… My heart’s in Accra Ethan Zuckerman’s online home, since 2003

July 25, 2008

Incremental ideas: solar-powered GSM towers

Filed under: Africa,Developing world,Geekery — Ethan @ 6:34 pm

I wrote a bit last year about the idea of “incremental infrastructure“. Basically, the idea is that there might be a future for infrastructure projects in Africa that build small pieces of infrastructure and either join them together, or simply make a profit serving a local community. One of the major vectors proposed was working with mobile phone companies to build power infrastructure, an idea stolen shamelessly from the brilliant Russell Southwood.

Russell gets credit for tipping me off to today’s incrementalism link: an announcement by Indian telecoms vendor VNL that they’ve developed a solar-powered, battery back up low power GSM tower. These towers won’t provide enough excess power that they can sell energy to local villages – which is what Russell and I had proposed companies might start doing with diesel generators, but they’ll certainly be more environmentally friendly than diesel generators, and they point to both the increasing practicality of photovoltaic generation in sub-Saharan Africa, and the value of designing products specifically for difficult infrastructure markets.

5 Comments

  1. […] It is about solar powered GSM towers – the link: an announcement by Indian telecoms vendor VNL that they’ve developed a solar-powered, battery back up low power GSM tower. [Snippet taken from here] […]

    Pingback by ICT4D.at / Solar powered GSM towers Remote / Rural Areas — July 28, 2008 @ 4:59 am

  2. […] Solar-powered GSM towers (Ethan Zuckerman) […]

    Pingback by Mobile Phones and Global Health Link Drop « Technology, Health & Development — July 28, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

  3. […] via Ethan Zuckerman […]

    Pingback by Solar Powered GSM Towers | Thesis Blog — July 29, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

  4. […] Ethan Zuckerman and WorldChanging. Image is from VNL’s […]

    Pingback by Solar-powered cellphone towers — July 30, 2008 @ 4:50 pm

  5. I think solar power is a great idea for Africa. Particularly in light of the fact that there is not electricity available there and in many ways, wind and solar is a lot easier to implement. Furthermore, the rest of the world is already producing so much pollution. Africa should be able to benefit from grid power just as much as the West – but without adding another US-sized or China-sized load of toxins to the already overwhelmed planet.

    Comment by Anna — November 21, 2008 @ 3:09 am

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