Reimagined classrooms overcome communities’ barriers to technology education

By Erica Hess

Using technology and the Internet introduces young people to new ideas and new skills they’ll need to compete in the global workforce. But for far too many youth, the Web’s world of possibilities still remains out of reach.

More than 4.3 billion people around the world lack Internet access, according to the World Bank Group’s 2016 World Development Report. Rural living, poverty, poor infrastructure, health issues and limited education all present barriers to accessing and using technology. Many young people can’t afford or access a school, and if they can that school may lack clean water, let alone computers.

That’s why Dell is reimagining the traditional classroom model as we work toward our Legacy of Good goal of applying our expertise and technology to help youth in underserved communities grow and thrive. Working with our 62 local youth learning partners in 15 countries, we assess each community’s unique barriers to accessing technology and then develop creative solutions to overcome them.

Throughout many developing countries, people still lack affordable, reliable electricity. In Nigeria and South Africa, we’ve bypassed this issue by creating 10 solar-powered Dell Learning Labs. The labs are housed in well-lit, well-ventilated shipping containers outfitted with solar panels, a steady Internet connection, an air-cooled serverDell Wyse™ thin clients and vWorkspace™. This solution uses less than 4 percent of the energy of a typical PC. Dell Learning Labs have become a community fixture where students can progress from basic literacy to graphics and coding under the instruction of Dell’s local youth learning partners.

Said Desiree April, a student taught by Dell’s partner SHAWCO at one of the South Africa Learning Labs, “My training [at the Dell Learning Lab] was very mind opening. I learned that the computer can give you any access to another world. I learned how to make the CV [curriculum vitae or résumé] and use the Internet.”

Later this year, Dell will open the first Learning Lab in Colombia, with Computer Aid International.

In rural Morocco, both connectivity and distance are barriers to educating youth. There we work with our partner Bayti to bring a mobile IT Caravan – a bus outfitted with a Dell technology lab – to remote villages. Dell employees also serve as facilitators to help community members learn how to use technology.

“This is an example of Dell bringing technology to the people it serves, instead of requiring them to travel to a permanent location that may be difficult to reach,” said Deb Bauer, Dell’s lead for the Youth Learning program.

For the more than 200,000 children living on the streets of Manila, Philippines, the barriers to technology access are financial rather than geographic. Not only can these children not afford to attend formal school, but they often go without food, shelter, protection, and healthcare. Dell created a Mobile Education Van, equipped with a TV monitor, projector and 10 laptops, which our partner ChildHope Philippines takes to destinations throughout the city. Children who come to the generator-powered classroom receive food and basic life skills training in addition to computer literacy education from ChildHope instructors and Dell employees.

“We have to take care of children’s basic needs before they can learn,” said Teresita Silva, President of ChildHope. “The Dell Mobile Education Van provides a safe, trusted place where the street children, who are working and living on the streets due to extreme poverty, can get a hot meal and discover that people truly care about their success.”

While many of Dell’s youth learning initiatives focus on the developing world, we also recognize that low-income students in developed countries may not have access to a computer or the Internet at home. This puts them behind their peers when it comes to developing critical skills.

In the U.S., we have partnered with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science to create a Dell-powered TECH Truck full of 3D printers, laser cutters and other technologies to encourage hands-on, experimental learning. This mobile innovation center will stop and hold camps in disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area, bringing science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) learning to a broader, more diverse audience.

By tailoring our solutions to each community we serve, Dell has helped 1.6 million underserved youth gain access to technology and education since our FY14, almost half way to our goal of benefiting 3 million 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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