Wipro Services, an Indian software firm, and Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, recently launched their second annual ‘Innovation Tournament’. It challenged innovators from around the world to compete for a total of $40,000 in cash prizes. From some 160 submissions, forty four teams made it to the semi-finals and were asked to submit video presentations. From those, the top fourteen entrants were invited to Philadelphia in April to present their ideas to a panel of judges made up of academics and industry leaders.
The Grand Prize went to EGG-energy (Engineering Global Growth) for their battery-swapping service in Tanzania. ‘About 500 million people in Africa live without access to electricity. In Tanzania, 90% of the population has no electricity even though 80% live within three miles of the grid. High grid connection fees and lack of infrastructure funding make access difficult. So, to power lights and charge small devices like cell phones, most low-income households in Tanzania rely on kerosene, AA batteries or even car batteries – methods that can be expensive, dangerous and bad for the environment.’
EGG-energy has offered a solution to Tanzania’s electricity shortage by offering clean, rechargeable 12-volt batteries that households can rent for an annual subscription fee. The batteries, about the size of a brick, are enough to power the typical Tanzanian household for about a week. “We install our customers’ home electrical system, we charge the batteries, we swap batteries and we distribute batteries to swapping stations for more distant customers,” explains Rhonda Jordan a company representative.
The company also offers complementary appliances including light bulbs, cell phone chargers and radio adapters. Over time, customers save up to 53% in energy costs. So far, the small for-profit company has brought electricity to 2,000 people with a single charging station and eight employees. The goal by 2015 is to have 9,000 customers and $7.2 million in revenue. Thank you Susan Fennell for this – Editor