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A Volunteer Experience: Bringing affordable energy to the village through technology

SOCAP October 12, 2012

This blog post was written by a SOCAP12 Volunteer. SOCAP12 was possible with the help of 100+ volunteers!
What a stellar panel. On the first afternoon of SOCAP 2012, Niki Armacost from Arc Finance facilitated a conversation highlighting the development of companies that support the use of mobile technologies to increase access to energy. The panel included Miguel Granier from Invested Development, Michael MacHarg from Simpa Networks, Megan Beck from Acumen Fund, and Corina Gardner from GSMA Development Fund. The room was filled with an engaged audience of aspiring entrepreneurs and guests interested in learning more about this emerging space.
Miguel eloquently explained the power of the cellphone, a two way communication device allowing efficient and effective communication between people across the world. The cell phone is an enabling technology that can address so many different market failures and energy is a huge focus today, an issue affecting 3-4b people globally. When the energy problem is solved, it will bring the world that much closer to solving numerous other market failures. Problems like education and transportation become much easier to address with access to energy.
The panel was supremely educational to those of us less well-versed in this space. I learned that…
– “Pay as you go” models allow access to energy and other goods for those who can’t afford to pay upfront.
– Once mobile energy products are in-market, they provide data on how people are actually using energy. This is a unique by-product and can help product developers get a better sense of the energy landscape and iterate and improve their products over time.
– One of the big obstacles is a lack of trust between constituents. The customer doesn’t trust the micro-grid operation, the micro-grid operator doesn’t trust the customer to pay, etc. The introduction of technology can bring some objectivity to the market and help to build out that trust among people.
Many new social enterprises are emerging in this space. Keep your eyes peeled!

Impact Investing / Social Entrepreneurship / Sustainable Development
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