The importance of cell phones in many rural areas in Africa is increasing with more and more people starting to rely heavily on them. However, a limited access to he power grid, makes it difficult to have the life-saving device constantly charged.
In addition, in many of these areas, charging a mobile phone could be a luxury, especially considering that there are many who live on less than a dollar a day.
An incredible innovation tested in Uganda, however, could provide a cheap solution to the problem. A solar power station, which is activated by a text message, at the price of this text message, allows people to charge their cell phone for 1.5 hours. Although one text might not be sufficient to fully charge a phone, the difference in pricing is huge.
The solar power station is called Buffalo Grid. It is fitted with a 60-watt solar panel and travels on the back of a bicycle. If the station is fully charged, it can provide enough power for 50 or 60 cells for a period of three to four days. An LED light indicates that a text message is received.
Daniel Becerra from Buffalo Grid hopes that cell phone carriers will support the innovation. His argument is that instead of paying for charging, people will be paying for usage.
The trial is going to expand to other African countries, such as Sierra Leone, where paying bills using the cell phone is a very common and necessary practice amongst farmers.
A final question: what if the battery runs dead, and you can’t send an SMS?