Off the grid communities lack clean water and energy. Being at the base of the pyramid, they are often not seen as interesting potential customers. So they spend a lot of money on dirty kerosene, candles and batteries, and they have to drink water that is polluted.
Our small, rugged and mobile unit uses solar energy to charge battery packs that people can use to light their homes and charge their phones. The solar panels also power a water purification system inside the box, so our customers also receive 20 liters of purified water per day. They only pay $0.18 per recharge. We can reach 2000 people with one box. The modular set up of the OffGridBox means that we can add a WiFi hotspot or a desalination unit.
We aim to provide our services to rural off the grid communities. We especially focus on women: we train and employ 4 women managers per box, so we add to women empowerment too.
Mission and Vision
We want to bring affordable clean water and renewable energy to anyone, anywhere. Our solution contributes to the achievement of 8 different SDGs, including SDG 6 (Clean Water) and SDG 7 (Renewable Energy).
The most important aspect of the innovation is the fact that the OffGridBox meets two basic needs with one integrated unit: lack of electricity and lack of clean water. For a modest down payment, our clients receive a power bank, 3 LED lights, a phone charging set and a 5 liter jerrycan. They come to the box, which is located next to the water source that people already use, whenever they need to recharge their power bank and are in need of clean water, and they only pay $0.18 each time; this can be done through mobile money. Alternatively, delivery services (creating additional employment) are used to distribute the recharged battery packs and the purified water.
We train and employ 4 women managers per box, who do the daily distribution, and are in charge of maintenance. They receive a good salary and a bonus when they reach the targets set for recharging frequency.
Our box can also power WiFi hotspots, or even a small telecom tower, adding to connectivity in the villages.
We have a remote monitoring system and app, which we designed ourselves, and which can monitor customer and technical data, but it can also predict when maintenance issues will come up.
It is different from other approaches and provides a more effective solution in several ways. First, it uses solar energy to provide both clean water and power (instead of either/or), and therefore helps to meet two basic needs. Second, it is mobile, so it can quickly be brought in, and taken out again when there is no longer a need. Third, it is modular, so other services can be added, like a desalination unit, a WiFi hot spot or a small telecom tower, to also provide connectivity services to our customers.
Our solution can be easily scaled up, because there is a business model behind it. The threshold for buying our services is low, so many rural households can afford the modest fee for clean water and energy. We are using impact investors to pre-finance the boxes and revenues will pay back the investment plus interest. Alternatively, the box is leased by NGOs or international agencies. Maintenance/management is always done by local business partners/NGOs.
Planned Goals and Milestones
We want to improve our model which includes a desalination unit, so we can increase the production of purified and desalinated water per box. We are also looking into adding a micro-grid to our set up.