Solar Powered Phone Recharging Stations For PNG

A network of mobile phone recharging stations is being set up throughout rural and remote Papua New Guinea.
  
According to ABC’s Pacific Beat, a pilot project of 30 stations has been launched at Hula, situated around 3 hours away from PNG’s capital, Port Moresby. 
   
The stations are very simple units, consisting of a single solar panel and a box containing batteries. Up to 20 phones will be able to be charged simultaneously. The units will also incorporate an LED light for night-time security. The stations will be operated and maintained by locals as a small business venture and users will pay a small fee to recharge their phones.
   
Spearheaded by telecommunication company Digicel and backed by the New Zealand government and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), if the pilot project is successful, the project will be expanded to 500 sites across Papua New Guinea.
   
“The cost of these is no insignificant but it’s not huge either,” said  IFC Regional Manager for the Pacific Gavin Murray. “What we’re trying to do is work with Digicel on the business model of how to you make this work effectively. And they’re prepared to underwrite the cost of the establishment of these facilities in return for obviously the increased business they expect to get.”
  
Digicel launched mobile telecommunications services in Papua New Guinea in 2007. At that point, the country had the lowest mobile penetration rate in the Pacific, with less than 2% penetration.
  
Mobile phone communications are something most of us take for granted, but in places like remote and rural Papua New Guinea the devices are making a considerable positive impact on communities. However, with access to mains grid power – or any electricity – being non-existent in many villages; recharging can often mean a long trek to a larger neighbouring town.
  
Rolling out any new technology in the country has its own unique challenges. In addition to the ruggedness of the country that makes transporting equipment quite a task; getting it to its destination has another potential danger.
  
Alex Chong from Energy Matters’ sister company Apollo Energy recently travelled to PNG to help install small donated solar panel systems on the rooftops of clinics. While travelling to their destinations, the group faced various road blocks set up by protesters and some opportunist bandits.