As Computer Aid’s marketing officer, my day to day role is UK-based, however I was fortunate enough to accompany Ben Makai, our East Africa Programme Manager, on a visit to Zambia in December last year to meet some of our new and existing partners.
Zambia is an absolutely beautiful country. As I travelled in and around its capital, Lusaka, I was surprised by the sheer amount of building work and the number of shopping centres popping up around the city (I counted 6) – apparently a result of what seems to be fairly extensive Chinese investment.
There is a huge demand for computers as well as a significant need for an improved ICT infrastructure across the country.
The organisations we visited that already have access to IT were clearly putting the technology to good use. Both teachers and pupils at all the schools we went to, spoke about the importance of learning IT and the difference PCs had made to their lessons.
At St Michael’s Early Learning Centre, Miss Pascalina Chabu, a teacher at the school, told me that “We know that in the modern world, everyone needs IT skills. All jobs expect their employees to have them so our computers are very beneficial for all the children.”
Miss Chabu had taught all the teachers at the school how to use PCs and said that “With books you can only learn so much and you are limited to the information within them. With the internet, the learning opportunities are so much greater. It’s also great for the teachers too because now that we have PCs and the internet, planning lessons is much easier. I can find information that I need for my classes and it has improved all my lessons.”
Today’s an exciting day at Computer Aid towers as we are launching the ZubaBox for corporate sponsorship! The ZubaBox is constructed from used shipping containers and fitted with computers which run on solar power and has been developed to provide rapidly deployed low power computing solutions to areas that may otherwise not have access to electricity or ICT such as very rural areas or disaster zones.
One of the main barriers to sustainable development in many communities is the lack of electricity and internet and we hope the ZubaBox will provide one of the solutions to this issue and help bring forward numerous ICT4D projects in rural communities.
A number of ZubaBoxes have already been deployed to inKenya and Zambia and have had really positive benefits on the local communities.
Schools are sharing access to the ZubaBox, giving hundreds of children the opportunity to learn new skills and boost their future employment prospects. Local individuals have received IT training whilst entrepreneurs are using the internet to research business ideas and access new markets. Farmers are accessing local weather forecasts and adjusting planting and harvesting times to increase agricultural productivity and food security. Furthermore, healthcare practitioners are able to go online to receive up-to-date training and communicate with the wider medical community.
Because the ZubaBox provides ICT anywhere and to anyone it has the potential to positively impact all areas of development – health, education, business and agriculture – in one single project.
With companies increasingly looking for corporate responsibility projects that make a real and lasting impact on poverty relief we really hope that there will be lots of interest!
If you think your company would be interested in sponsoring a ZubaBox then please click here for some further information or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
We are hoping to send 10 ZubaBox’s to rural communities by the end of the year and we need as much support as possible to achieve our target!
For more pictures of the ZubaBox please see our Flickr account.
You won’t find the community of Macha on many maps. It’s 50 miles from the nearest road in the Southern Province of Zambia, itself a land-locked southern African country – it’s pretty much the last place you’d expect to find a community logged on to the Internet.
Taking advantage of a satellite link installed by John Hopkins University Malaria Research Institute, the LinkNet Cooperative (formed three years ago by the community and staffed by talented self-taught local youngsters, none of whom have graduated beyond grade 12) has established the largest wireless Mesh Network in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Linknet Cooperative is a hive of innovation. In this resource-poor environment, with a low population density, extremely high satellite connection costs and with few international donors necessity breeds invention. Simple wireless routers, similar to the ones used in homes in the UK, are used to spread a single internet connection across a wide area for people to share. Sharing the costs like this, first with schools, health centres and a nurse training college, then with businesses and homes, makes internet connectivity affordable for the first time. The hospitals connection of $1,500 per month shared between 50 people is reduced to $30 each, with smaller units available at the Internet cafe, and the connection is fast.