United Kingdom battery developer Aceleron has partnered with Malagasy solar start-up Jirogasy to provide solar-powered laptops to school children in Madagascar.

Jirogasy’s Jirodesk 2 solar-powered PC will support learners in schools that do not have access to reliable power and empower younger generations with digital skills to build their economic future.

The project has been awarded funding by the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund, which is supported by UK aid and the IKEA Foundation.

Aceleron’s specially designed circular economy batteries will power the computers and embed resilience into the systems, while at the same time supporting job creation in East Africa.

Expanding digital learning in previously unconnected communities will open up opportunities. As COVID-19 forces more businesses and schools online, the World Economic Forum highlights that is more important than ever that transferable digital skills are incorporated into education curriculums.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, only 35% of schools have access to electricity, 89% of learners do not have access to household computers and 82% lack internet access. Globally, 230 million children attend primary schools without electricity. 

These solar-powered computers will help accelerate digital literacy. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates that 230 million jobs across Africa will require some level of digital literacy by 2030, translating to 650 million training opportunities and a $130 billion market.

Yann Kasay, Jirogasy CEO and the French Africa Foundation’s Young Leader of the Year 2019, says: “Every part of this project is championing economic growth in East Africa. The computers are built here in Madagascar, supporting the development of local digital and engineering jobs. The batteries are enabling the growth of a skilled green jobs economy in Kenya.

“Together, they are delivering key educational resources to Malagasy schoolchildren, boosting digital literacy and offering a route for largely non-electrified communities to connect to new economic opportunities.” 

The batteries that power the Jirodesk 2 are built in Kenya from repurposed waste solar lanterns and lithium-ion battery cells. UK-based Aceleron works with local technicians in Nairobi to develop and build the high quality, second-life batteries, creating a local workforce of battery manufacturers and engineers, and empowering people with skilled jobs.

Jirogasy has selected Aceleron as its delivery partner because of the African-built credentials of its batteries, and the shared mission to advance green economic growth in East Africa. 

Amrit Chandan, Aceleron CEO: “Using a solar home system to turn on a light is one thing, using it to power education is taking this technology to the next level.

“These computers can change lives. Circular economy batteries can be the cornerstone of localised circular economies – wherever the batteries are, they drive the growth of skilled green jobs. This project is evidence that clean technology is about so much more than reducing emissions, it’s about improving people’s lives.”

Aceleron’s batteries can be taken apart, serviced and upgraded, so if one component breaks, the individual piece can be easily replaced. Most other computer batteries are welded or glued together, meaning that they are thrown away when a component breaks.

As the computers will be operational in often difficult to reach schools, the ability for all components to be easily accessed and fixed at the schools will embed the systems with additional resilience. 

The pilot stage of this project will see seven schools equipped with computers across Madagascar in 2021, with a further 20 in 2022. Long-term, Jirogasy is aiming to provide access to the Jirodesk 2 to 10,000 Madagascan students per year and to build an additional production site in Kenya, expanding the reach of this technology.