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Solar community hubs arrive in SA

The Eastern Cape is the first location in Africa for the roll out of solar-powered community hubs by Dell across three continents

The Mankosi Solar Community Hub in a remote part of the Eastern has kicked off a global rollout of facilities designed to provide reliable and affordable connectivity for residents of isolated villages.

It is the first of 25 such hubs being set up by Dell Technologies across three continents, in an advancement of the former Solar Learning Lab program to connect community members with technology, health and education resources. The Mankosi hub was set up in partnership with Computer Aid International, Zenzeleni Community Networks, Intel, Utelize Managed Mobile Services and Mobliciti,

The transformed hub provides 3,500 residents with a point of access to clean water, electricity, healthcare and extension of the coverage of the Zenzeleni community network. It combines existing digital literacy offerings with new services based on the community’s needs, increased access to economic opportunities and healthcare. 

Mankosi community members previously had no access to technology or training, and there is often no electricity to power their devices. Mankosi is located in a remote area with the closest services more than two hours away, which makes reliable and affordable connectivity, unattainable for most residents. The Solar Community Hub provides access to information through various services from internet services to needs specific training for everyone in Mankosi and surroundings villages; an inclusive digital safe space for all.

Key characteristics of the new Solar Community Hub includes:

  • Combines two connected recycled shipping containers to provide more space and accommodate more local community members and their needs.
  • Job creation and greater financial sustainability with new revenue-generating services, including mobile phone repair training for community members.
  • Support to educate participants in basic computer skills, graphic design and coding, while learning essential life skills like entrepreneurship, résumé building, university and scholarship applications, job search skills and career guidance.
  • Leverages a community-first approach to customise service and product offerings, including education, clean water via a rainwater collection and filtration system, an Internet café and a safe, private space for telemedicine.
  • The hub is a community centre managed by the community, ensuring more value and social validation.
  • Enabling the possibility to power and expand the network coverage and increase the reach of Internet services for community members at discounted rates.

Dell Technologies collaborates with approximately 60 strategic partners globally, including Computer Aid, Dell’s non-profit partner for Solar Community Hub development. Since 2011, Computer Aid has served a foundational role in identifying the locations and partner needs for Solar Community Hub strategy and deployment.

Dell Technologies works with customers, partners and other stakeholders to bring additional resources and capabilities to the Solar Community Hub. At the Mankosi Solar Community Hub, grassroots technology essentials, including smart phone training, entrepreneurial skills and food security are provided. Building on our presence in countries including Colombia, Mexico, Nigeria, Kenya and Morocco, the transformed Mankosi Solar Community Hub in Mankosi, South Africa, joins the first Solar Community Hub launched earlier this year in Brazil.

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