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Solar Community Hubs Coming to Africa

Dell, Computer Aid, Intel and Microsoft will launch 25 solar-powered community hubs across three continents – with Africa’s roll-out starting in the Western Cape

The Solar Community Hubs are to be built across three continents, using Dell
technology-enabled solutions, and introducing 5G, edge computing and other services
to underserved communities.

Built-in partnership with Computer Aid, Intel and Microsoft, the Solar Community Hubs
strategy marks an evolution in Dell’s established Solar Learning Labs program. Moving
beyond technology access for education alone, the hubs improve access to technology,
healthcare and workforce skills for communities in remote areas around the world.

Each hub will be managed by the community and will offer services based on each
community’s unique needs. The hubs will provide communities with access to water and
electricity, healthcare and resources for environmental preservation. Community
members can also access technical skills training, entrepreneurship support, education
and career guidance, and revenue-generating services to support job creation and
financial sustainability.

“South Africa is in the planning phase for the Solar Community Hub programme,” says
Natasha Rueben, head of transformation at Dell Technologies’ Dell Development Fund.
“The first solar community hub will be deployed in the Western Cape through SHAWCO.
“It will focus on services beyond IT, specifically healthcare. It is a sustainable model that
will see the traditional solar learning lab concept evolve to be more than just serving one
purpose but serving the community as a whole.”

Cassandra Garber, VP of environmental and social governance at Dell Technologies,
says: “Research shows that the greatest impact starts with empowering local
communities. By introducing the Solar Community Hubs, communities will have access
to resources and infrastructure to address their most pressing issues. This evolution
puts community needs at the centre, and we are eager to see – and be a part of – the
impact these community partnerships will have around the globe.”

Digitalising the Amazon

Dell Technologies recently introduced the first Solar Community Hub in Boa Esperanca,
Brazil, in partnership with the Foundation for Amazon Sustainability (FAS). It is bringing
digital tools like Latitude Rugged, desktops, servers, projectors and Wi-Fi to community
members in a dozen outlying riverside communities and indigenous tribes in the
Amazon. Community members, who previously travelled far for modern services and
school, can now continue their education, take vocational courses, start college and
prepare for the job market – in their community.

The hub is also designed with circularity at its core, using repurposed shipping
containers, sustainably sourced wood and furniture, and solar panels so devices running
primarily on renewable energy.
Participants in the project are part of FAS’ Bolsa Floresta program, a government
initiative of the State of Amazonas introduced in 2008 to decrease deforestation through
community building. The hubs help improve the lives of people living in the Amazon who
then cultivate a more sustainable relationship between the rainforest and its residents.

Power in Partnership

Dell currently collaborates with approximately 60 strategic partners globally, including
Computer Aid, Dell’s nonprofit partner for Solar Community Hub development.
Computer Aid helps identify the locations and local partners who can help make the hub
a reality.

Since 2011, Dell and Computer Aid have partnered to support 24 Solar Learning Labs,
which reaches 18,000 students and community members per year in countries like Brazil,
Colombia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.

Dell also works with customers, partners like Intel and Microsoft, and other stakeholders
to bring additional resources and capabilities to the communities based on local needs.
Partners and customers can join Dell Technologies and Computer Aid in supporting the
rollout of the Solar Community Hubs over the coming years.

Luziete Mar Hipy, director of the Boa Esperança Solar Community Hub, says: “This
project is benefiting many young people with the opportunity to participate in higher
education and vocational courses and preparing them for the job market.”

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