An Edinburgh student’s bid to bring solar-powered computing to off-grid Kenyan communities has won support from a leading charity.
Social sciences student James Turing has received more than $4,500 to support a computer lab built from a recycled shipping container.
James, who is completing a PhD at the University’s School of Social and Political Science, is being backed by the Clinton Global Initiative University Innovation Fund.
James is founder of the Turing Trust, which is named in honour of his great uncle, the celebrated mathematician Alan Turing.
James was among 18 international students to be awarded a grant from the Clinton initiative.
The Fund aims to source and support the most effective, high-impact student innovators and entrepreneurs from around the world.
The grants provide students with seed funding to help launch and build their early-stage projects.
James was awarded the grant for Solarberry, a self-financing, community-owned, off-grid and solar-powered computer lab in a small primary school in Nyamira County, Kenya.
The lab will enable the entire community to access educational opportunities and give them first-hand experience using computers.
Excess solar energy will be sold back to the community at a rate many times cheaper than other locally-available electricity.
The project follows the success of the first Solarberry initiative in Malawi.
It is part of the Turing Trust’s wider mission to make digital technology more widely available to rural African communities. It seeks to do so by reconditioning unwanted computers from businesses and households across the UK.
The Trust began as a volunteer project following a visit by James to Ghana in 2009.
Seven years on, the social enterprise now processes more than 1,000 computers every year from premises at the University’s High School Yards.
So far it has installed more than 2,500 computers in rural schools across Ghana, Malawi and Kenya, and helped train more than 15,000 rural students in IT skills.
Even as African economies speed towards the information age, many in the countryside have no access to the knowledge and opportunities fostered by the digital world. I’m tremendously grateful to the Clinton Global Initiative University Innovation Fund for this grant, and humbled to be recognised among some truly transformative international projects. We’ve come a long way since 2009, but we still have so much more to do to bring the benefits of the digital age to those who need them most.”