For African students living in remote, off-the-grid locations, learning about computers and digital technology is virtually impossible. But what if the digital world were brought to them?
That's the idea behind the DigiTruck project, a fledgling initiative that hopes to deploy a fleet of mobile, solar-powered digital classrooms that can travel self-sufficiently to, from and between rural African communities.
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Digital literacy non-profit Close the Gap, in partnership with Arrow Electronics and Hoops of Hope, began the DigiTruck project last year. The project's first mobile classroom is a standard 40-foot shipping container fitted with solar panels and a power management system designed for extended off-the-grid use. The container can be transported via standard tractor-trailer trucks.
Inside the mobile classroom, the DigiTruck features workstations stocked with refurbished computer equipment, including laptops, routers, a large LED display screen and a printer. The classroom can accommodate up to 18 students and can run off solar energy and rechargeable battery reserves for days at a time.
The DigiTruck is designed to be versatile as well - it can morph into a mobile health center or training space, depending on what's needed. Close the Gap keeps the classroom stocked through its Project Cycle program, which distributes donated and refurbished electronic equipment.
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The pilot model of the DigiTruck was built by local workers in Arusha, Tanzania and is currently in use at the Tuleeni orphanage in the country's Kilimanjaro region. The truck will move on to a new location in 2016, and Close the Gap hopes to build a fleet of DigiTrucks in the next few years.
"The DigiTruck can educate the world," says Tuleeni orphanage founder Mama Faraji in the project's demo video, below. "Through those computers we learn so many things there. I think it will be a very big thing for us."