Upcycling The Digital Divide Away: The Digitruck

the digitruck is mobile unit for erasing the digital divide

What’s the best way to deal with electronic waste? Odds are, you answered “recycling”: we tend to think immediately of tearing these devices apart and extracting the valuable metals and such hidden within. The notion of upcycling electronics generally doesn’t occur to us. Fortunately, it has to e-waste handler Arrow Value Recovery. In their partnership with non-profit Close the Gap, Arrow implements upcycling processes to not only keep used computers out of landfills and other waste dumps, but to get further use out of them for people living on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Here in the US, and in other developed countries, the ability to afford a computer keeps many from having ready access the internet and other digital resources. That’s certainly the case in the developing world, also, but the people who live in these regions may have another challenge: a lack of electricity. We’ve seen numerous attempts to bridge that particular divide – from hand-cranked to solar-powered laptaps, for instance – but Arrow and CTG have taken a different approach: the Digitruck.

Similar to the Dell Learning Lab, the Digitruck turns used shipping containers into mobile computer labs. According to Arrow’s press release, “The Digitruck is an upcycled used cargo container outfitted with refurbished computer technology, roomy enough to accommodate 18 students at a time or a self-contained clinic. Because it is mobile and solar-powered, it can reach deep into areas that are otherwise difficult to serve.” The builders retrofit the container with triple insulation to withstand the heat of places like the Sahara desert, where such technology is desperately needed.

The beauty of such a set-up is that all of these materials are readily available: someone just needs to invest some money and labor into putting the whole system together. While I’m sure Arrow likes having it name attached to these units, this strikes me as a great project for others in the e-waste recycling industry to support: no doubt there’s a need for thousands of such mobile computer labs around the world.

Know of similar programs putting electronic waste, and other materials, to use in the developing world like this? Share them with us…

Photo source: 3BL Media

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