Silicon Savanna

Technology in developing countries

Africa is on the verge of a technology boom. Young technology entrepreneurs are bringing their bright ideas to life in Kenya and other emerging digital societies in the continent.

Arrow & Nonprofit Close the Gap Bridge Africa’s Digital Divide

Arrow’s collaboration with Close the Gap began 15 years ago and has since facilitated the distribution of nearly 1 million refurbished computers and as of 2019 has helped more than 1,000 students reach certifications in digital literacy, e-commerce skills and responsible electronic waste handling. The most recent product of this collaboration is the launch and operation of a fleet of mobile, solar-powered, tech classrooms known as DigiTrucks.

The latest DigiTruck unit provides courses for students aged 16 to 65 in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and four surrounding counties. This truck is a part of Silicon Savanna, a CSR initiative that aims to support Kenya’s emerging technology hub. The initiative, in collaboration with supplier Analog Devices Inc., also leveraged Close the Gap’s LEAP-2 social enterprise competition in which Kenyan innovators developed technology solutions to community problems.

The DigiTruck project received a 2021 Communitas Award for Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility.

Arrow Electronics and the Silicon Savanna Innovators

What Is the DigiTruck?

The DigiTruck is a mobile, multi-functional IT lab powered by solar energy, able to reach remote areas and function without access to electricity.

  • Goal #1: Teach digital literacy to students, teachers, and community members.
  • Goal #2: Launch an e-waste awareness campaign with workshops and e-waste collection.

IT equipment inside the DigiTruck includes laptops, tablets, printers, routers, and flat-screen TV monitors, all provided by Arrow’s CSR program.

The flexibility in design enables the DigiTruck to be used as a mobile classroom, while doubling as a cyber cafe and e-waste collection unit.

The DigiTruck design: 

  1. The repurposed 40-foot shipping container is insulated against the heat. Double steel shutters and a locking door provide security.
  2. Inside the DigiTruck is a fully equipped classroom for teaching 18 students. Laptops refurbished by Close the Gap with Arrow’s support give students hands-on experience in basic computer instruction  and IT education.
  3. Solar panels provide power so the DigiTruck can operate independent of the electrical grid.
  4. A large LED screen enhances the learning experience, supported by 20 fully configured laptop computers, a printer, two routers, and two SSD disks.
  5. Storage batteries provide two days of power.

Who’s behind the DigiTruck?

Close the Gap and Arrow work with local non-profits to staff and program DigiTruck so it can serve entrepreneurs and students of all ages with training and certification on computer skills, business software training, and e-commerce education.

The DigiTruck was designed and constructed by Close the Gap, while Arrow Electronics funded its construction and equipment acquisition.

An international social enterprise, Close the Gap is based in Brussels and aims to bridge the digital divide, delivering access to today’s technology to underserved regions. Since 2004, Close the Gap has supported over 5,000 projects in more than 50 countries.

 

Mission to Kenya 2019:

  1. Empowering Africa’s booming tech scenes:
    Supporting Africa’s growing tech ecosystem and entrepreneurship with digital resources.

  2. Propelling Kenya into the digital age:
    Teaching digital literacy to local students, teachers, entrepreneurs, and community members.
  3. Bridging the digital divide:
    Strengthening computer skills in vulnerable communities in the most rural regions.

  4. Raising awareness about and collecting e-waste:
    Exposing locals to the environmental and social challenges of e-waste.

    Launching an e-waste awareness campaign with workshops and e-waste collection.

DigiTrucks in Africa and Their Positive Impact

In 2015, Close the Gap launched its first DigiTruck with Arrow. Presently, Close the Gap deploys seven DigiTrucks with the help of partners such as Analog Devices and various other sponsors. Arrow supports three of the units in Kenya, Tanzania, and Belgium.

See the impact made below from 2003–2018.

857,000
Assets collected

5,700
Projects supported

2,500
Tonnes of E-waste collected

3,220,000
Beneficiaries

 

GEARBOX
Supported by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, USAID, and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.


ANDELA
Building high-performing engineering teams with Africa’s top developers.

WEEE RECYCLE CENTRE
Committed to environment conservation through the efficient, safe, and conservative disposal of e-waste.


UNITED NATIONS REGIONAL HEADQUARTERS

Educating for the Future

For more than a decade, Arrow has worked with Close the Gap to facilitate the donation of 857,000 refurbished computers to schools and clinics in developing countries, where they’re used by 3.2 million people. Much of the work is focused on East Africa, including Kenya.

Computer literacy is a requirement in the 21st century economy. Together, Arrow and Close the Gap are helping students and entrepreneurs in Kenya learn essential skills, develop new markets, and address social challenges with technology solutions.