Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Mobiles are not mobile


Although we call mobile devices mobile, in a lot of rural areas this is not always the case. In ITM's ever ongoing quest in finding projects that benefit learners in rural areas, I propose this one to you all. We want to give learners in rural or low resource areas a complete mobile solution that makes them independent of energy sources and is sustainable.

If you know of any mobile/solar packages out there, please send me the link. Or if you know of anybody who has experience with this, please send them this post.
We have a strong team, but we will be gratefull with all the input that we can get.

The idea of our project is to use mobile devices in remote areas and assure sustainability. Keeping this in mind, a lot of factors influence mobile technology and energy generating technology.

We started looking at mobile solutions that allow complete autonomy, but a lot needs to be taken into account. Companies will always tell you their product is the best, but there are a lot of technical specifications you have to keep in mind if you have different settings in your mind.

What to look for in a solar panels for mobile devices:
  • The output of the solar panel;
  • The (m)Ampère to ensure if a certain solar panel is suitable for a specific mobile device;
  • The capacity of the solar panel (the higher the capacity, the more leverage you have ones the weather conditions are not ideal).

Things that influence connectivity
  • Because connectivity is a factor that influences the amount of energy that is used by the mobile phone, it will also have an indirect effect on the capacity of the solar panel.
  • Weather conditions influence connectivity, this in it’s turn can demand more power from a mobile phone;
  • Distance from a transmission mast (the further away, the more power needed to get connected);
  • Obstacles between the cell phone and the transmission mast (landscape, building);
  • Sometimes the solar panel does not immediately link to a given mobile device (the more connections that are needed to connect the one to the other, the more energy loss you risk);

What to keep in mind when selecting the right mobile device
  • First look at the conditions (electricity, frequency of mobile coverage) off the area you want to cover;
  • Can you mount an extra antenna on the mobile device? With an additional antenna you can cover longer distances AND because you increase connectivity, you will loose less energy while connecting.
  • Is the screen big enough to enable mobile learning (I know basic, but still :-).

When surfing I came across a complete communications workstation (see image) that is driving around in South-Africa, just check out the great post here.

The information above was the result of one single meeting with Willy, an expert in new energy solutions that also had a lot of experience with low resource areas (if you want his coordinations, let me know he is a true believer in open knowledge sharing) and my own colleagues Maria and Carlos that are so knowledgeable. Informal learning comes so natural if you are surrounded by great minds!

Looking forward to your input, I know there are a lot of great minds out there.