Mobile Solar Computer Classrooms are an initiative of the Maendeleo Foundation in Uganda. They provide schools and community libraries in low income communities in rural Uganda with computer skills training and access to the Internet using modified all-terrain vehicles. A digital literacy curriculum is then administered over the course of two years at participating venues.
Traditional literacy: Low literacy levels in rural Uganda hindered training at a set pace. Some students could not understand English, which added to the challenges that exist in imparting digital literacy training.
Internet speed: The internet connection was slow in most areas which was a barrier to Internet-based delivery of services and training.
Adequacy of devices: The number of students per class were often high, leading to challenges in providing an adequate number of devices on which students could test the skills that they were learning.
The project used modified all-purpose terrain vehicles to drive to schools and community libraries in rural Uganda to provide basic training in computer skills. The devices were charged using solar power through panels mounted at the top of the vehicles. The institutions pay a small fee for the training sessions, and most of the funding comes from awards, partnerships and grants. The training team provides approximately seven hours of training to primary school grade children at each school, and provided about twelve lessons throughout the year.
The pedagogy engaged students through hands-on access to a computer, with the help of empower software that enabled self-paced learning. Further, trainers used discussion-oriented sessions that encouraged participation and creativity.
In instances where high-speed Internet connectivity was available, internet-based computer and basic literacy games allowed students to learn new skills by playing games. Teachers were also trained in computer skills for research.
The project equipped 5000 students, 500 community members and 100 teachers with basic computer skills, including text processing, budgeting, presentations and Internet research.
Further, the project created awareness about and encouraged the use of solar power for powering devices in schools in areas with intermittent electricity.
The use of solar power can prove to be a viable solution to powering devices in order to provide ICT skills training in challenging environments with intermittent electricity.
The use of vehicles to provide training across a range of institutions enables digital skills training to a wider population with lower fixed cost investment in infrastructure over time.