Internet access is recognized as a human right, but unfortunately around half the world still lacks Internet connectivity. An even greater challenge, however, is the fact that around 90% of schools across the developing world lack Internet access, and many also lack electricity. To bring modern educational information and technology skills-development to the vast majority of schools around the world, offline solutions are truly the only possibility for the foreseeable future.
The SolarSPELL (Solar Powered Educational Learning Library) was developed expressly to address these challenges. SolarSPELL is an ultra-portable, rugged, solar-powered digital library designed for low-resource locations. The SolarSPELL library provides locally relevant open-access educational resources, served up over an offline WiFi hotspot–to which any WiFi-enabled device can connect. It mimics an online experience to build information literacy and Internet-ready skills in a safe, offline environment.
SolarSPELL is a student-centered project simultaneously focused on improving educational opportunities for students around the world, as well as at Arizona State University. The team includes Arizona State University students, librarians, faculty, and staff. SolarSPELL’s mission is to provide relevant, localized educational content to resource-constrained locations around the world. To date, it has been implemented in Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, South Sudan, Comoros, The Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga, and Rwanda. Post-implementation, the SolarSPELL team returns to implementation sites to conduct measurement and evaluation on SolarSPELL’s impact in the field.
Watch E4C with SolarSPELL’s Co-Founder and Director, Dr. Laura Hosman, and Bruce Baikie, the team’s Co-Founder and Tech Advisor, who discussed:
– Why offline approaches often prove a better solution to providing educational resources to communities
– How SolarSPELL engineered innovative technology to reach communities in any environment
– Lessons learned while implementing the SolarSPELL initiative in several countries
Meet the Speakers
Bruce Baikie, SolarSPELL Co-Founder and Tech Advisor
Bruce Baikie has 28 years of experience in computer engineering, telecom-Internet networks, green data centers and storage, and renewable energy in ICT. His work has focused on consulting services to industry leaders, technical organizations, universities, and governments to improve their technology portfolios and implementations. He previously was the Executive Director at Inveneo and worked directly with large project funders such as Google, Facebook, USAID and Oxfam.
Dr. Laura Hosman, SolarSPELL Co-Founder and Director
Dr. Laura Hosman works as an Associate Professor at Arizona State University and is a Board Member of SPIDER (The Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions). Her action-oriented work focuses on the role for new technologies in developing countries, particularly in education. She brings her passion for experiential learning to the classroom and beyond, through real-world-focused, project-based courses that bring students and student-built technology to the field for implementation.