I recently wrote about a company developing a soccer ball that could harvest enough energy to recharge a mobile phone or power a light in a place where electricity is scarce. Now I've learned of another project that also aims to provide energy in electricity-poor regions, this time targeting mobile-phone recharging through the use of portable micro generators.
The BuffaloGrid Project has based its research on the premise that mobile phones can be a lifeline for people in disadvantaged regions that have no wire telephone service, and is at the heart of economic growth in those regions. However, sometimes even if people in the locations have devices, they don't have ready access to electricity to charge them.
I too was curious why texting was part of this process. It seems that this is the method of payment chosen by the BuffaloGrid people. The customer plugs his phone into the charger, sends a text at a cost of about $0.04, then gets 90 minutes of charge time. The bicycle-mounted charging unit is claimed to be able to charge 30-50 phones a day and able to hold a charge for up to 3 days. Another article about this project claimed that people often travel great distances to find a charging station and that the average cost of a charge is $0.20. If you're only earning a dollar a day, that's a big deal.
As for individual solar panels, BuffaloGrid's site puts it this way: "It’s a 'poverty gap' scenario - people are paying so much money to charge their phones, that they can't afford to buy a solar cell. If only charge was cheaper and closer..."
Rather than sucking money from Africa, this seems like a clever idea to provide a lower cost and more accessible phone charging service, as well as entrepreneurial opportunities in countries that have very high unemployment.
Texting is not a medium of energy transfer - can only be a medium of payment transfer. The article does not say anything about how the energy gets to the phone - obviously the phone has to be left with the charging guy for like an hour or more - so why text? You have to go and meet your guy anyway, why bother to text? Your man can charge you when you meet him....
And individual solar panels cost like 5 quid... So they can afford the phone but not charger?
It all looks like another charity sucking money from Africa. Tabloid article.