Solar-Powered Computer Labs for Rural Schools

On an otherwise reasonable evening in July, more than 1,000 people packed an auditorium in Boulder, Colorado,  for the culmination of the 2014 Unreasonable Institute. They came to watch 11 ventures present their solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Here, in on of those talks, we hear from Unreasonable Institute fellow Laura Smeets, project manager for Greenlink. Her company builds and leases solar-powered computer labs for off-grid schools in Tanzania, where 96 percent of rural classrooms lack electricity. Greenlink leases the labs at low cost to schools that cannot afford their own solar-power systems, then provides support in the way of teacher training, computer instruction, and curricula.

About the author

Unreasonable Institute

Unreasonable Institute

The Unreasonable Institute arms entrepreneurs creating solutions to the world’s biggest social and environmental problems with the mentorship, capital, and networks they need to do so.

  • Zintia Martinez

    So happy to see how people helps no matter what. This is my passion as well and one day I will be helping people in need as she does. I think, the solar-powered computer labs are a great idea to help with their education. I hope a lot of people can support this effort as it is helping with education and supporting more and more children everyday. Are there any donors yet?

  • Mitch Sween

    Thanks Unreasonable Institute. I think that ideologically solar powered computer labs sound viable, however, many “low income” or poverty schools may not have access to the equipment needed to make this option work.

  • Guest

    I think that solar powered computer labs is a great way too expand these kids minds and allow them and their country to grow and thrive. As these children learn more and more about computers they may be offered jobs and other areas of work that will benefit the entire country as a hole. The cost is the biggest issue and by making these labs solar the only real cost is maintenance and the initial cost of the labs. This is a very good idea and I hope that it is seen through and we can better educate these students.

  • Joshua Blanton

    The model expressed here can cover the gap of access to the internet in isolated environments. From a bottom up point of view the users are given an opportunity to interact with tools that they would not otherwise be able to do. This alone establishes access points to knowledge that can fundamentally change communities. Touched on briefly was an intriguing idea of looking at this distribution of access from a top down point of view. The obligation of the administrators to support the distribution of access must not be dismissed. Private and Government organizations are the money bags that need to be tapped in order to narrow the gap of access.

  • Teresa Joyce

    Such a great idea, everyone should be allowed to receive an education. I’m so happy Greenlink found a way to help deliver on that. Wonder how many villages can actually afford to have one of these solar labs? What happens if there is no one in the village to donate? Do they get passed by?

  • Pauline Lefeuvre

    Education should be a right to every kid in the world, even in poor countries and in rural regions! Very glad to see how solar energy serves education because this is the proof that they are complementary and that solar energy is not only for big rich companies in developed countries. Let’s support this great project for better educated students thanks to a renewable energy!

  • Alex Tomaszewski

    Oh yeah!

  • Alex Tomaszewski

    The fact that they have generated $1.3 million in revenue shows that this is a possible solution. I’d be interested to see more on what exactly these classrooms look like and the solar panels fully installed. I have no doubt that this project will gain more traction and in turn establish better funding alternatives. I can only imagine the impact these classrooms are having on the students. It is amazing to think that this all started with one woman and the impact she had on another.

  • Anniep1023

    This is very enlightening to hear that many types of schools are investing in solar energy. It should not matter where the school is located, all schools should have the opportunity to be a part of a solution. These solar powered computer labs allow the students to learn more about the world around them and expand their horizons. I look forward to hearing more about these classrooms in the future and see all of their success!

  • Glassborow

    I completely agree, education is so important and I believe it needs to be a basic human right, otherwise how will they grow and develop and make a life for themselves? It’s great to see someone thinking outside the box and being passionate about helping those who need it, and with such an awesome product! Good luck to them.

  • That would then be a good opportunity for this kind of school to have such kind of source in electricity that they can use. Also, they can promote many different things from it which is also a good good advantage on their learning.