Powering overseas education

A high-tech company has developed an educational facility that could change the lives of young people in the third world

Dataforest has created a completely self-contained, off-grid mobile IT suite to provide computer technology for rural Africa.

The classroom is powered completely by solar energy, gathered via removable solar roof panels, and has been incorporated into a specially adapted shipping container from Bury-based construction site solution providers Garic.

A prototype has been shipped out to Cape Town with plans to introduce the facility, which in production can host work stations for 30 pupils and one teacher, across the Western and Eastern Capes of Africa and Ghana.

Matt Daly, Managing Director of Dataforest, said: “We were asked by Intel Corporation to deliver an off-grid system for education for schools in rural Africa, where there are terrible problems in education and communication standards.

“We have developed, in conjunction with our design partner Solar Ready, this complete solution. We can drop one of these anywhere in Africa, put up a mast and deliver a school and a mobile phone signal for the price it would cost to build a mast.

“It brings real value to the community and takes hi-tech education to areas where they might never have got it. We have worked closely with Garic to provide the infrastructure and the result is UK-based technology being implemented in Bury.

“Working with education authorities and charitable bodies in Africa, we now hope to see this bring great benefit to young people in that country.”

The use of solar energy in the units means they can be employed in areas where the supply of mains electricity is either unreliable or non-existent. The technology also means the classrooms can be powered by lower energy DC power, supplying individual laptops, a Prowise 55-inch interactive touchscreen, internal lighting and air conditioning.

Through work with Irish company Altobridge to provide a wireless broadband network, the containerised classrooms, which can also be used as additional facilities for existing schools, will also provide full internet connectivity.

And the fully secure units – which can also be used to service schools at home and abroad looking to add extra facilities – are painted inside and out with a thermal and barrier radiation paint to reduce heat transfer and act as a water barrier.



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