eCommerce and Renewable Energy (eCARE), which i briefly mentioned in an earlier post, is a recent 3-year initiative that addresses the energy factor in ICT for development. UNEP DTIE started this effort last year with funding from the United Nations Foundation (UNF) and Telecom Management Partner, a subsidiary of Telenor. Important local partners include Kumasi Institute of Technology and Environment (KITE) a Ghanaian NGO, the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) the National Communications Authority (NCA) of the Government of Ghana, and Ghana Telecom, the main telecommunications service provider in Ghana. These partners share a common vision: to develop ecommerce as a viable sector of rural economies by extending internet and other IT services; and to eliminate the energy barrier to telecoms and internet access by using renewable energy technologies. UNEP DTIE's main rationale for involvement in eCARE is that it demonstrates a practical and scalable approach to deployment of environmentally friendly and sustainable energy technologies.
The eCARE homepage reports that there are currently:
...25 centers...in successful operation in Ghana. By the close of December 2006 a total of 50 eCARE Centers will be in operation, benefiting more than 300,000 people. People in the beneficiary rural/peri-urban communities will have access to affordable telecommunication services which was previously lacking. eCARE is bridging not only the “energy divide” but also the “digital divide”. eCARE is expanding into all regions of Ghana with at least 200 centers offering renewably powered telecom services to more than one million Ghanaians by the end of 2008!
Not surprisingly, the project enjoys considerable support from local people and their leaders.
The experience and lessons learned during the first 3 years are being fed into the design of a longer-term strategy to scale out the business model to other regions and countries in Africa. The slideshots below provide a self-explanatory overview of the business model, technology, financing and institutional structure of eCARE.