A company based in Cambridge, called Eight19, has announced it is launching a pay-as-you-go solar power. According to their website, 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity. Their system is called IndiGo, which is a personal pay-as-you-go electricity system for the developing world. It is a great thing to be rolling out and I am excited to see it developments. It reminds me of the work of ToughStuff, who have been implementing something very similar, however instead of pay-as-you-go, it is a low-cost solar panel and light at the cost people living on a dollar or two a day can afford. Eight19 is working with SolarAid on this project, which is great to hear that collaboration is happening.
I am excited to hear of solutions that are considering how we can help communities who are currently off the grid to have access to energy, but without the need for the same type of infrastructure. It reminds me of what continues to happen with mobile phones and how many places in Africa have become “connected” to the telephone and internet world, but without the need to build the same landline infrastructure. It is these types of solutions that will breakdown the barriers, for if we wait for governments to build the infrastructure, we will wait forever.
It will be interesting to watch how the launch goes and the lessons learned in the process. It reminds me of the work Water.org is doing in their work to address the access to water problem, but trying to combine it with microfinance in a non-traditional approach.
Now at the same time, I think the notion of paying for basic services raises lots of political issues, especially if it is the poor who are paying. Yet, I know the communities I work with tend to be willing to pay small amounts if it gives them access they didn’t have before. I sense this is the future…