Last month, local tech company, Net1 Mobile Solutions  handed out 2 000 solar-powered Sun-e-light lamps in Pretoria for Mandela Day.

Now the company has unveiled an improved design of the lamp (with both WiFi router and Bluetooth connectivity) that it will begin distributing to local rural communities.

The new version of the Sun-e-light lamp has a phone-charging port and 3G-enabled modem which acts as a wireless router that can be accessed via WiFi and even Bluetooth. The lamp takes around eight hours to charge and lasts for up to 16 hours on a single charge.

“We began talks with a production company in China which specialises in producing simple yet innovative products to produce a prototype of the Sun-e-light for us, which has now been refined and tested over a period of two years,” said José Carlos Da Silva Soares, chief marketing officer at Net1 Mobile Solutions, in a post at the company’s site.

Two thousand lamps are being rolled out to rural communities that were identified by Net1 Mobile Solutions as being “in most need of solar lighting and connectivity, five hundred lamps have already been handed out to the Msinga region of KwaZulu-Natal. More lamps will be provided in the near future once the company has an idea of how big the demand is.

“We are trying to make acquiring a lamp as easy as possible, and have thus enabled features on our USSD platforms that permit people to request a lamp directly from their mobile phone.” Soares added. “Accessibility and connectivity will enable these communities to better themselves and those around them, and this can ultimately lead to a hugely positive spin-off effect. Our particular focus leans towards learners, entrepreneurs, vendors and job seekers.”

Net1 Mobile Solutions will also partner with other companies and mobile network operators to provide large data bundles to offer to Sun-e-light recipients on reasonable terms, so that they aren’t burdened with high data costs.

Sun-e-light lamps are also available to the general public for R300 each.

“If the product roll-out goes well, we will be looking to move manufacturing to South Africa, which in turn should bring more opportunities for employment to locals” Soares said.

[Source – Net1 Mobile Solutions. Image – file]