Driving Digital Access for the One and the One Billion

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In many areas around the world, the lack of reliable, affordable electricity has been one of the biggest barriers to providing technology access to students. In some cases, schools cannot keep the lights on and power a computer lab simultaneously.

One program that Dell Technologies has initiated to help break this cycle is our Solar Learning Labs, which seek to close the learning gap by partnering directly with Computer Aid International to deliver computer labs built in converted, well-ventilated shipping containers, powered by solar panels and our technology.

We launched the first Solar Learning Lab in Nigeria in 2014 and currently have 20 labs in six countries (South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco, Kenya, Mexico, and Colombia) providing nearly 17,000 students with access to digital technology. This does not include the countless members of the local communities who also have access to the labs. More about the Solar Learning Labs:

  • The labs use a combination of solar power, energy-efficient Dell Wyse technology and air-cooled servers. Our team members volunteer to work onsite at these labs to install equipment and provide training to teachers.
  • Under the instruction of Dell Technologies’ local youth learning partners, the Solar Learning Labs teach students basic computer skills, graphic design, robotics, and coding, in addition to life skills and entrepreneurship in some communities.
  • These labs not only impact local students, but also benefit whole communities by giving them access to quality learning experiences, reliable power, and a local internet service, which is paid for and maintained by Dell Technologies.

Earlier this month we announced our Progress Made Real 2030 plan which is grounded in the belief that technology and data combined with the human spirit are the positive forces capable of creating change. The plan includes moonshot goals which will help us propel our social impact commitments over the next decade. As the vice president for global strategic giving and social innovation, I was personally invested in the creation of our Transforming Lives moonshot goal which is this: With our technology and scale, we will advance health, education and economic opportunity initiatives to deliver enduring results for 1 billion people by 2030.

When talking about our work with initiatives such as the Solar Learning Labs – it’s important that we do not forget about the one in one billion. So how do these labs help the one? Providing technology access to one young person will give them the skills they need to seek out job and life opportunities. If you look at the multiplier effect of nearly 17,000 students with these increased opportunities, the impact of that access will be passed on, supporting their families, becoming active members of their communities and ultimately helping to grow their local economies.

Now, what if we could grow these labs from 20 to 100? This ambitious thought led us to work with Computer Aid International on a crowdfunding approach to scale the program and help them deliver 100 Solar Learning Labs by 2030. Dell will continue to provide the technology required for each lab, but in order to deliver digital skills on this larger, more wide-reaching scale, we will need to engage others to support the expansion of this proven program.

Today is Giving Tuesday, a generosity movement that unleashes the power of people and organizations to transform their communities. Put simply, it’s a day that encourages people to do good. On this day, as our team members look for ways to give back, they can support this crowdfunding initiative by donating to Computer Aid to ultimately scale the Solar Learning Labs. And through our employee match program, in which Dell will match donations to eligible charities up to $10K USD per year per employee, they can make an even bigger contribution to helping to scale the Solar Learning Labs and support digital access for underserved youth and communities.

We know that getting to one billion is an ambitious goal. We also know we can’t get there alone. It requires strategic collaboration with nonprofit groups like Computer Aid, local and national governments, our partners and customers, and others who share our values and sense of purpose. It’s a tall order but one we’re ready for. We truly believe technology has the power to transform lives. Please join us.

For more information on contributing to Computer Aid, please visit www.solarlearninglabs.org.

Jeremy Ford

About the Author: Jeremy Ford

Jeremy Ford is the Vice President of Global Giving and Social Innovation on Dell Technologies’ Corporate Affairs team. His team guides Dell Technologies’ commitment to drive human progress by putting its technology and expertise to work where it can do the most good for people and the planet. Jeremy brings a deep knowledge of technology to this role and is passionate about applying technology, expertise, funding and volunteerism toward helping communities overcome challenges and thrive. Previously, Jeremy was the General Manager and Executive Director responsible for growing and enabling Dell’s global Cloud Services business. Prior to joining Dell in September 2000, he worked at Compaq Computer Corporation.  He holds a BS in electrical engineering from Purdue University as well as six US patents. In Jeremy’s free time, he enjoys coaching youth volleyball, because it gives him the opportunity to work with young people as they are developing their self-confidence and life skills.
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