Can remote villages have the same opportunities as urban centres? Can rural residents have access to careers, clean water, healthcare, education, productive agriculture and communication—without leaving their villages?
Smart Villages believes that people in remote villages deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. Remote villages are often “off the grid” and do not have a reliable supply of energy for lighting homes, cooking, charging mobile phones, or powering businesses. The energy sources they do have, such as kerosene lamps, are often harmful to their health. The national grid may never reach many of these remote villages, but other solutions exist. We believe that energy access in off-grid communities can change lives—but only if it is implemented for the long-term and includes community involvement and training. And for development to happen sustainably, energy and other technologies must be harnessed for productive use, and for the innovative provision of community-level services (for example health and education), so that community residents are able to access all the basic services they need, despite their physical remoteness. Every village can be a “smart village.”
Smart Villages has provided policy makers, donors and development agencies concerned with rural energy access with new insights on the real barriers to energy access in villages in developing countries – technological, financial and political – and how they can be overcome. We have chosen to focusing on remote off-grid villages, where local solutions (home- or institution-based systems, and mini-grids) are both more realistic and cheaper than national grid extension. Our concern is to ensure that energy access results in development and the creation of ‘smart villages’ in which many of the benefits of life in modern societies are available to rural communities.
In our ongoing work, we aim to partner with others to demonstrate how Smart Villages can be created in a sustainable and community-driven manner, and to evidence how this new holistic rural development paradigm can yield superior, lasting development impacts. We are also committed to investigating innovative technologies that can help deliver some of these integrated development objectives – for example innovative agricultural technology, cold storage, ICT access, remote education and telemedicine.