Computer Aid Solar Cyber Café Goes Live In Kenya

Some of the poorest nations will soon have the ability to get online, even without electricity, thanks to solar powered Internet cafés from Computer Aid International.

The idea for a portable cyber café in a standard 20 foot shipping container, which has built-in solar panels on the roof, was first revealed by the charity back in March this year. The thinking behind the concept is that it can be shipped to Africa and installed at any remote location, offering a connection to the Internet via cellular data connection, Wi-Fi or VSAT.

And now Computer Aid’s first unit has gone live in the African country of Keyna, launched in connection with its Kenyan partners, Computers For Schools Kenya (CFSK).

Portable Internet Cafe

A short video of how an ordinary shipping container is transformed into a Internet café can be viewed on YouTube here.

Up to 11 users can be accommodated at any one time, using thin clients.

“The reasoning behind this concept is that a number of partners were telling us about the problems in areas where there is no Internet connectivity or mains power,” Tony Roberts, CEO of Computer Aid International, explained to eWEEK Europe UK back in March.

“At the far end of the container, there is a counter and you pay the man there for access to the Internet,” said Roberts. “Users can also charge their mobile phones, and there are ten workstations that the user can sit at. The entire operation is powered by the solar panels on top of the sea container. This prototype is the deluxe model and has 6 panel, but the economy model will be able to manage with less of them.”

Solar Power

Indeed, the six solar panels on the roof should be able to provide enough electricity for 12 hours’ use everyday. And the panels will last up to 25 years.

“The solar Internet café is an exciting new project for Computer Aid that enables us to reach even the most isolated rural communities,” said Roberts in today’s statement about the launch in Keyna.

“Computer Aid is committed to removing the barriers to ICT access in developing countries,” added Roberts. “The solar powered Internet café is just one of a number of projects we are working on to provide ICT solutions for rural communities. We are planning to set up several more solar Internet cafés in sub-Saharan Africa over the coming year, and we’re keen for sponsors to get involved and help us expand this solution that illustrates commitment to social development and the environment.”

Indeed, Computer Aid has a long track record of helping supply developing nations with refurbished PCs. Earlier this year for example, before the football World Cup kicked off in South Africa, Computer Aid urged UK companies to donate old PCs so it could help bridge South Africa’s digital divide.

And over the past 13 years the charity has professionally refurbished over 175,000 PCs for use in agricultural, health and education projects in more than 100 countries, predominantly across Africa and Latin America.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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