Smart Villages Photography Competition 2017 (CLOSED)

How can energy access catalyse rural development around the world?

1.3 billion people in the world, mostly resource-poor and living in rural areas, do not have access to safe, sustainable forms of energy. 3 billion people have to burn biomass to cook their meals, which causes indoor smoke pollution. Because of this pollution, 4 million people, mostly women and children, lose their lives each year.

Extending the electricity grid to provide access to those who lack it is often not feasible since many live in remote and rural communities, which makes it too expensive and technically challenging. Stand-alone, local solutions relying on renewable energy sources, such as solar and mini-hydro, are in these cases often the best solutions.

But access to electricity and cleaner cooking can change people’s lives and help rural communities progress. Especially if that energy is harnessed in combination with other innovative technologies and applications for some form of “productive use” – for example the creation of sustainable local microenterprises, agricultural value addition, the provision of services to the community (e.g., education, clean water, sanitation, healthcare, banking, information/ communications), or by catalysing wider social community benefits such as improved gender equality, empowerment, and democratic engagement.

It is this innovative combination of access to modern, clear energy with productive use and community development that we consider constitutes a rural community or village being “Smart”. We believe the concept of “Smart Villages” serves as a valuable counterpoint to “Smart Cities” for the half of the world’s population (and majority of the world’s poor) who do not live in urban areas, and can help ensure that, although rural populations may be remote, they are no longer disadvantaged by a lack of infrastructure and services.

Smart Villages, an initiative that explores the challenges and opportunities for access to decentralised energy acting as a catalyst for rural development, is holding a global photography competition. Find out more about the Smart Villages initiative at

This competition focuses on how energy access changes the life of rural communities around the world, and the concept of “Smartness” i.e., not just provision of off-grid energy to villages, but how that energy is being used in productive, innovative, and even entrepreneurial ways to achieve sustainable development outcomes for the individuals and communities concerned.


  • US$2000 for the overall winner
  • US$1000 for the runner up
  • Two US$500 prizes for each of the four categories
  • One prize, of US$1000, is reserved for a junior photographer (under 18 years of age).

The winning photographs will be featured by the Smart Villages Initiative in a number of ways, including international exhibitions (particularly at our forthcoming policy workshops), incorporation in Smart Villages publications, and for use on our website and social media.

Photo categories

  1. Productive uses of energy, such as agriculture, manufacturing, services, tourism
  2. Sustainable rural energy for community services and rural development:  health, education, communication, water, sanitation, environmental preservation
  3. Sustainable rural energy and gender (girls and women and boys and men)
  4. Rural energy access and innovation: new technologies, new uses of technology, new solutions to problems, community innovations, etc

Rules and guidelines

  1. Everyone, regardless of nationality, background, age and experience, is welcome to participate and submit up to 3 photographs.
  2. Entering the competition is free.
  3. By submitting their photographs, entrants agree to license them under an Attribution and Share-alike Creative Commons license ( Note in particular that this allows works to be freely used, so long as they are correctly attributed to the entrant. This is applicable to all entries, regardless of whether they are selected for a prize or not.
  4. To enter you must upload your image or images on the website following the instructions on the screen.
  5. Photographs taken with a mobile/cell telephone also qualify, provided their resolution is at least 2 Mb.
  6. The photographs will be assessed on their content, composition, creativity and quality by a team of judges.
  7. The photographs should have been taken in the period between Jan 2016 and April 2017.
  8. Photographs must be submitted as a jpg or tiff files, with a minimum resolution of 2 Mb and no more than 5 Mb, saved in the RGB colour model.
  9. Photographs must be submitted before April 30, and will be judged between May 1 and May 15 2017.
  10. Winners will be notified by email by the end of May 2017. The decision of the judges is final.
  11. By entering the competition, you agree to the terms and conditions. Smart Villages will collect personal information according to its privacy policy.
  12. Entrants must make sure their photographs do not infringe upon the copyrights, trademarks or any other intellectual property rights of any third person or organisation, or violate any person’s rights of privacy or publicity.
  13. Photographs submitted must not contain any offensive, harassing, obscene or defamatory content.
  14. Photographs featuring content solely of commercial nature or promoting specific products and services will be disqualified from the competition.
  15. You must be the author and be the sole owner of submitted images, and you must have the right to make the photographs submitted available to the competition. If you are under 16 years of age, you need to have your parents’ or legal guardian’s consent to participate in the competition. You will need to indicate that you have this consent in your entry.
  16. You must ensure that all the persons depicted in your photographs have granted permission to be portrayed as shown. All the relevant permissions to display any personal property, or props must also be obtained. You will need to confirm that you have any relevant permissions in your competition entry.
  17. Smart Villages reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify and remove any entry that does not comply with the specified requirements at any stage.
  18. You agree to fully indemnify Smart Villages in respect of all royalties, fees and any other monies owing to any person by reason of your breaching any of the foregoing. 
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