Solar Wi-Fi lamps to connect rural areas

 In In the Press, Social Responsibility

South African-based technology company Net1 Mobile Solutions is preparing to roll out the Sun-e-light, a solar-powered lamp which also functions as a mobile phone charger and a wi-fi hotspot, as part of a corporate social responsibility project aimed at opening up the digital world to people in rural areas.

Chief Marketing Officer José Carlos Da Silva Soares, in a recent interview with SAinfo, said the concept of the Sun-e-light had evolved as the company looked into ways of providing connectivity to rural communities not linked to the electricity grid.

“We began talks with a production company in China which specialises in producing simple yet innovative products to produce a prototype [of the Sun-e-light] for us, which has now been refined and tested over a period of two years,” Soares said.

The result is a lamp with a 3G-enabled modem which acts as a wireless router that can be accessed via Wi-Fi and potentially even Bluetooth. Soares said the lamp, which takes eight hours to charge and provides a battery life of up to 16 hours, will be rolled out to communities “in most need of solar lighting and connectivity. We will roll out 2 000 lamps initially, with more to follow once we have an idea of demand.

“We are trying to make acquiring a lamp as easy as possible, and have thus enabled features on our USSD [unstructured supplementary services data] platforms that permit people to request a lamp directly from their mobile phone.”

Soares said the company will make use of the Net1 group’s countrywide distribution network to deliver the lamps as close as possible to the consumer’s location. Net1 Mobile Solutions is a subsidiary of JSE- and Nasdaq-listed Net1 UEPS Technologies.

“Accessibility and connectivity will enable these communities to better themselves and those around them, and this can ultimately lead to a hugely positive spin-off effect,” Soares said, adding: “Our particular focus leans towards learners, entrepreneurs, vendors and job seekers.”

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