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Artists impression of SolarBerry
10
Mar

The SolarBerry

The Idea

The SolarBerry is a self-financing, community-owned off-grid computer lab powered by solar energy with energy-efficient Raspberry Pi computers. You can see a 3D visualisation of the SolarBerry below.

Solar Berry by TuringTrust on Sketchfab
Copyright © 1976 – 2016 BuroHappold Engineering. All rights reserved

The Problem

There are currently 3.66 billion people worldwide without access to the internet, 1.19 billion of these people live without access to electricity. However, the situation is worse in rural sub-Saharan Africa where only 19% of the population has access to electricity. In Malawi, 98% of schools are without access to a computer. Currently the rapid growth of the ICT sector benefits mainly urban communities. This is mostly because it is more expensive for governments to bring electricity and subsequently ICTs to rural off-grid areas. This means that these, already poor communities, face being further marginalised from today’s digital world. This is limiting their potential as they lack access to ICT based educational resources.

The Solution

The Turing Trust’s concept of a SolarBerry enables access to transformational ICTs and independent learning software hosted on its electronic library for lifelong learning opportunities for students & community members. When combined with innovative software the e-library can be hosted on Rapsberry Pis, revolutionary PCs that cost less than £30. Even better, Raspberry Pis are extremely energy efficient, using 100x less than a typical Desktop PC, and 5 times less than an LED lightbulb. This means that it is affordable and appropriate to power the Raspberry Pis with solar energy.

Moreover in supporting a sustainable world, the SolarBerry is constructed from an upcycled used shipping container that is transformed into a computer lab. A re-purposed container becomes an easily transported classroom that can significantly reduce construction costs, compared to a typical rural building, by installing in a remote community within a single day. The container also ensures a secure enclosure for the high-value technologies within whilst reducing unnecessary waste.

IMG_4137 (2)

Low energy monitor

The Market

Perhaps most importantly is how the SolarBerry can be financed by the off-grid communities it is helping. Whilst there are approximately 750 million sub-Saharan Africans without access to computers, nearly half of these people have a mobile phone. Many of these phones are found in off-grid communities where rural residents have to pay for mobiles to be charged at exorbitant rates in the nearest on-grid town or by using generators, costing roughly 4 pence per charge. The SolarBerry uses surplus renewable energy to create income-saving activities for the community. It can charge mobile phones, radios, electrical lanterns etc. at a cost 2000 times cheaper at just 0.002 pence per charge.

Offering this service, as well as others such as movie nights and printing services, to the community will enable them to save income whilst also maintain and pay off the initial costs of the SolarBerry. This is the heart of the SolarBerry, a lease-to-own community financing model where the SolarBerry acts as a catalyst for growth by supplying renewable energy. The SolarBerry is expected to repay the capital costs within 3 years, enabling another SolarBerry to be installed in another community, creating a knock-on development effect.

Our Plan

We intend to begin the installation of our first SolarBerry in Malawi in Summer 2016. The demonstration of this self-sustaining model for ICT access in off-grid areas will then enable us to begin a virtuous cycle, where after the initial capital cost has been recovered by the income generating activities of the SolarBerry within the community we will be able to install a second SolarBerry in another off-grid community. Furthermore, with the evidence of a successful pilot we will be able to gain significant investments to quickly scale up our operations. This will be the start of our social enterprise that will connect off-grid communities to our digital age through renewable energy.

Updates

If you are interested in our SolarBerry please do contact us for more information. Or follow the journey by signing up to our newsletter. As we develop and finalise our designs we will be releasing all relevant design information as open-access resources to support any other interested parties in designing their own solutions to off-grid ICT access.

Our progress to date

 

Proof of concept

We have already established working computer laboratories in Ghana with networked Raspberry Pis. These are at Dodowa, Tatale and Zabzugu ICCES and allow students to access the wealth of learning resources available in RACHEL.

Pi lab running Rachel

Prototype SolarBerry made in Edinburgh

We have gathered together the low energy components needed to run a solar-powered off-grid computer lab. Andrew Clark demonstrated that even in the Edinburgh sunshine in late April, there was enough solar energy to power a raspberry Pi and allow several people to connect to Rachel using their mobile phones.

Advice on design from some Africa experts

We have had some very useful comments from 2 new members of our advisory board who have worked extensively in Africa. They include the following:-

  • Avoid using wood externally as the cellulose in plywood attracts termites
  • Keep the SolarBerry off the ground as it can get very wet in the rainy season
  • Maximise the security of the solar panels by using anti-climb security paint which comes off in the hand
  • Protect the Raspberry Pi units at each workstation
  • Send spares to replace anything that fails or is lost
  • Use Shade Cloth outside for insulation against intense sun radiation, with the creation of shaded areas all around the SolarBerry for locals to gather

So – here is an idea from our Malawi project manager, Brian Ferguson, of what the shade cloth might look like.

SolarBerry_BF2


Support our work

Thank you for showing an interest in supporting us, either financially or by donating IT Equipment.  Please click the relevant link for more information and to make a donation.

The Turing Trust is always actively seeking working used computers and other IT equipment. We wipe all donated equipment in accordance with industry standards to remove all programs and data, and provide certification of data destruction for each individual machine for which Donor contact details have been provided. We ensure that your donations get to the users who need it most.

Our minimum specification 

We welcome any donations of computers and laptops which are less than 6 years old and Windows 7 or above. We are unfortunately not able to accept anything older than this as it is unlikely to last long enough to warrant us shipping it to our partner schools across Africa. The table below gives you an indication of what we can use. If you have a query about whether or not your donation might be suitable, please don't hesitate to contact us.

IT equipment needed

Loading the container with IT equipment

Sponsor a Computer Lab

Are you or your company looking to make a significant impact to support education in Africa?

 

Then why not support the setup of a computer lab in a rural African community? You can help us to make the most of our IT donations by building effective learning environments for our students to work in. Choose from any of the options below and empower hundreds of students today.

Gold and Platinum donations amount to the outfitting of a 25 computer IT lab for one school and can be acknowledged with a personalised plaque.

 

Shipping
£150
In country
logistics
£100
Electrical
support
£125
Furniture
outfitting
£125
IT lab
conversion
£1000
Building
construction
£3500
Donation
Total
Bronze Lab
£250
Silver Lab
£500
Gold Lab
£1,500
Platinum Lab
£5,000

 

Get in touch to sponsor a computer lab today


Volunteer with us

The Turing Trust is always looking for passionate and dedicated volunteers to help our operation.

Check out exactly how and where you can volunteer below.

In Edinburgh

If you are local come down to our workshop and find out how you can help. We need assistance with:-
• Computer refurbishment and repair
• Business Administration
• Fundraising and events

Online

Help from wherever you are. We need people with expertise in:-
• Google Adwords
• Marketing
• e-library / curriculum development
• Social Media

In Africa

Help out in one of our partner schools in GHANA, KENYA or MALAWI

You could help them with:-
• Teaching
• Doing computer lab installations
• Monitoring and evaluating our IT programs

See what our volunteers say about their experience of the Turing Trust.

 
Volunteer quotes

Loading the container with IT equipment
Volunteer wiping and restoring computers
Team in front of pallets loaded with IT equipment

The Turing Trust e-library

We believe that software is equally important to the quality hardware we provide. Therefore every computer that is donated to one of our partner schools is equipped with a wide range of e-learning resources. These include:
  • Wikipedia for schools 
  • RACHEL library of information
  • Khan Academy 
  • SCRATCH 
  • Health and hygiene guides
  • How-to guides created by Dr. Bernard Poole, which help the user understand how to use both Microsoft and Libre Office
  • Anti-virus software
What makes a huge different is that all the resources we make available are 100% accessible offline. This is essential in the rural areas that we work in where access to the internet is difficult and can be prohibitively expensive. We are always looking for ways to improve and find new ways to facilitate learning in remote places.  If  you  have content we could add to our offline package that would help us achieve this, then please contact us

What we do in the UK

Our volunteer-run IT processing operations are based in Edinburgh, where we ensure all donations are managed responsibly.

 

We provide an IT reuse solution throughout the UK to both businesses and households. We believe that reusing technology is better than recycling it as reuse contributes to a circular economy, enabling students to benefit from older technologies. If you, or your business, have any old technology in working order that you would like to see put to good use please click here.

Our Scottish Focus

In Scotland The Turing Trust focuses on improving the local social impact of our operation. Through our Volunteering scheme we're helping improve career prospects by teaching skills to those who help us out.

 

Our UK hub is based in Edinburgh and it's where we process all computers before they get shipped to our Partners across Africa. Our volunteers here help organise and co-ordinate these shipments and are essential to processing/wiping your donations securely. They receive training upon enrolling with us which has helped our volunteers improve their career prospects and develop professionally.

Volunteer with us

If you’re looking to broaden your horizons, improve your knowledge of IT, learn a new skill or would like to hear about other ways you could become a part of our team head to our volunteer page or please get in touch through our contact form.

Our partners and supporters

Our sponsors are a huge part of the work we do, and the relationships we’ve developed as we’ve become part of their outreach programs have been mutually beneficial.

If your company is looking to get more involved in changing the face of education in Africa and want to demonstrate your Corporate and Social responsibilities then please reach out to us. You'll be joining a team of like minded professionals, who share the vision of changing the futures of young generations in rural communities throughout Africa.

The Turing Trust is very lucky to be supported by the following very special organisations, who help us achieve our projects more effectively on a regular basis. We hope you'll choose to support them too, and would like to thank them once again for all their lasting help.

Expert agent develop cloud based solutions for estate agents around the country, and were the first to take agency software online back in 2004. Their latest release, Expert Agent Touch, means that as well as working beautifully with a keyboard and mouse on PCs, tablets and Macs the system is now optimised for use with touch screen devices, too. It's cloud based, so there’s nothing to load, update or maintain either.

Expert agent have supported the Turing Trust financially and continue to do so on a regular basis. We're proud to be supported by such an innovative and socially responsible company.


Reusing IT share many similar values with us and we are honoured to be supported by them. They strive to advance education and welfare anywhere in the world by sourcing, refurbishing and providing computers to support services to educational establishments, community organisations, NGOs and others working in a diverse range of fields.

Just like us, they aim to provide sustainable educational, social and economic benefits to low income families and impoverished communities and wish to help close the digital divide.


The Rotary Club of Currie Balerno has a been a significant sponsor of the Turing Trust since 2012 with both financial donations to support schooling in Ghana and participation of club members in various activities.  These include assisting with loading containers for shipment to Africa and the design of the SolarBerry, a solar powered community education facility running in an upcycled shipping container, which is being trialled in Malawi this year.  Other Rotary Clubs are now coming forward to help with offers of computer collections and transport.


Our founder James Turing is a University of Edinburgh graduate and the Turing Trust has been supported by the University of Edinburgh since 2010.

The University of Edinburgh has been fundamental to our UK based operations, supporting us with accommodation, volunteering opportunities and fundraising activities whilst offering an incredible network. Dr Omaima Hatem, of the University of Edinburgh’s Business School currently sits on our Advisory Board supporting our work with crucial academic insight.


Redbooth is easy-to-use task and project management software. We use it to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks, from communication with donors to planning and logistics. Built-in video conferencing enables us to conveniently meet over video with team members and volunteers in multiple countries.

Founded in 2008, Redbooth is committed to helping teams get more done and stay connected, whether they’re all under the same roof or distributed across the globe. They’re proud to be a supporter of the Turing Trust’s work.


A team of technologists at Barclays are supporting the work of the Turing Trust in many ways. The team based at Barclays Technology Centre Radbroke in Knutsford, Cheshire, donate significant amounts of IT equipment for us to ship to Africa, and also give generously of their time and expertise. We have discovered colleagues at Barclays who have just as strong a passion as we do for the development of the SolarBerry and its deployment in Africa. There is an ongoing fruitful collaboration working on the software delivering educational resources on the Raspberry Pi.

Easygenerator

We use Easygenerator as e-Learning authoring software to create all our e-Learning modules. After we bought a license, Easygenerator reached out and offered to donate extra licenses for the Turing Trust. Easygenerator is intuitive to use and allows our volunteers without previous experience to develop e-Learning resources that we can export as SCORM packages to use in an offline environment in Africa.


Keyrus are a specialist Big Data & analytics consulting firm with an established and growing global presence. Their team of experts provide an end-to-end service from technology selection advisory through to solution retirement and migration. They are here to help people and organisations make better data-driven decisions in an increasingly complex environment.

They have been behind the Turing Trust since they joined us in 2015, and have gone above and beyond in every way to help us reach our goals. In recognition of this, they were awarded QlikView's CSR partner of the year award for 2015.


Turing Gateway to Mathematics acts as a channel for the flow of knowledge and ideas between the mathematical sciences and the users of mathematics. It does this by facilitating interactions and activities such as programmes of work, events, projects and education and training in areas where maths skills are needed. Acting as a gateway between academic mathematicians and industry, government, and other disciplines, it helps to widen access to mathematics generally and shorten pathways to impacts.


Turing Fest was established in 2011 by Jamie Coleman and brings digital technology into the Edinburgh festivals, the world's largest arts and creative gathering, in a celebration of digital culture and creativity. Named in honour of Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, the festival explores the ways in which technology is changing all aspects of culture, business and society — how we live, and how we work.  Turing Fest has brought some of the biggest names in tech to the world’s largest cultural event and continues to grow and attract more attention each year. The Turing Trust became their official charity partner in 2016 and is looking forward to an amazing event in 2017.


Optoma delivers engaging visual and audio experiences for a connected world and manufactures award-winning projection and audio products for business, education, professional audio/video and home entertainment.

The Turing Trust is trialling Optoma’s ultra mobile LED projector in its SolarBerry project.  This will build on the work done by Onebillion, a not-for-profit developer and publisher of educational apps, who developed a solar-powered projection solution for its goal to transform the education of one billion marginalised children.


The Turing Trust’s first computer delivery to a hospital in Ethiopia

The Turing Trust were very excited to have recently been contacted by NHS Glan Clwyd Hospital, who do some amazing work with Nigist Eleni Mohammed Hospital, in the town of Hossana Ethiopia. Dr. Endale, the medical director there, needed a laptop  with which he could to run weekly training sessions for other doctors in the hospital.

They recently visited Hossana to run their bi-yearly training sessions, and reported back to us that they had a very successful trip. They also delivered the laptop. The Turing Trust were incredibly happy to help out, and look forward to working with Glan Clwyd hospital and their friends in Hossana in the future.

Dr. Endale at work on his  Laptop

Dr. Endale at work on his Laptop

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