If you tried hard, you could probably create a slightly pained metaphor about Nelson Mandela being a bringer of light during his remarkable lifetime. I’m not going to go down that route, but it would be fitting to describe the fact that Net1 Mobile Solutions is giving away 2 000 of its solar-powered lanterns to celebrate Mandela Day today.

The lanterns are Net1’s own design, which it’s dubbed the Sun-e-Light, and they’re being distributed via a school in Pretoria today in partnership with Jacaranda FM and the Mandela Day Bikers. The lanterns include USB ports for charging mobile devices and a torch, and have a separate solar panel for mounting on a roof to maximise charging time during the day.

Net1 Mobile’s MD Philip Belamant says that the firm is planning to launch a second generation of the lantern soon, which will have a SIM card, WiFi router and Bluetooth transceiver built-in. When that’s ready, people will be able to buy the Sun-e-Light  by ordering from a USSD service on their phone, and the firm is also talking to partners about selling them through mobile networks and retail outlets.

Belamant says that Net1 also wants to distribute an as yet undecided number of lanterns for free every month as part of a CSI project currently being planned. The exact mechanics are still being worked on, but he says that the firm is looking at the project as a way of increasing broadband connectivity in disadvantaged communities.

Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.