Poor rural communities in South Africa are benefiting from a new initiative using solar power and internet to provide health and education.
The so-called “smart villages” are made up of shipping containers and other self contained high-tech trucks kitted out as health centres and schools, all running on solar power. They can be moved hundreds of kilometres to remote locations. A recently opened “smart school” in the isolated Midrand area provides each student with a computer and internet access.
“Where I come from, it’s a very disadvantaged area, where most of the children are not exposed to such technology,” says former digital village student Lefa Makgato. “So being exposed to such technology helped me a lot in learning the basics about using a computer, which I did not have. I learned how to send e-mails, draft letters on a computer, and that’s how I actually applied for university. So that’s how it changed our lives and that’s how we benefited.”
The medical centre, which also runs on solar power, provides eye, ear and dental care as well as state of the art blood-analysis facilities. Registered nurses are being trained to use the digital village technology, which enables doctors to assist patients with diagnosis from anywhere in the world through video conferencing.
Future plans for the village include police offices and postal services.