Vodacom solar powers rural village

2013-02-11 11:06
Vodacom has used solar energy to power a rural school. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Vodacom has used solar energy to power a rural school. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town - Solar energy can benefit rural communities far from grid infrastructure a Vodacom project has shown.

The mobile operator has used solar energy powering its base station near the rural village of Emfihlweni in northern KwaZulu-Natal to power a school and community shop.

"What Vodacom did after long discussions with community leaders and the chief in the area is to look at: How do we use our existing network to give back some kind of assistance to the community that uses our existing infrastructure?" Suraya Hamdulay, Vodacom’s executive head of CSI and Sustainability told News24.

The base had previously been running on diesel because of its isolation, and solar energy represented a cost saving to the operator.

"We retrofitted [our base station] and got off diesel and started using solar panels to power up our base station. We ran some cables to the nearby school.

"We powered a block of the school using solar energy - 100% clean energy for the school's purposes: All their admin purposes. We gave them computers for the first time; switched on their lights," Hamdulay said.


The local community shop, which also received solar panels, has resulted in the community having improved access to cellphone service.

"What the community is now doing is set up a cellphone recharge station in the community shop. Members of the community who previously would have to take a taxi to the nearest town, and pay to have their cellphones charged, are now getting their cellphones recharged," said Hamdulay.

This project mirrors a similar one in Vleiland, near Laingsburg in the Western Cape province where the community received a solar-powered base station.

Vodacom said that an unintended consequence of the project has been that the school and shop have become community centres.

"We intended the project would boost education and give the kids access to technology and allow matriculants to come to the school in the evening and study, but what has actually happened, is it as now become a hub of community activity.

"The little school hall is now being used for community activities because we now have electricity," Hamdulay said.

Community benefit

In addition, the electrification has resulted in access to government services, Hamdulay added.

"Members of the community now come and make copies of their IDs; they're able to print documents from government websites for birth and death certificates and they now have access to a whole range of government services purely because Vodacom is powering their admin block at the school."

The operator warned that while these projects had seen communities benefit, it was not in the business of rolling out electricity and would a careful case-by-case study for further projects.

"We're not an electricity provider; this is a CSI project, but what we're saying is that is real remote communities where we want to do good, we have existing infrastructure and it's our network," said Hamdulay.

"People may think there are many sites in the country that are off grid, but not many fit the criteria. You may have many off-grid sites, but not with a community that close by."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    vodacom  |  mobile  |  renewable energy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

6 reasons Boks won’t botch it
Fiji far too strong for Uruguay
Burger hopes for elusive World Cup win
As it happened: Fiji 47-15 Uruguay
Traffic Alerts

Relationships and significant connections may play an important role in your day today. Let the warmth of the Leo moon inspire you...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.