If you were to pick a social invention with greatest bang-for-buck value, you might plump for a solar lamp. These cheap simple devices are life-changing because they’re relatively cheap, simple to use, and have so many knock-on benefits for communities that have traditionally used kerosene lamps and candles.
This nicely made film comes via Great Lakes Energy, a solar supplier in East Africa, and the Global Brightlight Foundation, U.S. nonprofit that developed a lightweight lamp powered with a portable solar panel. It focuses on the Kiziba Refugee Camp in Rwanda and shows how 3,700 households there have benefited from the technology.
Take a look for yourself:
In it, a woman can walk safely to the bathroom, without fear of falling down or being assaulted. A family has more food to eat because it doesn’t have to sell maize to buy candles. A man can charge up his phone without paying someone 100 Rwandan francs for the privilege. Kids can study. Families can eat an evening meal together.
More to the point, solar lamps are better for the environment and personal health. They don’t cause fires and they don’t give off fumes that cause illness. And they’re economical. Global Brightlight estimates they’re 100 times more efficient than a hurricane lantern.
Though we still need better ways to recycle solar panels when they die, solar maps are already a godsend in many places, and we’re only really at the beginning of their potential. Once the technology improves–as it’s doing all the time–the advantages to remote communities will only grow further.