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The flick of a switch - electricity & poverty

 

In this guest post, Daniel Choudhury from e.quinox outlines the importance of electricity in fighting poverty - and innovative student-developed solution to help give some of the world's poorest greatest access. We met Daniel and his team at a 1.4 Billion Reasons presentation in London - and were inspired by he and his group's commitment as everyday people, to doing what they could.

You will probably agree that turning on a light is no big deal. A simple flick of a switch, one most unconscious movement of the hand, and the darkness of the night is effectively eliminated.

For a staggering 1.4 billion people across the globe, however, this simple equation does not apply. The reason: No access to electricity, and therefore no means to produce light other than by open fire, oil, gas or kerosene. On top of commonly unaffordable prices, these light sources bear a variety of health impacts that can range from simple burns to chronic diseases.

The non-profit, humanitarian organization e.quinox endeavors to solve the challenge of rural electrification in developing countries. By developing a solution that is technically viable, financially sustainable and replicable on a large scale, the entirely student-run team from Imperial College London hopes to be able to spread their idea in as many countries as possible. Their vision is to give a large number of remote communities access to electricity, by having other organizations, governments and charities take up their “blue-print” and tailor it to their own respective needs, whilst calling upon the expertise of e.quinox and like-minded organizations.

e.quinox’s model to provide affordable and safe electricity is simple, yet unique. It relies on a centralized power generation hub, the so-called “Energy Kiosk”, and decentralized distribution via battery boxes. The Energy Kiosks are flexible in the sense that they can be powered in a multitude of ways. Current installations include Solar Power or Hydro Power, and one Kiosk is even grid-connected – the use of appropriate technology is key. The battery boxes, supplied each with an LED light and a light holder, also contain the same 230V AC output as any ordinary socket and can be recharged after depletion. Benefiters of e.quinox’s solution can therefore not only use the battery for lighting, but are also able to charge their mobile phones and shavers or power small radios. This allows e.quinox’s current 400 customers in three different Rwandan villages to set up or expand their own businesses. e.quinox strongly believes that the empowerment of the local economy and the instigation of entrepreneurial spirit are key elements to effectively reduce poverty.

Roger Liew, Chairman of e.quinox, illustrates: “Even when a national electric grid is nearby, people in developing countries often can’t gain any access to it, simply because of the high initial and running costs that a connection typically entails. Our system, however, is made economically affordable by undermining the price that our customers would have to pay for alternative, more hazardous lighting solutions. This payment can be made either on a monthly basis or for every single recharge, allowing customers to choose the best suitable model for their own demand.”

Once an individual kiosk’s financial sustainability has been proven, it will be handed over to the local community or government, creating a situation whereby the supported communities no longer have to rely on external support. This financial independence is often overlooked by humanitarian aid ventures, but vital to any community’s long-term development. In essence, this idea of a ‘social business’ allows this form of humanitarian work not to be simple short-term assistance, but to have a prolonged effect and to allow communities to help themselves.

e.quinox is currently competing in the JP Morgan Give-It-Away contest to secure $50,000 for future projects. The competition can only be won through votes from the public, so give e.quinox your support by going to http://www.e.quinox.org/vote and selecting e.quinox as the organization of your choice! Don’t keep this link to yourself either, share it with your friends, families and colleagues! The e.quinox team is grateful for every bit of support and affirms to make every single penny count.

 

Comments

27/04/11 2:53am - Posted By A secret admirer - Reply to this comment
Your project and dedication to this cause is inspiring - keep up the good work! I believe that your concept could potentially could be a scalable option towards electrification and poverty reduction.
27/04/11 5:28am - Posted By Daniel - Reply to this comment
Appreciate your kind words! Means a lot to us. You can follow more about our project through our facebook group: facebook.com/equinoximperial

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