Motorola is looking to solar energy to solve the problem by building kiosks in Uganda that offer free, solar-powered mobile phone recharge services, according to a recent piece in the New York Times Magazine. Each Motopower kiosk is charged by a 55 Watt inverted solar panel, capable of charging twenty phones simultaneously. The project mainly targets women entrepreneurs in rural areas. While customers wait for their phones to charge, they can also browse and purchase available Motorola handsets and SIM cards from the women.The company is also testing wind- and solar-powered base stations in Namibia, which could help lower the cost of linking remote users to cellular networks. "Originally mobile-phone companies weren't interested in power because it's not their business," Ken Banks, founder of kiwanja.net, a nonprofit that provides free text-messaging software and information-technology support to grass-roots enterprises, mostly in Africa, told the Times. "But if a few hundred million people could buy their phones once they had it, they're suddenly interested in power." :: Via NYT Magazine
While cellular phone use has exploded even in the world's poorest countries, phone companies are finding that reliable electricity is a major barrier to expansion into new markets in regions like Africa. Of course a cellphone is no good if you can't charge the battery with electricity, and in many places where the electricity grid is still nonexistent, the only option is diesel-run generators, which, in addition to polluting and producing CO2 emissions, are costly.