A solar-powered mobile phone created by telecommunications company Safaricom and Kenya’s Mobitelea Ventures is providing a solution to some Kenyans not having access to electricity. The phone is only about $18 and has its own solar charger, so it never needs to be plugged into the main sources of electricity.
Only about five percent of people living in rural areas there have access to electricity. In urban areas, the number is much higher at 51%, but that means nearly half do not have electricity. Kenya’s solar potential is high, with most areas receiving six hours of direct sunlight per day. However, solar technology is too expensive for most Kenyans, and there isn’t enough knowledge of how such systems work within the population.
Getting connected to the main electrical grid system can cost $600. Poor people living in rural and urban areas can’t afford this service fee, so they do without electricity, which means a mobile phone recharged by the sun fits their needs perfectly.
“It is a brilliant innovation. It meets environmental goals and also deals with problems linked to increasing power outages in the country,” said Michael Odera, director of the climate change office in Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources. The solar phone is also made of recycled electronics, so it is environmentally friendly.
Without access to electricity, some rural residents must walk to a town to charge their mobile phones. There are over 17.5 million mobile phone users in Kenya, but just 1.3 million are connected to the national electrical grid. Having a phone is a necessity for business, job hunting, personal safety, and staying socially connected.
In the Digital Age, not having electricity means people are cut off from Web access, and therefore are unable to connect to the greatest information network in human history.
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