After spending the last few months collecting revenue and user experience data, redesigning the Juabar kiosks based on operator and community feedback and raising funds for implementation, the Juabar team is finally back in full design/build mode on the ground in Tanzania.
I feel a buzz of excitement as we begin to build our next round of prototypes and heightened engagement from local entrepreneurs who are interested in becoming the next Juabar operator. This energy provides a constant source of inspiration and motivation as we focus on the wealth of work we have ahead of us.
Godfrey and I visit ARTI’s new retail solar storefront in the middle of Dar Es Salaam.
We work out of both the ARTI Energy offices in Mbezi beach area as well as KINU, one of Dar’s four tech innovation hubs which serves as a shared office for a variety of local and international programmers, designers and media creators. We are one of only a few teams working on hardware design at KINU which makes it particularly exciting and relevant to be able to share ideas and mutual inspiration with local software developers because in addition to being a small business for local entrepreneurs, Juabar is designed as a source of energy to facilitate these types of connectivity.
The time has never seemed more relevant for designing solutions which bring energy infrastructure for connectivity to local communities in East Africa. For example, the recent Kenyan elections were unable to use digital balloting because the polling stations lost power, forcing them to revert back to paper ballots. The power is out often enough in the center of Dar es Salaam (the largest city in Tanzania) that it is difficult to guarantee internet access yet more and more people are recognizing and talking about ways to educate remote communities via the internet.
Power lines reaching across Mwenge market, one of the busiest hubs in Dar and recipient of at least weekly blackouts.
Digital education platforms may represent a tremendous potential for increasing rural access to education but they none-the-less require a reliable source of electricity to power the mobile phones, tablets and wifi access which connects people to the wealth of information sharing and collaboration that is possible today. East Africa will continue to leap frog existing technologies and take full advantage of the latest available tools– the region is innovating, pushing awareness, and reaching for widespread connectivity. We’re incredibly excited at the opportunity to play a role in powering this movement towards increased access to information, conversation and economic development.