Container-Based ICT For Developing Countries

Containerized modules have become building blocks for mega data centers. These plug-and-play units offer cost-effective scalability for hosting cloud applications needing only a homogeneous platform. A UK nonprofit known for providing refurbished computers to developing countries now offers an innovative containerized ICT solution for use in disaster areas and remote communities. Computer Aid International launched its ZubaBox in 2012 with the slogan "ICT Hub-In-A-Box Offers Internet Connectivity Anytime, Anywhere". The concept has now been nominated for an award.

The ZubaBox project in Kenya (see below) is a finalist for the BT Ingenious Award 2014, sponsored by Tech4Good. The nomination cites the ICT facility's contribution to local telemedicine.

Original 2012 Post

The ZubaBox is made from a used shipping container and is powered with poly-crystalline solar panels and Advanced Glass Mat (AGM) batteries. The 485W system simultaneously supports 11 workstations through desktop virtualization, charging for 10 mobile phones, lighting, server ventilation, and a peripheral such as a VSAT modem or a printer. Running time is 6-10 hours, depending on the model. ZubaBox appears to be a well-designed package for a remote-deployment community ICT facility.

I've tracked the progress of DC distribution within ICT facilities because solar panels output DC and ICT gear from servers to cell phones run on DC. Inverting solar from DC to AC for distribution, then back into DC within a device or its 'brick' is a double efficiency penalty.

ZubaBox nonetheless uses AC distribution for practical reasons. The Computer Aid people tell me they did this so "we can use standard PC/TFT and plug in any other items as required." My experience in developing areas has also taught me the importance of deploying 'appropriate technology' - technology commensurate with local parts availability and local repair competence. DC distribution for ICT has promise, but right now it is a leading edge technology. ZubaBox's use of AC distribution seems appropriate to the mission.

Computer Aid sent us a ZubaBox brochure. The ZubaBox has already been deployed in Kenya and Zambia in pilot projects. The organization is seeking sponsors for more ZubaBoxes, which cost £17,000-£22,000.

Computer Aid announced in August that UK ICT consultancy ASE has sponsored a ZubaBox in Kenya for the African Medical & Research Foundation. “The ZubaBox/Telemedicine project will also enable Kakuma-based staff to access information and e-training needed for improved healthcare provision. “Refugee camps have limited access to the resources required for ICT use. Thanks to ASE Consulting, the ZubaBox will overcome electricity, networking and ICT issues.”

Another example of container-based, solar-power ICT for remote areas.
Click on the "dev-econ" tag above for more posts about Green ICT in developing economies.

Photos courtesy Computer Aid