Our Mission

The SolarSPELL initiative empowers learners globally by providing localized educational information and the training to build 21st century skills in offline environments.

Student success is central to our mission, both around the world and at Arizona State University.

Our Vision

We envision a future in which all learners everywhere have:

access to the information they need;

skills to turn information into knowledge; and

agency to transform knowledge into solutions.

Our Values

Community: We prioritize relationships within our community and the global communities in which we work. 

Learning: We ask questions and continuously improve all aspects of our initiative.

Innovative solutions at scale: We design for sustainability and boldly believe the opportunities for implementation are limitless. 

Meaningful Work: We are honored to meet people where they are and deliver products and services of value.

Building bridges: We work across borders and disciplines – integrating diverse knowledge and perspectives to build a better future for all.

How do we work?

By always working with in-field partners like Peace Corps, UNHCR, and government ministries, SolarSPELL’s holistic approach pairs each digital library with locally-based trainers for ongoing training and support. Using a train-the-trainer model, networks of locals and in-field partners are trained to leverage SolarSPELL digital libraries in their communities and build information literacy and digital skills among library users. Our team then conducts ongoing monitoring and impact evaluation to drive improvements based on user feedback and content requests.

SolarSPELL prioritizes utilizing open access content and engages with content providers to source the majority of library content. Our digital library collections currently span primary and secondary education, health and agriculture—always aimed at meeting local information needs and reflecting the culture, geographic region and national priorities of implementation sites via collaboration with government ministries. All collections include resources on sustainability, gender equity and inclusion, and digital and information literacy. And as information needs know limits, we continue to develop new library collections focused on new topics and languages.

Why we are needed

Access to quality information and education is difficult in resource-constrained locations due to a variety of barriers, including unreliable or non-existent access to the internet and electricity. Over half the world’s population has no internet access, and yet, even with access, connectivity can be expensive, paid for by the byte, and accessed only on a phone. Under these circumstances, first-time technology users often lack opportunities to develop information literacy and digital skills.  Without such skills, locating quality, relevant educational content can be challenging and overwhelming, especially when searching the vast amount of online information for resources. SolarSPELL provides localized content and opportunities for users to learn how to find, evaluate, and use information via access to our digital library, preparing users for empowering use of the internet when it reaches them.

Why we are unique

  • Solar-powered, portable, ruggedized, easy-to-use device
  • Localized, digital content
  • Offline library
  • Open-access content
  • Train-the-trainer model
  • In-field partnerships 
  • Ongoing user feedback
  • Updated library versions
  • Internet-readiness and information literacy focus
  • University-based
  • Students involved in all aspects
  • Multi-sector focus
  • Global focus
  • Multiple languages

How it’s made

The library content and software for each collection is carefully curated and contributed to by ASU students, staff, and faculty, while the hardware is assembled by volunteers at Build Days held each semester.  

How the digital library works

The digital library content is accessed entirely offline by any WiFi-capable device wirelessly connected to our solar powered microserver—housed in a portable, rugged case. Up to 25 devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop) can connect at once to the SolarSPELL offline hotspot to view or download content.

Once connected, library users have unlimited access to relevant educational material that they can search and surf for free, and are able to download any of the content directly onto their devices for continued access when no longer connected to the SolarSPELL server. No external electricity, internet, subscription or data is required for operation.

We are a student-focused initiative, both locally and globally.

SolarSPELL libraries are created for learners, by learners. Every semester the SolarSPELL initiative at ASU engages 60-75 university-level students from classes, capstones, or internships to contribute to all aspects of SolarSPELL’s work. The SolarSPELL initiative provides students opportunities to engage globally, behave entrepreneurially, carry out real-world work with purpose and impact, and transform society.