What is the Smart Villages initiative?

The Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre at Cambridge (MCSC), Cambridge Malaysian Education and Development Trust (CMEDT) and the European Academies Science Advisory Council (www.easac.eu) are undertaking a study of sustainable energy for villages ‘off-grid’ in Africa, Asia and Latin America called “Smart Villages.”

The concept of the ‘smart village’ is that energy access acts as a catalyst for development – education, health, food security, productive enterprise, environment and participatory democracy. As such, energy access can provide a much needed driver for sustainable economic development and growth for a major (circa 2 billion people), but neglected, sector of the world’s economy.


Over the next three years work will be undertaken collaboratively with key stakeholders in developing countries to ensure that the initiative is firmly rooted in addressing real-world issues, and achieves effective uptake and impact. International experts in natural and social science, engineering, and the humanities will be brought together with local and regional stakeholders (entrepreneurs, villagers, NGO’s, financers and policy makers etc.) in a series of workshops to develop insightful, bottom-up views of the challenges of village energy provision for development, and how they can be overcome.

Following a scoping study in 2012, a preparatory phase is underway to identify relevant research expertise and to make connections with the relevant policy, NGO and major corporate sectors: all of whom have expressed strong interest in the initiative. It includes a ‘Forward Look’ workshop that was held in Cambridge, UK in January 2014 to identify potential game changing technology developments over the next 10-15 years. A high-level steering group has been established to guide the initiative.

The Swedish National Science Academy, the International Science Program, and the Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences, together with the national science academies of Tanzania and Kenya, and the African network of academies, NASAC, will collaborate on the first workshop in Tanzania in June 2014.

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