The Ideas Box brings tech and education access to underserved neighborhoods

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On Tuesday, the slick and mobile Ideas Box was unveiled at the central branch of the Detroit Public Library.

The project, created by the nonprofit Libraries Without Borders in partnership with the renowned French designer Philippe Starck, the Alexander Soros Foundation, and the Pierre Bellon Foundation, has created a portable media center and digital classroom that can be set up in under 20 minutes.

The current program, the first of its kind in the US, will last through the month of December and provide access to educational content through the holidays.

Local partners for the Ideas Box program in Detroit include the Mayor’s Office, the Knight Foundation Fund of the Community Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, the Detroit Public Library, and Southwest Solutions.

“Our specific aims for this project are to increase literacy, numeracy, and digital fluency, and to create new spaces in Detroit for information exchange and multi-media collaboration for all members of the community.” said Allister Chang, the Executive Director of Libraries Without Borders US.

To date, Ideas Box programs have been developed in Burundi, Jordan, Australia, and France.

The self-powered modular device consists of six pieces that fit squarely onto two shipping pallets and weighs approximately 1,800 lbs. The four main boxes include a component for laptops, a library, a cinema screen and a multimedia toolkit. The other two boxes unfold to become tables and chairs.

Specifically, the standard Ideas Box contains:

  • 15 tablets and four laptops
  • 50 e-readers and 5,000 e-books
  • 250 hard copy books
  • A cinema screen and projector with 100 films
  • Board and video games

The net cost of producing the Ideas Box is approximately $60,000, not including the cost of deployment and the training program.

“Technology has changed the way public libraries meet the everyday needs of the communities we serve,” said Jo Anne G. Mondowney, Detroit Public Library’s Executive Director. “The Detroit Public Library’s neighborhood presence means that people of all ages can learn, explore and create in new ways. We are excited about what the future holds.”

All are welcome to use the Ideas Box contents and participate in facilitated educational programming through the month of December. The Ideas Box will be moving through different public spaces and events in Detroit throughout the month. You can follow the Ideas Box’s schedule on Twitter @LWBontheweb.

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