With Dell Technologies, we’re happy to announce the launch of the Dell Solar Learning Labs project in Australia and the funding of the first lab for delivery to an Indigenous community. These creative-driven spaces provide access to computers and the internet to students in remote areas without reliable access to technology, creating STEM and other learning opportunities.
The Australian Dell Solar Learning Lab joins 21 labs already delivered across Africa and Latin America. The labs, which are built from two refurbished and insulated shipping containers, can be placed in almost any location, providing comfortable, well-equipped classrooms that are powered by self-generated solar energy. The dual container configuration will accommodate up to 25 students simultaneously with 10 dedicated student workstations plus one for the teacher in one, and an open classroom space for learning in the other.
Dell Technologies’ funding includes the provision of workstations and laptops, which will be refreshed over the lifespan of the products. Dell Technologies and ComputerAid will also design a complete learning program that will include the International Computer Driving License (ICDL) methodology to encourage computer literacy, tailored to the needs of the community.
“We take access to computers and the internet for granted, but just under half of the world’s population do not have it. In a land as big as Australia, we have work to do to give remote communities the same opportunities as other students. The Australian Solar Learning Lab is an important step in Dell Technologies’ commitment to use our technology and scale to advance education, health, and economic opportunities for 1 billion people by 2030,” says Angela Fox,
Dell Technologies Senior Vice President & Managing Director, Australia & New Zealand.
The location of the first Solar Lab is still to be determined, with Indigenous communities in Queensland, Western Australian and Northern Territory currently under consideration. According to the Closing the Gap Report 2020, school attendance rates in the Indigenous community are 82 percent, 10 percentage points lower than the non-Indigenous population. That gap widens significantly in very remote areas, where attendance is just 61 percent and has declined 5 percentage points since 2016.
The first Australian Dell Solar Lab will be rolled out in 2021. The lab will be refurbished to Dell Technologies and Computer Aid International’s specifications in lighting, ventilation, and furnishings using local providers. A Global Program to Close the Gap: The Australian Dell Solar Lab will be the 21st lab installed by Dell Technologies and Computer Aid International, with the first launched in Nigeria
in 2014. The labs have minimal environmental impact when compared to a typical classroom. The solar system will have a minimum set up of 1.5 KW power including 6x 265watt panels and Lithium ion batteries, but if extra power is needed this can be increased by adding additional panels and batteries.
“Digital access inequalities impact youth living in remote or marginalised communities across the world. We believe in a world where everyone should have access to the same opportunities. Our Solar Learning Labs provide the best technology and educational programs to the people that need it most and deliver a message of inclusion and a tool for positive transformation. We have a collaborative approach and other partners and companies are welcome to join this program,” says Alejandro Espinosa Llano, Computer Aid International’s Solar Lab Program Manager.
The labs, which to date have provided access to technology for almost 17,000 students, are owned by the communities themselves and play far more of a role than just providing a classroom. Functioning after hours as internet cafés, the labs, which are often externally decorated by the community, also create work and other opportunities, extending the reach and impact of the labs well beyond the students. For instance, in Cazucá, Colombia, the Tiempo de Juego foundation is a local NGO supporting young people in marginalized areas through sports and educational after-school programs. It has expanded the capabilities of solar lab beyond computer skills to include video and photo editing, audio-visual creation and journalism. With donated 3D video cameras, Dell Technologies digital canvas and video editing equipment. It has developed a production studio that funds ongoing costs and other programs in the Solar Lab.
The Australian Solar Lab is one of five planned for the country by 2030. Globally, Dell Technologies is committed to increasing the total to 100 labs in the next decade, with funding already allocated for labs in Brazil and Egypt, along with a third Mexican lab.