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Solar Power’s Role in Narrowing the Digital Divide

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Solar Power’s Role in Narrowing the Digital Divide

When we think of the internet, we rarely factor solar power into the equation.  After all, most of us have easy access to the internet and power, and we rarely face a situation where we can’t get online.  In a society revolved around the next click, email, DM or post, it is easy to overlook the fact that many people do not have access to continuous power or the internet.

According to a recent report published by Statista, as of April 2020 it is estimated that 4.57 billion people worldwide are internet users; this represents 59 percent of the global population, with China, India and the United States leading the pack for total internet users.  While the report shows a large number of users, it hardly represents universal access considering the fact that our total population is 7.8 billion people. This leaves us with a digital divide, often correlating with areas that are essentially unable to “keep up”; without appropriate capacity upgrades to the electrical grid, the addition of internet users can put a major strain on existing networks.

This is where solar comes in…

It goes without stating, but digitally advanced countries have an obvious advantage over those that are behind the ball, with the ability to move forward in their communication, information exchange and economies at a faster rate.   There is an undeniable correlation between expansion of internet access/speed and economic growth. 

Where solar plays a role is that a common theme in communities that do not have strong and dependable internet access is energy insecurity (source: Solar Magazine).  Even if a community has an existing internet infrastructure, it may be vulnerable if its power source is unreliable.  Without access to a strong, affordable or consistent source of energy, internet access won’t mean much due to the inability to meet the power demand.

A great example of solar power making a difference in the advancement of technology and education is with the UNICEF-supported “Child Friendly School” in Kandahar.  Prior to intervention by UNICEF, students at Nazoo Ana Girls’ High School had to close their computer lab on a somewhat regular basis due to frequent electricity cuts in Kandahar City, Afghanistan’s second-largest city.  In the program, solar panels were installed to generate enough electricity to power the computer lab.  Computers, projectors and other tools for learning “outside of the book” were all made possible through solar power, enriching students' learning experience and computer literacy.

Additionally, Power Panel has seen the benefits of renewable energy first-hand, especially in communities that are subject to hurricanes and/or are removed from “the grid”.  The Gen-2-O has been deployed in communities post-hurricane - In addition to providing hot water needed for cooking and cleaning, the mobile solar thermal generator has powered lights and computers to keep communities connected to the internet, enabling them to establish the communication needed to rebuild and move forward.

Internet access powered by solar can help shrink the gap in the digital divide.  While many global communities will ultimately put power and keeping lights on ahead of internet connectivity, energy reliability and internet improvement go hand in hand. 

To learn about how Power Panel technology can provide you with hot water and electricity easily, on-demand and off-grid, contact Power Panel.