September 18, 2019 | Written by: Francois de Chezelles, CEO, Talium
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Approximately 600 million people do not have electricity in Africa according to reports on World Bank data. Even though progress has been made to get more people in Africa on the grid, the absolute number of people without power remains the same due to population growth.
In rural areas, cell phones are vital for people with no access to banks to send and receive money, access medical care and stay in contact with family and friends, according to The African Gourmet. Some people have to walk miles to the nearest town to drop off their cell phone for charging, and the wait could be three days. Furthermore, they may have to allocate as much as 24 percent of their daily living allowance per charge.
Talium has brought its expertise in blockchain projects and experience as an energy sector systems integrator to Irene Energy. Together, the companies have architected a solution to improve access to electricity in Africa and lower costs.
Reducing the costs of accessing electricity in Africa
Universal electrification is hard and expensive, according to Quartz Africa. Grid connections cost anywhere from $250 to more than $2,500 depending on proximity to the grid. Mini-grids that offer a grid-like service still cost between $500 and $1,500 to connect each household. These are steep costs for both providers and consumers.
Irene Energy wanted to create a flexible and cost-effective back-office infrastructure for energy service providers built on blockchain technologies. It chose the Stellar payment network to enable low-cost micropayments and needed a secure way to manage user credentials so that smaller companies and individuals could participate in the energy market. Typically, the way to address this requirement is through hardware with built-in encryption. But that would be an expensive proposition and contrary to our project goal of reducing the costs of accessing electricity in Africa. So, we instead looked to lower the costs of the back-office technologies being used by energy service providers.
We chose IBM Cloud Data Shield, which runs containerized applications in a secure enclave on an IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service host. This solution simplifies data-in-use protection by a huge margin, while at the same time addressing the huge scalability concerns of the Irene Energy project. With the Irene Energy platform, there are no up-front costs. This is not only because the platform is on the cloud, but also because companies do not have to design their applications to be compatible with security requirements. Instead, IBM Cloud Data Shield automates that security process.
More affordable and accessible electricity
It was a great experience to partner with IBM because we could see that there was mutual interest in building something together. IBM really cares about what’s going on in the field; and, in this case, the lack of electricity in Africa. We felt that IBM wanted to address this very real concern with a constructive solution.
Reducing the cost of back-office technology for electric service providers with IBM Cloud means electricity can be available to more people in rural areas.
The Irene Energy platform is making electricity more affordable and accessible for millions of people in Africa. It also facilities electricity roaming and shared ownership of electricity assets.
Watch the video or read the case study to learn more.