Now that we know … where to find the good electrical supplies … that most of our hardware needs are solved by our favorite little hardware store around the corner … that we should always take a Swahili-speaking fabricator with us, we are beginning to gain real momentum. Not speaking Swahili sucks even though we get along fine with our multilingual colleagues and the patience of many Tanzanians. To our credit, our Swahili gets us on AND off the local “daladala” buses, lunch service from the spot across from work and the ability to buy from and bargain with anyone. Money talks, know your numbers first.
Having a prototype also helps with momentum. Now that Jua1 is functionally complete, our vision is better communicated. People can see with their own eyes what it is and what it does. It fills us with joy to see the employees of ARTI take customers around to our workspace at the back of the office and tell them about juabar. And, it’s not for our benefit. They explain and converse in Swahili and then walk away. We have to explicitly follow up to ask what the person said and thought of the concept. It’s something that people immediately understand as a solution for off-grid communities.
Our team at ARTI feels hopeful about juabar. We would love to get a version out to a far off rural area where people pay 2 to 3 times what people pay in the city to charge their phone, but we will market test nearer to Dar es Salaam first. Although ARTI is willing to test juabar for us, we really want to see these prototypes through some rounds of user feedback. And with less than 5 days until we have to leave, and a mountain of stress to complete Jua2 in time before leaving, we have decided to bite the bullet and extend our stay.
There is still much to learn and test from Jua1 and Jua2. To be honest, we want to be leading this process and we can’t let the prototypes go on without us just yet. Sometimes, when the power is back on, the water is flowing from the taps and the wifi internet works again, you realize how much can be done when everything clicks. This ride is far from over, this segment just needs to be longer, three weeks longer to be exact.