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ZubaBox: An Innovation Bringing the Internet to Remote Areas

ZubaBox: An Innovation Bringing Internet to Remote AreasFor the technologically privileged, access to the Internet is considered a tool of our everyday lives. But out of the world’s entire population, only a third of people in developing countries have access to an Internet connection, according to a 2015 report by the International Telecommunications Union. Countries with no access to the Internet are disadvantaged economically, as they are do not have the knowledge and resources to widen their professional opportunities.

But the appearance of a container in remote areas, including refugee camps, has changed the lives of several marginalized communities. Countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe were finally able to bring digital literacy into their neighborhoods through a shipping container, also called ZubaBox, converted into a “solar-powered Internet café or classroom”.

“Zuba” means “sun” in Nyanja, a common language spoken in Malawi and Zambia, which refers to the solar power by which the Internet hub functions. In addition to being environmentally friendly, solar power is crucial for remote populations who often lack the electricity to benefit from standard technologies. The ZubaBox constitutes an innovation that benefits the most remote communities with no access to a stable power supply.

The organization fueling this technology is Computer Aid International, who decided to design the ZubaBox to enhance the online presence of remote rural areas. In each container, they provide refurbished PCs, visualisation cards, monitors, keyboards, mice, an Internet connection, mobile chargers, a ventilation system and benches.
The box can contain enough components for up to 11 individuals, which brings isolated communities together and develops a sense of inclusion. It also enables every individual to grow personally and professionally, which ultimately benefits the neighborhood as a whole. In fact, David Barker, former chief executive of Computer Aid, spoke about the technology as beneficial for doctors who need to contact specialists in the nearest city hospital, school children who want access to educational material or even local people who are looking for ways to expand their professional outlets.

By May 2016, Computer Aid had already placed its 12th Zubabox in a suburb of Bogota, Colombia. Another project on Computer Aid’s agenda is to build a box in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where 150,000 people found refuge after fleeing 20 different African nations. For the largest refugee camps in the world, having a ZubaBox could enable them to open up to the world and provide them with the opportunity to rebuild their lives and find work once outside the camp.

Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr