Dell education model uses technology, solar and shipping containers

By Heather Wilson

Inside refurbished shipping containers filled with desks and computers connected to the Internet, students in parts of Nigeria, South Africa – and soon Colombia – are learning in a whole new way thanks to energy-efficient technologies and the power of the sun.

To help communities without reliable electricity benefit from technology-based learning, Dell donated funding and technology to launch its first solar-powered classroom –a Dell Learning Lab – at State Senior High School in Lagos, Nigeria in 2013. The company quickly followed with another lab at the Students Health and Welfare Centre in Kensington, South Africa.

“For children in remote areas of the developing world, ICT (information and communication technology) is generally unavailable,” said Deb Bauer,director of Global Youth Learning Strategy at Dell. “But their desire to learn is just as strong as that of any other child.”

Dell’s Youth Learning program, one of Dell’s strategic giving programs, works with nonprofit organizations across the globe to close the learning gap for millions of youth lacking technology access.

The Dell Learning Labs use Computer Aid International’s successful formula of building a classroom using a shipping container outfitted with solar panels that power 100 percent of the energy-efficient Dell technology inside. Dell also pays for the Internet access and works with local charity partners to create an information and communications technology curriculum specifically for students using the labs.

Bauer explains that the first lab came about from one Dell employee’s innovative idea.  With hard work, the company established two additional Dell Learning Labs in South Africa in 2014, with plans for building seven more, bringing Dell’s total reach to 11 labs.  

The solar-powered Learning Labs are an unconventional setting for education that students and teachers love.  Dell has now made it into a replicable model, suitable for many locations.

This video features Dell’s first Learning Lab at State Senior High School in rural Nigeria.

Dell made a few changes to the new labs based on learnings from the 2013 installations. For example, it improved all of the classrooms’ ventilation and upgraded the technology where possible to support more advanced curricula. Six of the new Dell Learning Labs, will now include an air-cooled server along  with Dell Wyse™ thin clients and vWorkspace™ to support graphics and coding work. This technology uses about 5 watts of energy, compared to the average 150-watt consumption of a typical PC. 

In 2014, Dell brought on SunPower as its official solar partner for Dell Learning Labs in South Africa, and the company is providing top-of-the-line solar panels to our eight new labs.

“It’s great to see the same high efficiency solar panels traditionally used to generate clean power for homes, businesses and utilities around the world, applied on these labs to help improve the lives of local youth. We’re honored to be part of this noble initiative,” said Jorg Heinemann, SunPower executive vice president of global power plants, customer operations and EPC.

The growth of Dell Learning Labs is one example of how Dell is working to reach one of its 2020 Legacy of Good goals: to apply our expertise and technology in underserved communities to help 3 million youth directly and support 10 million people indirectly to grow and thrive by 2020. To learn about other ways Dell’s Legacy of Good goals are paying off for customers, communities and the planet, visit

Dell is committed to using technology to improve the lives of young people. Learn more at

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