Arrow Electronics and social enterprise Close the Gap launched their third DigiTruck in August 2018. The DigiTruck is a mobile, solar-powered classroom and enterprise incubator. The new unit serves the Kenyan capital of Nairobi – one of Africa’s commercial hubs and a portal for Africa’s development in the 21st Century.
Kenya is poised to be a global success story because of its motivated youth, a dynamic private sector and improving infrastructure. But it must address gaps in modern workforce skills and technology access to unlock its potential.
In Kenya, the truck is operated by local nonprofits Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Centre and Computers for Schools Kenya (CFSK).
The truck provides IT training to students aged 16 to 65 living in Nairobi’s underserved areas, including some of the continent’s largest urban slums, as well as surrounding rural communities. By the end of 2020, as many as 10,000 Kenyans will be certified in digital literacy, e-commerce skills and responsible electronic waste handling. More than half of the students are women.
“The education I have now will help me in managing my business. I will be able to write and save my information,” says Mama Halima, who at age 48 entered a classroom for the first time in her life. “I had never used a computer before, and I am so happy that now I know how to use it for my own benefit.”
Already, some early DigiTruck graduates have been recruited for online marketing jobs, and entrepreneurs have learned how to market their products online.
This DigiTruck also serves as an e-waste collection site and educational hub. Students learn that old IT hardware can be brought to a center, reducing harmful environmental effects while creating new business opportunities.
After beginning its journey in Nairobi, the truck’s first stop was Mlolongo, then passing through Athi River and continuing its route south to Kitengela, a sub-county in Kajiado county, where it resides currently.
In addition to operating the new truck in Kenya, Arrow and Close the Gap continue to operate a DigiTruck on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. That truck delivers up to 1,000 online lessons per week to orphanage students living above the town of Moshi with the help of nonprofit NEEMA International. The prototype DigiTruck continues to operate in Brussels.
Access to technology is critical, and Arrow looks to inspire ideas led by students and educators. Arrow and Close the Gap continue to facilitate the donation of refurnished computers, tablets and phones to schools and organizations. Since 2003, more than 800,000 devices have been shared with 3.2 million people worldwide.
Arrow Electronics guides innovation for over 200,000 technology manufacturers and service providers and had sales of $30 billion in 2018.
Close the Gap is an international social enterprise that aims to bridge the digital divide by offering high-quality, pre-owned computers donated by large and medium-sized corporations or public organisations to educational, medical, entrepreneurial and social projects in developing and emerging countries. All the projects are demand-driven and impact-driven oriented initiatives. Since 2004, Close the Gap has gathered over 700,000 ICT assets, has contributed to over 5,000 projects in more than 50 countries (mostly in Africa) and reached more than 3,000,000 beneficiaries. Close the Gap also powers WorldLoop (sustainable e-waste recycling), the Leap2 programme (supporting local entrepreneurship and innovation), and the Digital for Development platform, all contributing to creating impact in Africa and other developing countries.