Leapfrogging Technology: The Telecommunication Model

July 22, 2012

Nice video by Cisco illustrating the way telecommunications, cell phone, and internet technology are taking hold in the developing world by the process of “leapfrogging” – no need to wait for 100 years of heavy infrastructure and transmission development – do not pass go, go directly to the 21st century.

What this has to do with climate, is that the majority of the action in the coming century in energy development, will be in the developing world.  Solar energy in particular, as I’ve mentioned many times here, is the ideal, quintessential leapfrog technology. The template is there – it’s happening now.

Bloomberg:

On a January evening, Anand is shelling betel nuts by the light of an electric lamp in Halliberu, his village in India’s Karnataka state.

As his friends gather on the lamp-lit porch to swap stories, children play in the yard, Bloomberg Markets reports in its May issue. Inside, after decades of cooking in the dark, Anand’s mother prepares the evening meal while a visiting neighbor weaves garlands of flowers.

In October, Bangalore-based Simpa Networks Inc. installed a solar panel on Anand’s whitewashed adobe house along with a small metal box in his living room to monitor electricity usage. The 25-year-old rice farmer, who goes by one name, purchases energy credits to unlock the system via his mobile phone on a pay-as-you-go model.

When his balance runs low, Anand pays 50 rupees ($1) — money he would have otherwise spent on kerosene. Then he receives a text message with a code to punch into the box, giving him about another week of electric light.

When he pays off the full cost of the system in about three years, it will be unlocked and he will get free power.

Before the solar panel arrived, Anand lit his home with kerosene lamps that streaked the walls with smoke and barely penetrated the darkness of the village, which lacks electrification. Twice a week, he trudged 45 minutes to a nearby town just to charge his phone.

“Things are much easier now,” Anand says, describing how he used to go through 5 liters (1 gallon) of fuel a month, almost half of it bought from the black market at four times the price of government kerosene rations. “There was never enough.”

Anand is on the crest of an electricity revolution that’s sweeping through power markets and threatening traditional utilities’ dominance of the world’s supply.

From the poorest parts of Africa and Asia to the most- developed regions in the U.S. and Europe, solar units such as Anand’s and small-scale wind and biomass generators promise to extend access to power to more people than ever before. In the developing world, they’re slashing costs in the process.

Across India and Africa, startups and mobile phone companies are developing so-called microgrids, in which stand- alone generators power clusters of homes and businesses in places where electric utilities have never operated.

In Europe, cooperatives are building their own generators and selling power back to the national or regional grid while information technology developers and phone companies are helping consumers reduce their power consumption and pay less for the electricity they do use.

‘Power to the People’

The revolution is just beginning, says Jeremy Rifkin, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of The Third Industrial Revolution (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Disruptive to the economic status quo, the transformation opens up huge opportunities to consumers who may find themselves trading power in the future much as they swap information over the Internet today, he says.

“This is power to the people,” says Rifkin, who was once best known as a leading opponent of the Vietnam War.

7 Responses to “Leapfrogging Technology: The Telecommunication Model”


  1. […] Nice video by Cisco illustrating the way telecommunications, cell phone, and internet technology are taking hold in the developing world by the process of “leapfrogging” – no need…  […]

  2. Terry Moran Says:

    Nice article, but the author should have checked the number of liters/gal.

    Terry

    • rwpikul Says:

      Is saying 1 gal rather than 1.1 gal really much of a deal?

      (Remember, the Imperial gallon is 4.55 liters.)


  3. […] Nice video by Cisco illustrating the way telecommunications, cell phone, and internet technology are taking hold in the developing world by the process of “leapfrogging” – no need to wait for 100 years of heavy infrastructure and transmission development – do not pass go, go directly to the 21st century.  […]


  4. […] If the whole United States went dark, would we do something to address our dependence on centralized power and an aging grid? In the third world, the leapfrogging has already begun. […]


  5. […] to be extended to rural areas, as we once did in the developed world.  The technology exist to Leapfrog into the 21st century, and a new generation of entrepreneurs is seizing […]


  6. […] kommer direkte inn i stuen. Gjennom små firma og hjelpeprogram har flere tusen hjem i India fått tilgang til solcellepanel. Sosialt entreprenørskap er viktig for utviklingen, men statlig tilrettelegging er også […]


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