Recently, I was once again in a conversation about South Sudan, where I was lamenting the limited use of solar power. It is great that many of the new road lighting in Juba is all solar-powered (thanks to the Chinese, I believe), however I amazed at how few humanitarian organisations are still relying entirely on diesel-powered generators. So much so that in one discussion with an agency, staff were giving the reasons for the late delivery of a project as being they were out of diesel fuel resulting in no electricity; meanwhile the sun was beating down on us day in, day out. When I asked about used solar, blank looks were return as it became clear no one had even considered it. This type of thing never ceases to amaze me – as humans we tend to see things through the frameworks of the past causing new thinking to be rare.
Recently, I came across this article: “Solar-Powered, Wired School brings learning to Rural Africa”. It’s a simple read, but is an interesting project. Basically, it’s a shipping container, powered by the sun, providing internet access to school children in Johannesburg, South Africa – so the rural aspect in the article title is a bit of a stretch. To me, it’s a fascinating concept that is refreshingly simple. The project is not being run by an NGO, but by Samsung, the large multi-national corporation. Unfortunately, the article does not talk about the cost of a classroom, but if we can get the cost reasonable, could this be one more way to help reach the Education MDGs?
I grew up using a solar-powered calculator to help with my math exploits, someone in Samsung took this idea and expanded it by asking can we have a solar-powered computer, classroom… maybe this type of thinking will help wean NGOs off diesel and into the world of solar.