Innovative Combinations of Energy and ICT

The dot-ORG program is working to expand ICT access in three ways: by helping to create financially sustainable public access points to ICT, by expanding the coverage of Internet access, and by helping to create a large number of trained users. Ensuring a reliable supply of electricity is a prerequisite to the achievement of these objectives. On a broader scale, promotion of electricity and ICT infrastructure buildout and market development are both critical components of efforts to achieve long-term, sustainable access to ICTs for geographically and economically marginalized populations in the developing world.

Winrock International is implementing three pilot projects that take an integrated approach to expanding ICT and energy access under its subagreement with the dot-ORG program. These three pilot projects are further described in this article.

Expanding Access to ICT Through a Sustainable Electrification Model – PRISMA
This pilot project proposes the integration of Internet services in a decentralized rural electrification model designed for isolated Amazonian communities in Brazil.

Most of the young participants in the digital inclusion workshop had never used a computer before With the support of USAID/Brazil, Winrock developed an innovative, integrated model that addresses stumbling blocks that have hampered efforts to provide energy to villagers far from the electric grid. This model, called "PRISMA", establishes community ownership and management of local infrastructure, such as power generating stations, while strengthening small local enterprises that then use the infrastructure for productive uses, raising incomes.

Winrock’s PRISMA program has installed a run-of-river micro-hydro power (MHP) facility to provide the community with 50kW of installed power, with the option of installing another 50kW at a later date. Power is being distributed via a mini-grid, and is governed under simplified contracts between the community and the electric utility, CELPA.

The community association is responsible for operating the MHP, the mini-grid distribution network, and for providing commercial support services to CELPA, such as energy meter reading and distributing energy bills. The community's remoteness and isolation, however, are important constraints, making communications with the electric utility and others very difficult. dot-ORG support will help address this constraint.

The telecenter planned for Cachoeira do Aruã under this dot-ORG project will play an important role in facilitating the relationship between the community association and CELPA, by providing a communications link over which commercial information such as energy meter readings can be transmitted, and technical support services requested.

In May 2006, Winrock and its partner, Projeto Saúde & Alegria, held the first Digital Inclusion workshop at Cachoeira do Aruã with twenty youths. It was the first contact with computers for most of the students. Cachoeira do Aruã is an Amazon village located half way between Manaus and Belém, a ten-hour boat ride from the nearest city. The participants’ first experience was to type their name at the computer, which they spent a whole morning in line to be able to do. In response to this initial exposure, local association members asked for the provision of an IT training course. The expenses of this workshop were covered by Projeto Saúde & Alegria as part of its commitment to cost sharing.

The computers and VSAT equipment for the telecenter were installed during the month of August, when organizers held a second IT workshop. During the months of August and September, the project has been holding a series of IT training courses for the whole community and specifically for the local association members. Training topics include introduction to various applications such as Microsoft Windows, Word, and Excel; HTML; access to online banking services; management/accountancy options; entrepreneurship/business planning; and energy meter reading and billing.

Solar-Powered ICT for Ecotourism and Environmental Monitoring in the Panama Canal Watershed

This project addresses the economic needs of a small Wounaan Indian village while promoting monitoring of the health of the environment in a critical watershed area. San Antonio is a small community of about 50 persons that attracts a handful of mostly American and European ecotourists who arrive by boat for a few hours of guided jungle walks and village tours including the production and sale of handcraft items. The village is located within the critical Panama Canal Watershed, vital to the operation of the Panama Canal, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually for the government of Panama.

This pilot project will set up a solar-powered information kiosk including a point-to-point WiFi connection as an addition to the existing community center.

Georgia: Promoting Energy Efficient Product Distribution through ICT Access

This pilot will train young entrepreneurs in the former Soviet republic of Georgia in the use of an online B2B portal to facilitate the development of distribution channels for energy efficient building materials and products throughout the country.

This pilot project explores the use of an online B2B portal to strengthen the distribution network for energy efficient products and renewable energy systems in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The project has a special emphasis on combating youth unemployment, by focusing on training regional entrepreneurs under age 35.

During the first month of activities the project conducted a brief market survey to identify appropriate training locations and trainees. The market survey consisted of interviews with 25 commercial organizations in the regions of Imereti, Guria, Aspindza and the capital city Tbilisi. Interviewees included both distributors of Renewable Energy (RE)and Energy Efficient (EE) products and potential customers such as rural manfucaturers. The market survey was informed by a 2005 Market Assessment of SME Activities in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Georgia completed by Winrock for the IFC/GEF.

The main factors identified in the survey as impacting the distribution and sale of RE/EE products were:
  • Lack of information about RE/EE issues available to businesses and consumers
  • Rising electricity prices resulting in increased pressure to reduce consumption
  • Non-conducive tax policy
  • Low income levels of the population
A number of opportunities for the development of the B2B web site were identified. For example, several months ago the government started to extend gas pipelines in the regions of Guria and Kutaisi. Previously, these regions used electricity for water and space heating. Gas supply will bring in a new business opportunity in these regions – demand for gas boilers. However, inhabitants need information on how to choose, size and install boilers to reach maximum energy efficiency and manage their future heating costs.

Other needs identified in the survey that could be provided by the B2B web site to draw users to the site included information about product specifications, interactive energy cost calculators, comparison of standard product prices to EE product prices, tutorials on different kinds of products, and other resources to help customers in the purchasing of EE products.

Following the completion of the market survey and analysis of the results, training workshops were held in Kutaisi (Imereti) and Ozurgeti (Guria). The final workshop in Akhalkalaki is scheduled for later in the month. Unfortunately, due to the timing of the workshops in August - when temperatures in the largely non-air conditioned region rose up to 45 degrees celsius – attendance was lighter than expected as many people had left the region for vacations along the Black Sea coast and other, cooler areas. Each workshop was conducted over the course of four days and attended by 12 participants.

The B2B web site owner attended each workshop for one day in order to conduct market research. The workshops raised awareness of the resources for accessing RE/EE product information on the internet as an integral part of the trainings. In Kutaisi, the workshop was held in room with internet connection in a university building. In Ozurgeti, participants met in an Internet Café after a workshop session for a live demonstration of available resources.

For More Information, Contact:
Michael Tetelman
Director, dot-ORG, Academy for Educational Development
Tel: (202) 884-8856

Rebecca Mayer
Program Associate, Winrock International
Tel: 703-525-9430

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Core funding for the DOT-COM Alliance is provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture & Trade, Office of Infrastructure and Engineering (EGAT/OI&E), Office of Education (EGAT/ED), and Office of Women in Development (EGAT/WID), under the terms of Award numbers: GDG-A-00-01-00009-00, dot-GOV; GDG-A-00-01-00014-00, dot-ORG; GDG-A-00-01-00011-00, dot-EDU.
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