Solar Cell Phone for Rural Africa Ditches the Battery, Misses the Mark


Image via Ecofriend

Access to cell phones is quickly becoming a standard in developing nations, however charging cell phones is a different matter. As we know, it can be quite a headache for Africans in rural areas to get their cell phones charged, prompting them to get creative with what resources they have. This is why industrial designer Andrew Williams focused his creative energy on a concept cellphone dubbed the "Communication for Rural Africa." It ditches a battery and relies 100% on solar power, which would make it about 40% less expensive than a standard cell phone. However there are a few points the designer seems to have missed during concept development. First, the obvious. Without a battery, people can only make calls during the day time, when there is enough immediate sunlight. This means a strict limitation in the ability to use a cell phone. Yes, that might make it 40% cheaper, but the inability to use the phone exactly when you want to counters any benefit from a lower price point.

Plus, cheap cell phones isn't really the issue. There are gads of used mobile phones from developed nations that can be - and are being - redistributed to people in developing nations. So creating a new cell phone that doesn't function in the same way as other cell phones - such as is the case with the one-button calling technology - only goes to complicate matters, rather than simplify. In fact, it seems downright wasteful.

And exactly why does it have a single push button, rather than a cell phone number? Solar powered cell phone networks are becoming incredibly common, and are being deployed across Africa and India. Creating a cell phone that functions on a different system is not exactly helpful.

We love the idea of trying to make distribution and use of cell phones as inexpensive and simple as possible for people who need it. But this one seems to really miss the mark in a lot of important ways.

Rather, we like the idea of providing ways of solar charging of re-distributed cell phones, and using solar power for the cell phone network. This seems to get right to the point, and it utilizes technology we already have.

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Tags: Africa | Cell Phones | Concepts & Prototypes | Gadgets | Solar Power