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James van der Walt

Social Entrepreneur, Ugesi Gold

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Level 1 Social Entrepreneur - Gaming principles to solve rural electrification in Africa.

I'm working on a battery charging station social business for rural electrification. A good analogy is that of a water-well. The small utility business (micro-utility) is started by the locals who sell electricity. This serves as the source of electricity (well), which the local community visits with batteries (buckets) for recharging. These battery packs are then taken back home where they can power smaller electrical appliances like lamps, radio, small TV etc.

There's a massive brain drain from the rural areas as young people migrate to the cities where they believe to find a better life. Unfortunately this is not true and millions end in the slums. We have to stop this and I think gaming coupled with social business is the key. If we can make community upliftment projects fun for the locals they will have a higher success rate. Rural electrification fail because there is a lack of ownership and fun. Free electricity does not work. There must be community involvement. Gaming principles might help.

So how can I make this project into a game? I'm hoping you would help me brain storm a bit. Here are some random ideas.
- Get experience points for charging a battery (both for the users and the utility business)
- Achievement for the longest lasting battery
- Once though experience is earned the user can spend points to either get a bigger battery or maybe even his own solar home system.
- Make the utility business money free. Use a trading system as seen in games. Ie. they trade their skills or goods to get electricity. This will help get rid of that notion "I am poor". So put everyone on the same playing field.
- Start organic farm as a source of good to trade. (Goods trading as in WOW)
- Good gathered at the utility can be sold to the cities to stream money back into the community.
- Bring in an auction house so skills can be traded locally?
- Once the rural-utility reach a level they can start another utility. They can maybe share XP as incentive?


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      Mar 25 2013: Very good question Carolyn. Thanks for that.

      Site details: The project is linked to a rural school upliftment initiative around the town of Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Here's the map: http://goo.gl/maps/OghB6 this will give you a feel for the area. It's quite hilly there and huts/houses are widely spread. I think 100m average but I still have to do a full site survey. There are talks of connecting these areas to the national grid but due to the remote location this process could take years and might not be economically feasible. However, it is important to note that an expectation has been set. People might demand the same electricity that the grid could provide even though the batteries will not be able to run large application like stoves and fridges. Marketing will play a pivotal role. I'm thinking of calling the bigger battery packs "TV boxes" and the small ones "Light boxes" so there can be no confusion on their intended use.

      Scope: 3 rural schools are reported to be without electricity and one of these will serve as the prototype micro-utility. Each school serves 50-100 households, so the utility should cater for that many at least. Basic lighting for student students and school electricity is the primary goal though for sustainability entertainment devices like satellite TV will be catered for too.

      Social: The predominant language in the area is Xhosa and soccer is major sport. I will ask more about woman interests when I go stay there next month. Christianity is the major religion in the area.

      Economy: The main income of the area is agriculture but unemployment is high.

      I truly want this to be a woman empowerment venture and as you mentioned the make a logical choice anyway, but this is a long discussion for another post. ;)

      I could send you my full masters proposal if you want. Note that this is a work in progress. Once I've done the study and written my thesis on the matter I want to gather the funds and make this happe

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