Power to the people!

11 December 2019 | Local News

Residents of Okalevona location at Oniipa are the beneficiaries of free electricity and Wi-Fi, thanks to Finnish research project Fusion Grid, which aims to find alternatives to traditional electricity and network solutions in remote areas.

This is a pilot project and will provide enough electricity for five households. The free Wi-Fi is accessible to the entire community.

The solar panels were supplied by Finnish company Salo Solar and store electricity in batteries that can be used for basic electrical needs such as charging cellphones, watching television, ironing and cooking.

Fusion Grid is a joint research project by three Finnish universities, Aalto University, LUT University and University Properties of Finland, in partnership with Green Energy Finland and Nokia, through its Kuha mobile network.

Locally the partner is the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust).

This pilot project was launched at Oniipa last weekend.

Town CEO Junias Jacob said Okalevona residents finally have electricity and free Wi-Fi, courtesy of the project, which has initially connected five households. By December 2020 a decision will be made on expanding the project.

“The free Wi-Fi connection will benefit the entire community of Okalevona,” Jacob said.

The pilot system has 12 solar panels that charge lithium-ion batteries which store energy for the night.

They are connected to a Nokia 4G LTE base station in order to provide better digital services. The range of the 4G base station is two kilometres, and according to estimates, the system can be used to control the SIM cards of 600 simultaneous users. Marko Nieminen, a professor at Aalto University's department of computer science, said Fusion Grid relies on the notion that once electricity and telecommunication connections are introduced in small communities in poor countries, they will not only improve the quality of life of local people, but also enable a new type of entrepreneurship to emerge, with the aid of digital services.

“One goal of the pilot is to find out what types of possibilities electricity, the internet, and digital services can bring to these areas. We are not trying to guess what kinds of business could be profitable for locals, but rather provide the tools and technical platform for them,” Nieminen says.

“Creating new employment opportunities is also important for ensuring that there are enough investors for the infrastructure after the actual research project, so that similar technology could be introduced in new areas. No one will finance something they know will not pay itself back.”

The pilot project will provide researchers with an opportunity to collect valuable information about user experiences.

ILENI NANDJATO

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