Tuesday, September 4, 2007

1 million dollars if you let me sleep with your country...

Remember that post a while back about 9-volts not saving the world?

Remember the inventiveness of the children of Guinea?

Well, the World Bank Group is trying to shake things up in the $38 billion (B!) fuel-based global lighting market with a new design competition.

Fancy yourself the Bono of bulbs? Then why not register and compete in Lighting Africa!

From their website:

Lighting Africa is a World Bank Group initiative aimed at providing up to 250 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa with access to non-fossil fuel based, low cost, safe, and reliable lighting products with associated basic energy services by the year 2030.

Currently, 1.7 billion people worldwide are without electricity. The problem is most acute in Sub-Saharan Africa where over 500 million people presently lack modern energy, with rural electricity access rates as low as 2%.

Among the poorest of the poor, lighting is often the most expensive item among their energy uses, typically accounting for 10-15% of total household income. Yet, while consuming a large share of scarce income, fuel based lighting provides little in return.

New advancements in lighting technology, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs), promise clean, portable, durable, lower cost, and higher quality lighting. The challenge is to make these products accessible to the half billion "energy poor" in Africa. With expenditures on fuel based lighting estimated at US$38 billion annually, the potential exists to engage the international lighting industry in this new market area, while serving consumers, bolstering local commerce, creating jobs, enhancing incomes, cleaning the air, and improving health, safety, and quality of life.

Plus, their little satellite image of Africa at night is pretty cool. I think I can see my house.

So back to the previous posts....

A recipe for winning the Lighting Africa competition (I love the recipe schtick...creative gold...if you ever hear one at a wedding reception, duck and cover).

1) Take the best invention ever created
2) Fold in half a cup of Pedal-A-Watt
3) Add a dash of ingenuity with William Kamkwamba and others
4) Toss in three sprinkles of human powered zero-emissions
5) Encourage technological advancement without pity (I guess that would be considered baking)



Seriously though, does it really take a $200,000 prize to come up with a solution? How much is this problem/will this problem be over-thought until we've blown it up into some abusively researched acrylic monstrosity, decorated to the tilt in Western design stereotypes by people with no understanding of the affecting cultural and socioeconomic norms and traditions of another country?

I'm just frustrated. The designs (typically) have no staying power and never really pan out. If they do, they're implemented with little to no follow-up by an organization that donated the time (see: their name in lights). Parts break, people remain untrained to fix and/or operate the machinery...all goes to waste.

Fortunately, I'm always optimistic that my pessimism is wrong.

Seriously though, check out Afrigadget. There's some amazing stuff there. Check it out already. Go.