Sub-Saharan Africa consists of 42 countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, and Sudan. The International Energy Agency statistics indicate that as many as 625 million residents of Sub-Saharan Africa live without electricity—68% of the total population. In fact, the World Bank states that 25 nations in Sub-Saharan Africa are in a crisis situation.
No electricity means no refrigerators, lights, or computers. It means that clinics and hospitals face daily interruption of life-saving medical treatments. Three norms of life that most of us take for granted are completely unavailable to an enormous population who must live with limited supplies of food, without light in the home for reading or learning and without participation in the vast global digital marketplace. Furthermore, approximately 39% of the Sub-Saharan population does not have access to safe drinking water.
Italian-Spanish high-tech startup Watly successfully piloted a new computer in Ghana, described by the company as the “world’s largest solar-powered computer.” It looks like something from out of space and is bringing clean drinking water, electricity and access to the internet to the rural residents of Ghana.
Watly is totally solar. The surface is covered with photovoltaic panels which capture the sun’s rays and turn it into electricity through the use of an internal 140 kwh battery. The internal battery serves as a recharging center for mobile and other electronic devices, as well as powering a hub that provides wireless internet accessibility for anyone living within an 800-meter radius of the computer. A graphene-based water treatment process is being powered by Watly, resulting in 5,000 bottles of safe drinking water each day. Watly has a life expectancy of 15 years.
Watly founder Marco Attisani said, “We are [taking] people to the heart of the 21st century.” In rural Ghana, residents can now take battery-operated lamps to the re-charging station, meaning that students can learn and do their homework at night, safely inside their dwellings and adults can read and do other indoor tasks that previously were restricted. Access to the internet means access to information, education, healthcare, employment—a future.
Following Watly’s success in Ghana, Attisani intends to bring it to Nigeria, followed by the Sudan and ultimately across the continent. A total of 10,000 computers are planned for the next eight years. Attisani has dreams beyond clean water and electricity. He sees company as an agent of change for the stagnant economies of the Sub-Saharan region, and hopes that Watly will make it possible for entrepreneurs to open up local businesses, stimulating new employment and bringing to these mostly cut-off communities opportunities to join the global economy.