EMPOWER: Vol 4. Issue 3 – April 2021

Home / News / EMPOWER: Vol 4. Issue 3 – April 2021
Posted On: 04.14.2021

President’s Message
Safety for ISVx Projects

IEEE Smart Village has a commitment to providing safe and reliable systems and has set up a committee with the responsibility to review electric safety, reliability and standards for ISVx projects.  While the subject matters of safety, reliability and standards are interrelated, I would like to concentrate today on safety in this “short message.”  Accidents due to electricity though they can be lethal are rare, so these hazards can be easily overlooked.  Most people know someone who fell off a ladder, a roof, or a tree, but few people know someone who was injured or killed by electricity.  So ISVx must first raise awareness of the issue.  This comes in part with education, and with expecting entrepreneurs to design their systems using common standards to be reliable and safe.  So, what safety hazards exist that need to be considered? 

  1. Shock and Electrocution – Imagine living in a village without electricity and never being told by your mother or father about the dangers of electricity. Electricity is colorless, odorless, silent and tasteless. Not only that, but when a power line is run in the village, everyone can clearly see birds landing on the lines with no ill effects. So, shock and electrocution are issues that may be completely foreign to someone receiving electricity for the first time.
  2. Fire – With few possible exceptions, most villagers have experience with fire such as for kerosene lamps, for cooking fires and possibly for heat. So, the discussion of fire will be something that the villagers have a good understanding of. However, educating the villagers in the need for proper design of electrical systems to avoid the fire dangers of electricity due to overload and malfunctioning equipment may present some unique challenges, in addition to educating in differentiating electric fires with fires originating from other causes.
  3. Chemicals and Explosions – Solar power systems work great during daylight hours but provide nothing at night and extraordinarily little during stormy/cloudy days. The most common means of solar energy storage is that of the battery system. There are many battery designs consisting of the older lead acid and nickel-cadmium batteries to the more modern lithium-ion designs. A significant number of metals and chemicals make up the battery system. Improper design and use of the battery systems can lead to dangerous chemical spills and explosions which must be guarded against. Furthermore, improper disposal can lead to contamination of land or groundwater. Again, awareness of the issues is a first and important step in deploying any new technology anywhere.

The mission of IEEE Smart Village is to improve the lives of energy deprived people, and to empower off-grid communities through energy entrepreneurship and education. It is essential for ISVx to recognize that part of its mission is to minimize risks associated with shock, electrocution, fire, chemical exposure and explosions. That is why the ISVx Committee on safety, reliability and standards along with regional subcommittees have been formed to carry out this critical aspect of ISVx.

Robin and Stella Podmore elevated to the Thomas Alva Edison Level in the Heritage Circle
Robin Podmore and Stella Podmore have been elevated to the Thomas Alva Edison Level in the Heritage Circle of the IEEE Foundation cumulative giving program!

The IEEE Heritage Circle is the cumulative giving donor recognition program of the IEEE Foundation. The program acknowledges the philanthropic spirit of those who have “given back” to IEEE throughout their career and lifetime. The foundation recognizes these Honored Philanthropists for the financial support allocated to one or more of 200 donor designated funds that support the scientific and educational purposes of IEEE.

Honored Philanthropists are those whose donations and/or pledges to IEEE Foundation total USD 10,000 or more since 1st January 1995.

Through their spirit of giving Robin and Stella, have attributed this elevation to the people on the ground working tirelessly to improve the lives of the people in the underserved communities.

The two new members of the Thomas Alva Edison Level shared how amazing their journey has been and how some of the experiences have been filled with joy, knowing that their donations bring hope and a future to the underserved communities around the world.

Stella narrated her experience in Kenya’s Maa Trust community: “There were about 50 children of various ages and some had extraordinarily little school experience. They all came from disadvantaged home circumstances or have disabilities or health concerns. Some of the girls are at risk of being married/sold to men three times their ages as a second wife. However, it took these students about two minutes to figure out the EmpowerPack tablets and they even realized they could take selfies using the tablets at the end of the session. (At this, there was) much laughter.” She added how the girls had fun playing with her phone “I lent the girls my cellphone and they had fun taking photos. Did not need any instruction for this either. My group of students worked on the math problem where the rats had to cross the river. They did great. They do not mind sharing in a group at all. They can read very well upside down. I believe this could be that they are very used to sharing books in the classroom.”

For Robin, the opportunity to work and meet IEEE Smart Village (ISV) entrepreneurs through PowerAfrica, GHTC and other PES Conferences has been the base for building an extended family with lifetime friendships. He urged the younger generation of engineers to get involved in IEEE Smart Village and Rotary E-Club of Silicon Valley Smart Village in the early stage of their careers.

“As an example, I first visited the Maasai Mara Kenya in 2015 and 2018 with Stella as a side vacation to my job of training Kenya Power and Light engineers in Nairobi in how to operate the Kenyan grid with a real-time simulator, you will enjoy experiences that go beyond your dreams,” he excitedly said.

Robin could not express how amazing it was: “Stella really wanted to see the big cats.  The Safari camps and tours to see the lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants and hippos up close was a great experience. However, being able to stay with Crystal Mogensen, CEO of The Maa Trust, and Niels Mogensen, Senior Program Scientist at Mara Predator Conservation, and see how they help protect the women, children, youth and animals in the Maasai Mara was a lifetime highlight. The sustainable businesses created by The Maa Trust in areas of beadwork, brick making, construction, honey farming, ICT training etc. are templates that can be adapted to work across the continent and even the globe.”

The two new Thomas Alva Edison philanthropists have thanked the IEEE colleagues and the IEEE entrepreneurs working in the villages to change lives for the better, and were grateful to the IEEE Foundation for the award and honor.

For more information: visit https://www.ieeefoundation.org/donors/heritage-circle

New community garden planned for Legends Center in Oshawa Site will feature 80 garden plots for rent
Oshawa’s newest community garden is set to sprout at the Legends Center this fall. It is the second local community garden project spearheaded by the Foundation for Building Sustainable Communities (FBSC), a group dedicated to preserving the planet. “People need to get back to basics when it comes to food,” said FBSC president Joan Kerr. “Growing and cooking your own fresh produce is nutritious and it’s good for the environment.”

The FBSC opened its first community garden in Oshawa last spring at Windfields Farm. According to Joan, the response was enthusiastic, with families working together on their plots. “It’s using food as a catalyst for community building,” she said. When it came time to choose a location for the next garden, Joan worked with City of Oshawa staff to find a spot that met all the criteria, from water availability and security to shade and parking.

The City’s director of parks and environmental services, Mike Molinari, said the Legends Center located on Harmony Road North was the clear winner, especially because it already has ample washrooms and parking. “All the infrastructure is already in place, and that land wasn’t being used for anything, so it’s perfect,” he said.

The Oshawa’s council community services committee approved the Legends Center last year. The site has room for 80 garden plots, which will be rented out for between $40 and $50 per season, as well as space to build raised, accessible garden beds. Water from the Legends Center will be used on a temporary basis.

Joan developed the Windfield Community Garden on a 10-acre plot of land on Simcoe Street which will be split between a teaching garden and a community garden.

The third community garden is in the works for North Oshawa Park, but volunteers there have yet to incorporate or formally organize who will oversee the project. In addition to approving the Legends Center site, the community services committee gave the greenlight to a community garden protocol that sets out terms and conditions for operation. The FBSC will enter into an agreement with the City before opening its new garden, and City staff expect future community gardens to follow the same rules, which include maintaining the garden to a minimum aesthetic standard and not selling the produce for profit.

For more information about the Foundation for Building Sustainable Communities and its Oshawa garden projects, contact Joan Kerr at joankerr@fbsc.org or 905-434-6655.

Improving healthcare services in Uganda
In many places in the world, there are not enough doctors to support even the most rudimentary healthcare services. Many more areas lack mental health services. In the case of Uganda, there are five medical colleges and 29 nursing schools training personnel in western medicine. With one doctor for 8,300 Ugandans, it is an overwhelming challenge in remote locations to access services for healthcare needs.

The telehealth proposal addresses these issues through a combination of remote physicians’ support (domestic and international) and frontline healthcare workers in underserved areas. It combines deployment of Solar PV to enable productive services and education. It will serve as the starting point for paid services for long term growth and sustainability. It is the culmination of nearly 30 years of development by Doctor Jack Higgins, and the non-profit Global Telehealth Network (GTN). This proposal has been developed under the aegis of Rotary E-Club Silicon Valley Smart Village (“RSVSV,” Rotary affiliate of ISV), and Rotary Club of Mengo in Kampala, Uganda.

Beneficiaries of the project are residents of multiple communities in Uganda that lie within the catchment areas of three facilities, and all of them will enjoy better health as a result of these projects. The following partners were selected through an extensive community assessment process:

Kawolo General Hospital (hub) in Lugazi is a regional hospital, 50 kms from the capital on the main highway to Mombasa, Kenya. It serves 450,000 people plus trauma victims and patients transiting on the busy highway.

The Kiyindi Landing Site (spoke) on Lake Victoria in Buyikwe District, has an estimated population of 130,000. This impoverished community subsists on fishing and associated trades. Access to healthcare is limited, and the situation is exacerbated by high mobility, prostitution etc.

The Kyangwali Refugee Settlement (spoke) in Kikuube District has seen its population grow to 120,000 since it was established in the 1960s. It shares basic healthcare, schooling etc. with a surrounding community of 90,000.

The goals of this project are to firstly, develop a reliable telehealth service, secondly, provide equitable access to safe water and sanitation, and thirdly, Build capacity for economic development.

ISV proposes to make a grant of $ 18,750 to its Rotary affiliate e-club Silicon Valley Smart Village, which is part of Rotary District 5170, San Jose, California. With supplemental fundraising by GTN, RSVSV, the Rotary Club of Los Altos (California), the Rotary Club of Branson-Hollister (Missouri) and the Rotary Club of Mengo (Kampala, Uganda), along with matching funds from The Rotary Foundation, the ISV funding will enable a total commitment of $ 92,000. This will be used to acquire equipment and services for the three beneficiary partners. Participating Rotary Clubs and GTN will not receive any portion of these funds.

This project directly aligns with the ISV vision of providing energy, enabling education, and creating local enterprise in underserved areas. Off-grid Solar PV, internet access, and appropriate telehealth medical equipment will be deployed at each of the three beneficiary sites. Physician matching software developed by ISV volunteers in Africa will be used to select the most appropriate physician volunteer to provide a consultation for the health worker and patient who need help based on specialty, availability, and so on. This seeding effort will form the basis for future growth, which will include fee-based services to become self-sustaining. This project advances IEEE’s core purpose of fostering technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.

ISV receives three major benefits by partnering with Rotary International on this project:

  1. Access to a complementary cadre of subject matter experts and in country volunteers
  2. Leverage of ISV seed funds for the project
  3. Widely deployed Rotary process for project management, monitoring and evaluation

Rotary International receives the benefit of the technical and business expertise of IEEE volunteers, and ISV’s unique model of seed funding local enterprises to become self-sustaining.

Rotary Club of Mengo, the “Host Club,” has primary responsibility for all these tasks, and RSVSV will play a secondary role. In country RSVSV and IEEE member volunteers will provide project oversight. The attached MoU describes individual organizational responsibilities in detail.

Edgar gives back ISVx prize money to the community.
Malawi Chibazi Village representatives at Sitolo Solar Minigrid
The IEEE Smart Village (ISVx) awarded five entrepreneurs with grand prize of USD 500 at the virtual Power Africa Conference 2020 in different categories. The awards were in the categories of Best Overall Production, Most Likely to Succeed, Most Charismatic Delivery, Best Planned Project, and Best Technical Advance.

The winner of the Best Planned Project, Edgar Bayani of Malawi’s Waste and Energy Technologies Limited (WETECH) shared how he used the prize money to further his Chibazi Low Carbon Economy Project.

Last October, Edgar organized a learning journey for the Chibazi Village representatives to an existing solar mini-grid. The entourage included three village chiefs, teachers, chairperson of the Chibazi Market Center Committee, Diesel powered Maize Mill Operator and women in business.

The trip was meant to enlighten them on the operations of mini-grids and allow them to appreciate the need to pay cost reflective tariffs. It further provided them with knowledge on some of the productive uses of solar energy. One of the representatives, Eviness Kameta remarked, “I can’t believe that even a grass thatched house is connected and that women are operating grocery shops and salons. What’s amazing is seeing a maize mill operating in Sitolo and powered by the solar mini grid, I can see our community transformed beyond recognition when such a plant is installed.”

The people of Chibazi were especially happy noting that project trained 20 youths in community in installation, operation and maintenance of household installations and 17 of the 18 jobs.

Edgar was also able to distribute solar lamps to off-grid communities while conducting studies and designs to conceptualize a project in the area.

However, the project has faced numerous challenges as off-grid energy projects are still regarded as high risk by many financiers. It still is a challenge for a starter up to convince financiers to support a project like the Chibazi Solar project despite its numerous potential benefits. COVID-19 restrictions have also made it harder for the project to move forward as the volunteers are not allowed to make movements.

“Despite all these challenges, I must confess that we are making steady progress, and we owe all this to ISVx for the skills development initiatives and more importantly the exposure to other entrepreneurs through the IEEE/PES/ISVx. The PAC and ISV workshops that are done alongside the PAC are what have built confidence and capability in initiating energy projects like the one in question,” Edgar confessed.

Electricity availability and access are some of the biggest energy challenges in Malawi. The use of renewable energy has the potential to increase access to electricity, especially in the rural areas. There are several regulatory instruments that are being used to increase access to renewable energy and to influence the adoption of renewable energy technologies in the country.

ISV virtual presentations at Power Africa Conference 2020 available.
The session recordings for the PAC 2020, held in Kenya virtually are now available through the Power & Energy Society “Resource Center.”

Click the link below to watch the repository of the 2019 sessions as recorded in Abuja, Nigeria that year.


You do not want to miss out on PAC 2021.
The Power Africa Conference planning is now at its peak and it is officially decided that the 9th edition of the conference will be virtual. While some will be disappointed due to inability to travel to attend the conference in person, the organizers see it as an opportunity to reach out and accommodate large audiences that would create a huge impact in the continent of Africa.

The organizers are also looking at supporting students from African countries to actively participate in the conference by a way of providing registration concession to student authors of African descent. This is to encourage high number of paper submissions from African students and a way of ensuring that they benefit from the wealth of experience from experts attending the conference.

This year’s edition will feature the practitioner/short papers for the first time, where authors can submit experience from industry and share best practices from the field. Short papers will be published also in IEEE Xplore. More details on how to submit short paper to the Power Africa Conference 2021 can be found at https://ieee-powerafrica.org/call-for-papers/.

The call for paper was extended from 31st March to 15th April 2021 to give room for prospective delegates to submit papers to the conference. The conference that would start on 23rd of August to 27th August 2021 will explore ways to provide the experience an in-person conference offers. Several platforms are being considered but most importantly the preferred platform would provide flexibility for social interactions and industry exhibitions.

The ISV conference planning committee are looking into lessons learned from the previous edition to make the 2021 edition a fascinating experience to delegates. Tutorial, workshops, plenary, panel, poster session, happy hours as well as meet the entrepreneur competition are all been considered.

IEEE Power Africa Conference as always is a premier conference providing a forum for research scientists, engineers, and practitioners to present and discuss latest research findings, ideas, and emerging technologies and applications in the area of power systems integrations, business models, technological advances, policies and regulatory frameworks for the African continent. This year’s theme is Regional Integration, Emerging Trends and Energy Sustainability in Advancing Africa’s Economic Progress.

The conference registration will soon be open but for general enquiry about the conference you can email or contact info@ieee-powerafrica.org and for sponsorship or partnership you can email partners@ieee-powerafrica.org.

PAC Request for Support
Help PAC 2021 by being a Sponsor! Help global energy entrepreneurs to attend PAC 2021 and to participate in a variety of interactive workshops, networking opportunities, and competitions. Participation in PAC 2021 plays a central role in the continued success and development of a growing network of global IEEE Smart Village energy entrepreneurs. We are witnessing an increase in the number of qualified entrepreneurs desiring to attend the Virtual PAC 2021, however costly data plans make it difficult for many. Your contributions, as a stipend will put PAC 2021 within reach to these ‘budding’ energy entrepreneurs from remote corners around the globe. As a Sponsor, you are helping them help their local villagers.

$50,000 Sponsorship – will enable every delegate to attend the special tutorials tailored to Smart Village participants.

$10,000 Sponsorship – will make it possible to award 5 existing or new entrepreneurs with a Covid-19 Response Project competition.

$2,500 Sponsorship – will make it possible for 50 energy entrepreneurs to purchase a Data Plan needed to attend the Virtual PAC 2021 sessions.

Sponsorship funds will implement unique solutions that integrate energy and education towards fighting the effects of the pandemic and creating more sustainable activities during the post Covid-19 Pandemic era. Please share this special appeal with your business colleagues, and friends as well! Please contact Mr. Michael Deering for Sponsorship Details: m.deering@ieee.org Main +1.732.562-3915 Mobile: +1.609-731-1769.

IEEE Smart Village delegates include leaders from the supported programs alongside potential future energy entrepreneurs who are in the process of requesting funding. In order to ensure the widest possible involvement, IEEE Smart Village provides modest participation support to entrepreneurs on merit basis. With key grant support, many more energy entrepreneurs can attend and benefit from the training. The passion and care of people like you keep us going, and we hope we make you proud of how these funds benefit our entrepreneurs during these challenging times.

As part of the grant funding, the sponsor will be welcome to present to both the Smart Village delegates, as well as PAC 2021 registrants at large, on a variety of development issues related to their functional expertise. Appropriate recognition will be provided to the sponsor according to donation level, via a variety of print and electronic IEEE and IEEE Foundation media, as well as signage during the Power Africa 2020 Virtual Conference. THANK YOU!



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