Sisters conduct a circumcision at th new Samsung Solar powered digital village clinic in Cosmo City. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

Johannesburg - Tucked inside a township where poverty is rife, there is an innovation that could change lives.

Cosmo City, in Joburg, is the first area in Africa to host a solar-powered digital village.

The village houses a solar-powered internet school, health centre and tele-medical centre. All the electricity used at the facility – including the admin centre – is generated by the sun’s energy.

The intention behind the project is to bring world-class medical and education facilities to people – free.

Its innovators, Samsung, this week officially handed the village to the people of Cosmo City.

The flagship village, first unveiled in October 2013, is set up on Malibongwe Ridge.

It addresses one of Africa’s largest economic challenges – access to electricity.

On average, less than 25 percent of rural areas on the continent have electricity, with the result that isolated communities have limited access to education, health care and connectivity.

Built in a 12m-long shipping container, the school is designed for use in remote rural areas with limited or no access to electricity.

Solar panels erected at the school provide enough energy to power its classroom equipment, including Samsung notebooks and netbooks, an interactive whiteboard or e-board, and Samsung Galaxy tablets.

The healthcentre provides eye, ear, blood, dental treatments and pre- and post-natal screening.

A special unit will provide medical services to mothers and their babies.

The tele-medical centre allows access to remote medical assistance with a centralised pool of medical expertise and experience.

There is a dire shortage of doctors in rural areas and this will reduce the need while helping shorten travel distances for patients.

Samsung has also partnered with Right to Care, a non-profit organisation that supports and delivers prevention, care and treatment services.

It will provide male circumcision as an HIV-preventative measure.

“We are excited to work with Samsung on this uplifting and inspiring project,” said Right to Care’s Dr Mashudu Monyai.

Ntutule Tshenye, head of public affairs at Samsung Electronics Africa, is the brainchild behind the village.

“It’s very exciting to see an innovation we’ve worked hard on developing come to life,” said Tshenye.

“It has always been a vision of ours to have a positive effect on 5 million lives by 2015. Today we began our journey.

“Good health is at the centre of one’s wellbeing. It affects a child’s ability to learn at full potential, and adults’ ability to provide for their families. This is why we have complemented our strong focus on education with a focus on quality health care,” said Tshenye.

He said plans were in place to start villages in other African countries.

The facilities are free to those living in the area.

“Maybe in the future, to sustain the village, we will charge a small fee but at the moment everything is completely free.”

Nurse Didi Mojapelo said she had been delighted by the people of Cosmo City.

“My heart is filled with warmth,” she said.

“It has provided great relief within the community. Now those that cannot afford to travel to hospitals have medical facilities on their doorstep.” - Saturday Star