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Peace Corps, Arizona State University partner to provide digital libraries across the globe

July 10, 2020
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The Peace Corps and Arizona State University today announced a new strategic partnership agreement that will advance their shared interest in meeting the needs of learners in remote, offline communities globally by leveraging ASU’s innovative technology, SolarSPELL, a tool to build information literacy and to advance high-quality education.

ASU SolarSPELL (Solar Powered Educational Learning Library) delivers a digital library that mimics the online experience by generating its own offline Wi-Fi hotspot to which any Wi-Fi-capable device can connect, so that users can freely surf the library's expansive, yet localized, content. As technology meant for populations in remote and rural locations, Peace Corps volunteers can take SolarSPELL into the communities they serve to improve educational outcomes in schools and support ongoing technology training.

“Regardless of where you live, technology is critical to our continued advancement in all endeavors and it is an essential tool for expanding access to education; this partnership will advance even greater impact,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Peace Corps volunteers have been making a difference across the globe for decades and we share a commitment for helping people through education which, today, means access to information through technology.”

The Peace Corps and ASU have been working together since 2015 to pair SolarSPELL’s digital library with locally-based trainers, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and their resident teacher counterparts. ASU provides the tools and the training that empowers volunteers and local teachers to utilize SolarSPELL libraries in their schools and communities.

“This strategic partnership will enhance and accelerate the use of SolarSPELL, arming Peace Corps volunteers with what is not only a fantastic tool but, importantly, one that is inexpensive and easily deployed in locations around the world,” said Peace Corps Director Jody K. Olsen. “Arizona State University is a global leader in providing access to education, and the Peace Corps has a long history of working with local leaders to tackle the pressing challenges of the day. Through this partnership, together, we can have a transformative impact on communities in need around the globe.”

Currently, SolarSPELL has 365 digital libraries in 8 countries across the Pacific Islands and East Africa. Through this partnership, SolarSPELL will equip hundreds, and eventually thousands, more Peace Corps volunteers with localized, offline, digital libraries filled with 20,000+ educational resources. PCVs will use the technology to build capacities of rural, remote communities around the world.

One of the key components that fuels this innovation to help learners around the world, is students.

“ASU students are involved in every aspect of the SolarSPELL initiative,” said SolarSPELL Founder and ASU Associate Professor, Laura Hosman. “From curating content to building libraries, to writing software code, to making videos—students are critical to the success of this initiative.  And they not only contribute with work in the field, they also learn from opportunities to engage globally, behave entrepreneurially, carry out real-world work with purpose and transform society.”

These positive outcomes not only assist host communities, they also help ASU students and Peace Corps volunteers see the impact they’re capable of making—inspiring them to think about how to drive positive change, whatever their future endeavors.

Jay Thorne

Assistant Vice President