Social Impact of Internet and Energy in Rural Africa (SIERA)

I’m very excited to announce that I am leading the research on a social impact study that will investigate the social impacts of providing electricity and Internet to a rural village in Tharaka Nithi Country, Eastern Kenya.

The work will explore the transformational impacts of an off-grid energy solution being implemented by a UK-based socially-driven organisation (to be named in due course). I am very happy to have the collaboration of Dr. Arjuna Sathiaseelan (University of Cambridge), Professor Claire Wallace and Professor Pamela Abbott (University of Aberdeen) and Michael McQuinn (independent researcher, New York) as well as the support of our industry partner.

Like many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, in Kenya large proportions of the population are off-grid in terms of electricity and unable to access Internet. Across sub-Saharan Africa, 585 million people cannot access electricity and there is a history of unsuccessful off grid energy solutions. Internet provision across sub-Saharan Africa is another issue, with a large digital divide existing in all countries, including Kenya.

Our industry partner has developed an innovative solution to scalable power and mobile Internet infrastructure provision for our community in rural Kenya. The technology consists of solar panel designs on shipping containers as well as wireless Internet technologies. The solution also incorporates a funding model to sustain and grow the infrastructures.

The objective of the social impact study is to explore the impacts on the community at social and economic levels. This will be done by carrying out research before, during and after the rollout process. We hope to provide research insights that can inform the academic community, as well as informing future work by our partner, and others in the industry, in order to provide the best possible outcomes and impacts for the communities served by such future projects. The research will ask: What are the social and economic impacts of providing power and Internet to previously underserved communities in rural Kenya? I leave for the first field trip this coming weekend (Sunday 18th June 2017), and I’m really looking forward to meeting the community and local stakeholders and immersing in the local culture to carry out this research.