Lack of reliable, affordable access to electricity remains a key hurdle to providing technology access to students in many areas around the world. Technology and education are not luxuries but necessities according to Dell. To resolve this issue, the multinational computer company has brought technology-enabled education through an off-grid solution.
Using portable solar-powered Learning Labs, Dell brings education to underserved communities in South Africa. The company has successfully launched its pilot labs in Lagos and Kensington. It is set to expand to Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Sedibeng—thereby bringing the total number of its labs to nine and providing technology-enabled education to over 3,000 underprivileged students.
Dell introduces several improvements to its new batch of solar-powered Learning Labs. These include inclusion of computers with better processing powers and air-cooled servers to better accommodate hot climates.
The company has also decided to move from Wyse Zero to Wyse Thin Client to enable better delivery of STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—subjects including coding and graphics work. In addition, because Dell uses its own cloud computing technology, the workstations use less moving parts to make them more durable. Each workstation has an active lifespan of up to nine years compared to traditional PC workstations that last on an average of three to four years.
Dell furthermore has partnered with SunPower Corporation to provide solar power. Today, it only takes six solar panels to power a classroom of 10 Thin Client stations for an entire day and well into the evening. The cloud-based computing technology only requires three to 10 watts of energy. Traditional PC workstations usually require 150 watts of energy.
Bringing off-grid technology-enabled education in underserved communities opens up an entire world of opportunities. Technology would certainly allow underprivileged students to connect with other students from other parts of the globe. Essentially, this would enable collaboration and co-learning while also guaranteeing equal access to learning opportunities. Dell also aspires to equip these students with technology-related competencies including IT literacy.
The solar-powered Learning Labs from Dell are part of its Youth Learning program. The company aims to close the learning gap by partnering with nonprofit organisations in providing innovative technology solutions, philanthropic works, and expertise. Apart from South Africa, the Youth Learning program has other projects in China, India, Morocco, and the Philippines.