Samsung Electronics launched its first Digital Villages initiative in South Africa to integrate African communities’ hospitals, schools, lighting systems and energy infrastructure using solar power. The project will provide comprehensive support to improve health standards, bolster education opportunities and increase the potential for people to lead economically independent lives.
To celebrate the launch of the project Samsung hosted a ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa, attended by ambassadors and government representatives from various African countries, the UN, prominent international organizations and NGOs.
The Digital Village is comprised of a number of key components that work together to benefit a community in terms of health, education and employment.
Solar Powered Tele-Medical Center
There is currently a shortage of skilled medical personnel and resources in outlying rural areas of certain regions of Africa. This can be a significant burden to the rural population as not only is adequate healthcare not readily available but obtaining it may require many hours of travel.
The Solar Powered Tele-Medical Center has been constructed as a movable container to provide these rural residents with convenient access to medical services. Video conference facilities built into the Center connect patients being treated in remote regions with general hospitals in cities so diagnosis and prescription advice can be shared in real-time. The Center also features a database and server access for the management of patient data.
Solar Powered Health Center
The Solar Powered Health Center is a large truck that provides medical services to local residents in a Digital Village and nearby areas. It is equipped with tools for the treatment of eye, ear and dental complications as well as a state-of-the-art blood analysis machine for on-the-spot diagnosis.
It is hoped that both the Solar Powered Tele-Medical Center and the Solar Powered Health Center will significantly contribute to overcoming the geographical and economical barriers in coping with disease in South Africa, Ethiopia and Gabon.
Solar Powered Internet School
The Solar Powered Internet School is a facility able to generate the power needed to operate through photovoltaic cells installed on the School’s roof. The panels power a large touch screen used by the teacher, netbooks used by students during multimedia courses and also provide internet access as well increasing accessibility to education and connectivity across Africa.
Solar Powered Generator
The Digital Village project has been envisioned to raise educational, medical and living standards, but another aspect is its intended contribution to promoting small businesses through the deployment of solar powered generators and LED lighting systems. The solar power aspect of the Villages will also lower the environmental impact and reduce operating costs in the areas in which they are based.
They will supply electric power to the Digital Village’s houses, schools, hospitals, and municipal offices such as the police. These generators are silent, do not emit pollutants and have negligible maintenance costs.
Development of the Digital Village
During discussions with the governments involved in the project, Samsung committed to building police and postal offices inside the premises of the Digital Villages, and to using satellite communications to ensure better work processes and greater operational efficiency.
Samsung plans to build Digital Villages in three countries this year, beginning in South Africa and moving onto include Ethiopia and Gabon by the end of this year. Plans to expand the Digital Villages to local communities in more remote areas in cooperation with governments and international organizations are already underway.
Samsung is strengthening its partnerships with various institutions for the medical and educational functions of the Digital Villages. For the healthcare services, Samsung has formed partnerships with the health authorities of each participating government as well as local universities and the international relief organization, World Vision. For the education programs, Samsung has partnered with education ministries, UNESCO and other government and civil organizations.
At the ceremony, Advocate Zwelethu Madasa, Clerk of the Pan African Parliament said, "The Samsung Integrated Solar Solutions are very relevant to the African continent as they harness the abundance of sunshine our continent is blessed with. Quality Education and Health are the two most critical challenges our many countries are faced with. The Digital Village is an applausible African solution to this challenge"
The Head of Samsung Electronics Africa Headquarters Hong SungYong said, "We will work together with governments and international organizations to ensure that the potential of these Digital Villages is fully realized. We will deliver better education opportunities, greater medical access and improved economic self-sufficiency for people in Africa."