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Solar Powered Village Kick-Starts Development Goals

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

More than 1.7 billion people around the world have no domestic electricity supply, of whom more than 500 million live in sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank). Without electricity, many development goals remain dreams that will never be achieved.

But in a first for India, a village is now entirely powered by solar energy, kick-starting its development and reversing the decline common to many villages.

Rampura village in the state of Uttar Pradesh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uttar_Pradesh) had previously been without electricity. But its move to solar power has boosted school performance, brought new economic opportunities for women, and even made the buffalo produce more milk! By getting up early, the buffalo can be fed more before day breaks.

Being able to see at night unleashes a vast range of possibilities, but for the very poor, lighting is often the most expensive household expense, soaking up 10 to 15 percent of income.

There’s a direct link between lighting and economic development. Each 1 per cent increase in available power will increase GDP by an estimated 2 to 3 per cent.

In India, 600,000 villages still lack electricity. Despite the country’s impressive economic gains – growth of over 9 percent per year for the last three years, although that rate is now slowing – the levels of poverty in the country’s villages have driven millions to flee to the sprawling slum zones of India’s cities.

Rampura was set up with solar power by a project of Development Alternatives (http://www.devalt.org/), a New Delhi-based NGO working on promoting “sustainable national development”. Using US $1,406,000 from Norwegian solar power company Scatec Solar (http://www.scatecsolar.no/), it installed 60 solar panels to power 24 batteries. The village’s 69 houses are directly connected to the solar plant.

According to Greenpeace (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/), India could generate 10 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2030.

Manoj Mahata, the project’s programme director, said half of India’s 600,000 villages without electricity can now have the option of solar power.

A steady electricity supply means children are extending their study time past daylight hours. Nine-year-old Aja told the Sunday Times: “I like watching television and the light at night means I can read.”

For women, the light brought by electricity means they can take on new business opportunities to boost income. “I want to start a sewing business with other women to make tablecloths and blouses,” said mother of three Gita Dave.

“Even the buffalo are producing more milk because people can feed before dawn,” said Ghanshyam Singh Yadav, president of Rampura’s energy committee.

“This is not rocket science. This is simple,” says Katja Nordgaard, director for off-grid projects at Scatec.

“The model is relatively cheap, and it is easy to operate and maintain. It can be built in three to four weeks, and can easily be scaled up if the demand for electricity increases.

“People in India are already paying when they need to charge cell phones, and for the kerosene they use in their lamps. The willingness to pay for energy is relatively high here, especially when that energy is reliable.”

In Bangladesh, more than 230,000 households are now using solar power systems thanks to the government’s Infrastructure Development Company Ltd. (IDCOL), giving rise to opportunities for a whole new generation of entrepreneurs to make use of this new power supply for the poor. IDCOL is run by the Ministry of Finance, and is on course to install 1 million Solar Household Systems (SHS) using solar panels by 2012. The Bangladeshi government is hoping to bring electricity to all its citizens by 2020 – meaning this is now a prime time for entrepreneurs specializing in providing energy efficient products to the poor.

Another initiative to boost development in India’s rural villages is the concept of the Model Village India (www.modelvillageindia.org.in), previously profiled by Development Challenges (November 2008).

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© David South Consulting 2021

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Solar-Powered Mobile Clinics to Boost Rural Healthcare in Africa

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013

Around the world, innovative thinking is finding new ways of using solar power technology to bring electricity to underserved areas of the global South. Innovators are experimenting with new technologies, new business models and new ways to finance getting solar power into the hands of the poor.

One recently launched new solution is a solar-powered mobile health clinic that is bringing 21st-century medical diagnostic services to rural areas.

The US $250,000 Solar Powered Health Centre has been built by the Korean technology company Samsung (http://www.samsung.com/africa_en/news/localnews/2013/samsung-launches-solar-powered-health-centre-model-to-bring-quality-healthcare-to-rural-areas).

A truck packed with medical equipment that draws electricity from solar panels, it is traveling to rural, underserved parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

The truck is seven metres in length and comes packed with medical goodies, including a fully equipped eye and blood clinic and a dental surgery. It hopes to make it easier to reach the six in 10 residents of sub-Saharan Africa who live in rural areas, and who are often very far from affordable medical services. There is a blood analyzer, spectacle repair kit, and a non-contact tonometry test to measure the inside of a person’s eye. People can also be tested for HIV, malaria and many other conditions.

Samsung (samsung.com) developed the truck as part of its efforts to create “Built for Africa” technologies. The truck was built in Johannesburg, South Africa, helping create local jobs and skills.

Samsung hopes to scale the initiative to a million people in Africa by 2015.

The clinics were launched in Cape Town at the 2013 Samsung Africa Forum and are being rolled out by Samsung Electronics Africa (http://www.samsung.com/africa_en/#latest-home) as part of what the company calls a “large-scale medical initiative on the continent”.

The roaming trucks will be staffed by qualified medical professionals and will educate people about the importance of preventive medical screening.

Targeted conditions include diabetes, high blood pressure, tooth decay and cataracts. The clinics will also conduct public health education campaigns about the importance of preventive medicine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preventive_medicine).

“What many see as minor health issues will not only get worse over time, but will affect other aspects of quality of life. The child that cannot see properly cannot learn properly,” said Dr. Mandlalele Mhinga, a member of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (http://nelsonmandelachildrenshospital.org/). “Mobile solutions help address this issue by making medical services accessible to more people in rural areas, and educating them about health care at the same time.”

The mobile clinics hope to reduce the vast difference between the quality of health care available to rural residents and people in urban areas.

Even in countries such as South Africa with the highest level of development in the region, medical care coverage is patchy and unreliable. For those who can afford it, 20 per cent of the population, there are private medical schemes. But everyone else must rely on an over-stretched and under-funded public health sector.

Samsung has based this innovation on its first-hand experience with providing medical services to rural areas in Africa.

“This experience has shown us how desperately medical treatment is needed across the continent, and inspired us to develop a sustainable and innovative solution to reach the people who need it most,” said Ntutule Tshenye, Business-to-Government and Corporate Citizenship Lead for Samsung Africa. “While our CSR (corporate social responsibility) strategy in Africa is largely focused on education, our efforts to enrich lives will not be felt if people’s basic needs, such as access to healthcare, are not met.”

Samsung’s “Built for Africa” product range (http://www.samsung.com/africa_en/africancitizenship/home4.html) also has a wide range of other projects and initiatives to boost health and living standards on the continent. These include education programmes, such as the Samsung Electronics Engineering Academy, Samsung Solar Powered Internet Schools, the Samsung Power Generator, and the Samsung eLearning Centres.

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. is a consumer electronics multinational and employs 227,000 people worldwide.

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: August 2013

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

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All-in-One Solar Kiosk Business Solution for Africa

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Kiosks are ubiquitous throughout commercial areas in the global South. These highly efficient little business outlets enable small-scale entrepreneurs to sell necessary products without the expense of renting and running a shop.

While they are a great solution for entrepreneurs and customers alike, they often lack connection to municipal services such as electricity and water. That means kiosk owners need to use batteries or a generator if they need a refrigerator to cool food and drink – an expensive proposition.

A new product launched this year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia offers a solution.

Created by a team of German architects, the Solarkiosk (solarkiosk.eu) is an autonomous business unit designed for remote, off-grid areas. With solar panels across the top of the kiosk, it generates its own electricity and is basically a mini solar power plant. Inside, it is just like a conventional kiosk, with display shelves for products and a counter in the front with a flap – which can feature advertising and messages – that can be opened up for business and locked shut when the kiosk is closed.

The kiosk captures solar energy and the electricity generated can be used to run a computer, lights or a refrigerator. That makes the Solarkiosk capable of offering a wide range of services needing electricity, from Internet access to car-battery charging and mobile phone recharging – a now essential service as mobile phone use explodes across Africa.

The first kiosk was prototyped in November 2011 and the makers incorporated their first subsidiary, Solarkiosk Solutions PLC, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in March 2012.

According to Solarkiosk 1.5 billion people worldwide have no regular supply of electricity – 800 million of them in Africa. The makers of Solarkiosk consider this a huge market and hope to make the most of it.

The kiosk comes in a kit form ready for assembly. The kit is designed to be easy to transport and is light enough and compact enough to be transported on the back of a donkey, its makers claim.

Solarkiosk operators receive training in running and managing a kiosk. They learn about solar technology and how to maintain the kiosks and run a sustainable business. Once the operators are trained and up and running, they typically hire others to help with running the kiosk and offer the services at convenient times for the customers. The Solarkiosk then, potentially, becomes an income and employment generator for the local community.

The kiosk is designed to be durable, secure and difficult to tamper with from the outside. The kiosks have been designed to suit many environments and requirements. There is a basic platform that can be added to or expanded depending on local needs and a series of models depending on the customer’s needs. Cleverly, the largest kiosk model is powerful enough to provide electricity to telecom towers. This has proven attractive to mobile telephone companies who can power a telecom tower and make money from running the kiosk as well.

The Solarkiosk is especially useful for countries near the equator where nights are long (12 hours) and the kiosk can help people get light to read, study and work.

Solarkiosk is targeting off-grid customers who are using up to 40 per cent of their household income on electricity substitutes. According to Solarkiosk, people in off-grid households collectively spend more every year (US $30 billion) lighting their homes – using candles for example – than do all the people living in electricity grid connected countries (US $20 billion).

Solar technology is becoming more affordable at the same time as demand in developing countries for electricity and the products powered by electricity is on the rise. Mobile phones are now essential tools for doing business and staying connected – and all of them need to be kept charged up.

Solarkiosk believes it can save the average off-grid household US $10 per month, while each kiosk could supply solar electricity services to between 200 and 5,000 households.

For now, Solarkiosk is available in Ethiopia. It is based in Berlin, Germany and receives money from the German government. The kiosks themselves were designed and built by Graft Architects (http://www.graftlab.com).

Resources

1) How to maintain a solar panel. Website:http://www.ehow.com/how_2005490_maintain-solar-panel.html

2) How to start a kiosk business. Website:http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/63012

3) Kiosk Innova: A Turkish pioneer of hi-tech kiosks for retail services. Website:http://www.kioskinnova.com/english

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Southern Innovator was designed and laid out in Iceland using 100% renewable energy, much of which is from geothermal sources. 

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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021