The Solar Powered Internet Schools 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. The initiative is exemplary of Samsung’s investment in CSR on the continent: a keen focus on education and harnessing the company’s legacy of innovation to respond to the felt needs of people on the continent. The launch follows the rollout of Samsung Africa’s ‘Built for Africa’ product range and the Samsung Electronics Engineering Academy earlier this year.
“We have set an ambitious goal for ourselves in Africa: to positively impact 5 million lives by 2015,” says KK Park, President and CEO of Samsung Electronics Africa. “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.”
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 classroom’s equipment 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 classroom can comfortably accommodate 21 learners, and includes several layers of insulation and a ventilation system, to ensure a temperate environment is maintained. Each classroom is fitted with a 50 inch electronic E-board and different Samsung Notebooks and Netbooks, including the world-first solar powered netbooks and Galaxy Tablets for student and teacher interface, all of which are optimised for use in a solar powered environment.
“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 Park. “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 School is also equipped with an energy efficient refrigerator, a file server, router, Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS), video camera and world first wifi camera, all of which are designed to communicate via 3G. This allows a central location (such as the Department of Education) to monitor classes and deliver curriculum-based content directly to both the learners’ and educators’ notebooks.
The server contains the complete South African school curriculum spanning from grade 0 to grade 12, allowing the school to teach any school going subject or grade.
In the unlikely event of a complete power outage, teachers can continue their lessons using a regular built-in whiteboard and chalkboard. Samsung LED lighting ensures reduced power consumption, while remote solar power diagnostics are in place in the event of a power supply complication.
With 21 students and one teacher, as well as other members of the community making use of the classroom daily, Samsung has installed its environmentally-friendly Virus Doctor air-purification system to ward off the spread of germs within the classroom. The Samsung Super Plasma ion (SPi) technology emits active hydrogen and oxygen ions into the air inhibiting infection by airborne viruses and destroying airborne bacteria, fungi and allergens.
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 scale up production of the Schools thereafter.