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Below are Frequently Asked Questions on the IEEE Smart Village initiative. There is an open invitation for you to let us know if there is a question that you were expecting to have answered here but did not find it. Contact us at ieeesmartvillagestaff@ieee.org.

About IEEE Smart Village

What is IEEE Smart Village and what is its mission?

IEEE Smart Village is an IEEE Foundation Priority Program whose mission is to empower transform off-grid communities with solar power, through education, and the creation of sustainable, affordable, locally- owned, entrepreneurial energy businesses. Its vision is to bring basic electrical and educational services to millions of people by 2025.

What is IEEE?

IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), a worldwide technical professional organization, is dedicated to the advancement of technology for the benefit of humanity. Through its often-cited publications, conferences, technology standards, and professional and educational activities, IEEE is the trusted voice on a range of areas from aerospace systems, computers, and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power, and consumer electronics.

Learn more at www.ieee.org.

What is the IEEE Foundation?

The IEEE Foundation furthers the scientific and educational aims of IEEE. As the IEEE’s philanthropic arm, the IEEE Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 organization that inspires the generosity of donors to empower IEEE programs that enhance technology access, literacy, and education. The IEEE Foundation has several Priority Programs, one of which is IEEE Smart Village.

Learn more about the IEEE Foundation at www.ieeefoundation.org.

What does it mean to be an IEEE Foundation Priority Program?

Priority Programs are the heart of the IEEE Foundation’s work. Each program couples immediate impact with long-term growth in intellectual capital, human resources capacity, and technical literacy. While the Foundation seeks external philanthropic contributions for its Priority Programs, IEEE retains oversight of program execution. Priority Programs are significant, have impact, and inspire people to connect with the Foundation and IEEE. Your contribution to a Priority Program is channeled to have a significant impact on a specific challenge. Together, we create the momentum needed to transform lives.

When was IEEE Smart Village founded?

Rebranded in November 2014, what is now IEEE Smart Village was launched in 2009 as Community Solutions Initiative (CSI). Recognizing that the original mission of addressing energy poverty, i.e., deploying solar power, was insufficient to promote deep, sustainable change, the IEEE Smart Village team adopted a multifaceted approach. This approach involves local ownership and fosters vocational and educational improvements in the community. This approach was initially demonstrated in Haiti in 2011 and has since been the basis for our efforts around the world.

Who is involved in IEEE Smart Village?

Combining the talents of more than 400,000 members across IEEE with sustainable-development partners in education, business and technologies, IEEE Smart Village delivers immediate, life-changing impact to the world’s poorest and most energy-deprived populations.

Who leads the IEEE Smart Village initiative?

Ray Larsen and Robin Podmore co-founded the Smart Village initiative in 2009 (as Community Solutions Initiative). Ray is currently the Chair of this global organization of volunteers engaged with the program partners in the field. There are leaders of Committees supporting the teams efforts in Technology, Operations, Finance, Education, Development, and Marketing.

If you are interested in learning more about the organizational structure, visit www.SmartVillage.IEEE.org/about-ieee-smart-village.

How does IEEE Smart Village work?

Micro-utility equipment based on solar power is seed-funded to in-country, non-governmental organization (NGO) partners to create self-sustaining, community-owned and -operated micro-utilities in off-grid areas. The entire community participates in the success of the local electricity business, and profits are reinvested in community empowerment through economic development and education initiatives.

What are the IEEE Smart Village fundraising goals?

Building on the success of the proven pilots, IEEE’s campaign goal is to raise a minimum of $10 million in the next three years. The success of this initiative would support:

  • Providing access to basic electrical services for millions of people by 2025.
  • Continued innovation in the electrical systems being deployed.
  • Providing vocational training and opportunities for employment by the program partners.
  • Supporting educational training.
  • Raising awareness and creating excitement in schools and universities regarding the potential of engineering.
  • Expanding partners involved, including governments, multinational corporations and foundations.

What funding is available for Smart Village NGO partners?

Qualified NGO partners receive sufficient seed funding to establish and demonstrate multiple installations of micro-utilities. Once technical and management competency have been demonstrated and the enterprises are on a path of self-sustainability and strong financial health, IEEE Smart Village works with the partner to assist in securing funding for the major expansion necessary to achieve the goal of 1 million served by that project.

What makes IEEE Smart Village different from other community development programs?

The IEEE Smart Village shares the approach of many like-minded groups of building bottom-up community prosperity through training and empowering local entrepreneurs to manage profitable businesses capable of growing and serving millions of people around the world. More distinctly, IEEE Smart Village boasts a growing list of partners and is dedicated to leveraging basic electricity to support a variety of uses including interconnectivity and affordable, interactive web-based education at many levels in off-grid areas. Incubation of technology, business and education models are also being pursued in collaboration with sustainable development NGOs committed to providing basic electrical access to the 1.1 billion people in the world living without it.

How many people is IEEE Smart Village impacting?

IEEE Smart Village is serving more than 350,000 people in 185 villages in 13 countries.

Where does IEEE Smart Village currently have programs?

IEEE Smart Village has programs underway in Cameroon, India, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, South Sudan, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia.

Into what countries is IEEE Smart Village considering expanding programs?

IEEE Smart Village has a non-discriminatory policy and will work with any qualified NGO in any country in the world. All applicants have to pass rigorous scrutiny checks and demonstrate viable business plans to be considered.

Sustainable Technology

What technology has IEEE Smart Village developed?

IEEE Smart Village has fostered innovation across a multitude of products that support our initiatives.

We have developed an IEEE Smart Village flagship product that is a modular, easy-to-install solar PV-based community charging station. Called the SunBlazer II, it is a mobile solar power 1.5kW base station consisting of a highly adaptable modular system including solar panels, integrated controller, AC/DC rectifiers, and portable, rechargeable battery packs. These portable battery kits power home lighting and feature an auxiliary outlet for other DC powered devices.

Each kit lights up 2 rooms and operates auxiliary 12V DC loads. Each SunBlazer station can charge 80 battery packs every 3-4 days to serve an estimated 500 people. Smart Village has developed a Pay-Go interface so that micro-payments for power usage or renting the Portable Battery Kits can be managed effectively.

We have also funded educational intra-nets where local curriculum can be accessed via Wi-Fi even when Internet
connectivity is not available.

What are the benefits of the SunBlazer II?

The benefits of the SunBlazer II include:

  • Optimizes simplicity of operation thereby reducing support and training costs
  • Immediate deployment with no infrastructure at the site
  • High reliability
  • High light output suitable for a family
  • Proven affordability at lower cost than kerosene and candles
  • High pride of ownership by both operators and customers

Program Startup Overview

How does a typical initiative become established?

First, IEEE Smart Village seeks in-country partners who can define and execute a program from a pilot stage to sustained operation. These operators are provided seed funding with startup equipment for multiple micro-utilities. These initial investments are financially matched by the startup. A standard franchise business model and operating procedures, coupled with Central Global Classroom, on-line delivery system and education products provide the entrepreneur with a good foundation for success. The IEEE Smart Village family provides

Standard manuals and basic training of local enterprise operators and equipment maintenance personnel ISV also provides professional pro-bono support of all products during the startup phase and continuing technical support and business mentoring as the local program matures

What is the "online delivery system?"

The online delivery system provides rural communities with access to online higher education services. This enables students to remain in and serve their communities while receiving an education via the IEEE Global Classroom from the Posner Center for International Development in Denver, Colorado, USA.

What is the role of the NGO partners?

The NGO partners establish a relationship with off-grid communities, and recruit local entrepreneurs who conduct community feasibility surveys for electricity and Learning Beyond the Light Bulb initiatives.

Community members assume responsibility, leadership and ownership of seed-funded equipment. Training materials are made available well in advance of equipment installation with mentorship throughout the program. Most importantly, the NGO partner endeavors to raise funds to, at minimum, match the IEEE investment in order that the initiative deploys multiple microgripd systems in several villages to demonstrate financial sustainability.

What is the goal for every new startup?

The goal for every new startup is provide basic electricity to 1 million people within 5 years. IEEE Smart Village aims for at least 10 new startups per year with a goal to reach millions of people by 2025.

How will a startup grow beyond the IEEE seed-funded demonstration projects?

Startup leadership is critical to success; staff must have a strong track record and local advisors. To grow rapidly, it needs capital to begin the 10% annual growth rate engine. Sources of capital include:

  • Grants from governments and foundations, such as the IEEE Foundation.
  • Investment from banks or venture capitalists of an estimated $5-10M to grow to $30M capital assets, (necessary to achieve an installed base of 2,000 micro-utility systems, in 5-6 years).

Community-Based Education: Learning Beyond the Light Bulb

How does the educational aspect of IEEE Smart Village work?

There are multiple levels of educational opportunities within the IEEE Smart Village program. Local, reliable power can make the digital classroom a reality, thereby changing the dynamics of education for the students involved. Several RACHEL servers making native language curriculum available have been deployed. Other initiatives have powered Internet connectivity and computer labs. For many students, this is their first time experiencing the World Wide Web. The IEEE Smart Village’s community-based online curriculum, Learning Beyond the Light Bulb, is designed to enable at-risk and in-excess populations to learn from and instruct each other for mutual benefit.

How is the community based education structured?

Learning Beyond the Light Bulb is a nine-month program of study that includes five courses using push-pull community-based global content from the IEEE Smart Village global classroom at the Posner Center for International Development in Denver, Colorado. One of the best aspects of the educational program is that participants need not leave their communities, families, and development work in order to join a comprehensive course of study.

What are the conditions for community based education partnering?

  • Conducive instructional environment for a defined community
  • Applied knowledge for that community’s development
  • One computer screen that all may view + connectivity
  • Commitment to the discourse of online global pods
  • Shared case studies and field-based practicum
  • Commitment to support all community participants through completion of four core courses + practicum

What is the vocational training component of IEEE Smart Village?

IEEE Smart Village uses a systematic approach for vocational training on electricity applications. The approach sees the division of processes into simple tasks and the elimination of any nonessential content. The vocational training allows the energy entrepreneur, who is the operator of the local micro-utility, to quickly absorb and introduce business offerings to their local customers. The result: local jobs are created; family businesses are fueled; and income is increased at various levels throughout the community.

What is a Program Partner?

Program Partners are the operators of the local micro utility businesses. Their people are passionate about solving problems in their off-grid communities and they see providing electricity as critical to their communities’ growth and success. In other words, these folks combine grit and innate intelligence with sensitivities to the needs and abilities for their local communities.

How can I become an Energy Entrepreneur?

Join the IEEE Smart Village’s Energy Entrepreneurship Training Program. It offers in-country vocational training on all facets of design, assembly, and operation of a micro-utility in all of its varied forms, as well as education in all aspects of the business model. The curriculum provides a comprehensive understanding of the principles of business operation upon which the successful realization of a self-sustaining micro- utility depends. Beyond contributing strictly to financial success and sustainability, however, graduates of the program, also known as Energy Entrepreneurs, are encouraged to focus on social enterprise, humanitarian needs, and the building of ethical and non-exploitative relationships.

How to Get Involved

What is an IEEE Smart Village Ambassador?

An IEEE Smart Village Ambassador can provide in-country assistance. Whether it is corporate-to-corporate, high level government liaison, or boots-on-the ground village field work helping to deploy hardware and educate the village community, opportunities abound at all levels to promote a true social enterprise endeavor. Contact IEEE Smart Village for more information about how to become involved.

What are the ways to get involved with IEEE Smart Village?

  • For recognized multi-national NGO’s, large humanitarian organizations, government ministries and associated programs:
    • Become an acknowledged ‘brand’ partner with IEEE Smart Village in a coordinated effort to reach mutual goals for global expansion of the initiative.
  • For in-country NGOs and other organizations with established humanitarian outreach programs:
    • Become an in-country host partner to establish a network of micro-utility stations nationwide.
  • For individuals with a passion and desire to work toward solving the problem of energy deprivation across the off-grid and unreliable energy sector:
    • Become an advocate for the program.
  • For students and young professionals seeking the experience of working in the field to assist and mentor our micro-utility deployment programs:
    • Become an Ambassador to the program.