A recent article in the Guardian (“Bright ideas for the developing world: cheaper, superior lighting design“) has highlighted the emerging realization that technology works best when suited to the local context and more often than not, it is the innovative end- user in developing countries who ingeniously adapts off-the-shelf technology.
This understanding has transformed the efforts of simple off-grid lighting solutions designed primarily in Europe and the USA. Similarly, this increased understanding of local needs and context has led to an understanding of the limitations of traditional lighting business models and the development of more flexible models catering to the preferences and constraints of local end users.
This is all incredibly encouraging but the big question is ‘what next?’ The acknowledgement of the need for adequate and innovative off-grid engineering that places the end-user at the centre is an encouraging step in the goal to the UN’s goal to provide energy for all by 2030.
However, now seems an appropriate time to lay down a new challenge, not just to entrepreneurial firms and social enterprises, but also to governments: how to engineer and create feasible business models for similarly innovative systems that are capable of providing enough undisrupted energy for end users to improve agricultural productivity, develop SMEs and experience further gains in health and education?