I am an economics/finance major with professional experience working at Intel Corporation and over ten years running businesses and social projects. Born originally in Peru, I have lived, worked and studied in Chile, the US, England, Germany and Spain. I am very interested in open technology for development, open collaborative spaces, open innovation for social and environmental causes, and skillsharing thru co-creation.
Thanks to all the experts for the feedback provided! In response to some of the issues raised, here is some more information about the project. Regarding the specific communities where we will test this idea, we have contacts with Inti Killa, an NGO which works with rural off grid communities in the Andes of Peru. The are implementing solar energy kits, which are not as affordable or as repairable, so it will be a good opportunity to offer a better alternative. We have also contacts at Nakivale refugee camp in Uganda where a makerspace has been set up for refugees to learn skills. Why nobody has yet done something like this, we think it´s because most finished solar powered products developed for low income settings are built as a black box to reduce the lifetime of the products to increase sales. In the case of solar systems, the battery is the component that has a shorter life, just by making the battery replaceable with standard sized battery models it would make the products better. Also many of the companies selling solar powered products developed their products several years ago, when the cost of the components was still higher or there was less availability. Solar panel technology, LED lights and batteries will continue improving and decreasing in costs. About the lifecycle of the products, in the long run recycling batteries would be ideal, however we recognize the limitations of recycling facilities in developing countries. The materials of the cases are produced with ABS plastics that are recyclable. About distribution, the idea is to create a micro entrepreneurial opportunity so that local small technicians can set up systems or that young people can learn the basic skills, the most simple systems could be set up by anyone. About getting user feedback we have done tests with the simplest system (Solar light bulb), as this is the lowest cost and easier to implement product, which also works similar to a normal light bulb, except for the small panel and replaceable batteries that most users are already familiar with.
If needed we can explain these points further. Again, many thanks for the feedback provided.
Dear Anne, yes! communications is also another application that can be powered up by DIY solar systems. I visited your submission, It would be great if you can share with us the power requirements to estimate the size of a system. It will be a very interesting joint exercise. Thanks! Mauricio