ hard disk, two2 NComputing X550 desktop virtualisation cards, 11 low-power monitors, keyboards and mice and advanced solar power system, as well as sockets for recharging up to ten mobile phones and capacity for a VSAT modem or printer.

A mesh network system in the ZubaBox can also allow users in a 1.5km radius to access the internet, with plans being laid to extend these networks to cover a 30km radius.

With the successful installation of two ZubaBoxes in Zambia and one in Kenya, companies are now being urged to donate funding for at least ten more to be equipped and sent this year.

Computer Aid International has also shipped over 160 000 refurbished PCs to developing countries, as part of its goal to help reduce poverty through ICTs. These computers are mainly used for education, health and non-profit purposes.

Last month, 125 Pcs were dispatched to schools in Zimbabwe through the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) project, and 293 refurbished computers and monitors were sent to the Murtala Muhammed Foundation in Nigeria. Computer Aid will also shortly be sending out a ZubaBox to the Foundation.
Meru ZubaBox

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