From the Field

Staying Connected Despite Low Connectivity

November 25th, 2014 by Sophie Reiser

Working in a country with limited infrastructure poses logistical challenges for any company. Targeting rural populations, geographically isolated with even less infrastructure than in urban areas, is even more challenging. Wireless reception can be weak or non-existent. Transmitting data from a rural area back to staff in Dar or Tanga can be difficult, significantly slowing down our operations.

 

dimagipaint

 

So how do we coordinate operations and ensure the whole team has access to the same, updated data— even in rural areas with limited connectivity?

 

To tackle this problem, we’ve partnered with Dimagi, a social enterprise that makes open source software for those who work in developing countries and with underserved populations. While originally focused on healthcare, Dimagi has recently been adapting its software to fit the needs of other social enterprises that work with rural populations. CommCare is one of Dimagi’s mobile and web-based applications, which enables our technicians and salespeople to easily collect data in the field, both on their phones and computers.

 

While our field teams have been using cloud-based applications for a while now, CommCare offers significant improvements over everything else on the market. CommCare is designed to work even when our field staff don’t have data or wireless connection. Every file concerning one customer is grouped so that we can seamlessly follow an individual from prospective customer through installation and system maintenance. This way, every EGG employee can clearly and easily check which stage of the process the customer is at. Grouping files also allows us to filter our questions depending on previous answers. Finally, CommCare lets us easily switch between English and Kiswahili, enabling our international team to use the language that’s most convenient for them in any given circumstance.

 

The Tanga team in a training on using CommCare

The Tanga team in a training on using CommCare

 

Our technical manager, Jennifer Harlow, has worked tirelessly over the past few months to adapt the platform to fit EGG’s unique needs. After training the entire team on how to use CommCare, we’ve rolled out the application across our office and field teams. The entire EGG team is already enjoying the ease of our new system.

 

New Financial Manager Joins EGG Team

November 9th, 2014 by Elizabeth

Mark Scott

 
The EGG team is excited to welcome Mark Scott as our new Financial Manager.
 
Mark is a UK Chartered Accountant who has extensive experience of working in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a seasoned accountant with an entrepreneurial flair, he has helped new and established businesses set up or improve their reporting and planning functions as well as ensuring compliance with tax, reserve bank, and other business regulations. Mark’s experience includes the position of CEO of a large farming social enterprise in Malawi, which in addition to operating commercial farms, supported over 15,000 smallholder farmers.
 
Following the hiring of Malcolm Wigmore as CEO in May, the addition of Mark to EGG-energy’s team will empower the company to grow rapidly. Jamie, our founding CEO, remains in Tanzania to ensure a smooth transition and will continue to be actively involved in EGG as a board director. Malcolm has been working closely with Jamie and the entire team to prepare EGG for its next chapter, scaling our rent-to-own solar services across Tanzania.
 
“I am really impressed with the great team we’ve assembled to take over EGG-energy Tanzania,” Jamie explained. “I am fully confident that Malcolm, Mark, Solomon [Faraji, EGG’s COO] and the entire team are poised to take EGG to the next level. I look forward to working with them to ensure our success in providing sustainable energy solutions to off-grid families and businesses across Tanzania.”

New Alstom Grant to Provide Solar Energy to Rural Schools

November 4th, 2014 by Elizabeth

We are excited to announce that Alstom Foundation has chosen to support EGG-energy with a €55,000 grant to equip approximately 18 schools in the Iringa region with lighting and phone charging facilities.

 

Alstom

Kibengu School students holding the Alstom banner

 

Alstom Foundation is the philanthropic branch of Alstom, a French multinational company focused on energy and rail transport. With a presence in 100 countries throughout the world, Alstom supports projects to spur sustainable development through its foundation.

 

In 2012, EGG-energy received a €100,000 grant from Alstom to help two schools and one orphanage in Tanzania’s district of Munfidi. The solar installations provided lighting for hallways and classrooms, charging for cell phones, and a computer lab. Computer maintenance was assured by CleanTech, a company selling electronic devices boasting low power requirements. Now, children in both schools and the orphanage are able to study even after sundown and feel safe around the school at night, without highly polluting kerosene, which can affect their health and cause deadly accidents. And they are able to learn important computer skills via the solar-powered computer labs.

 

EGG-energy IT team installing batteries and solar panels in Kibengu School (2012)

EGG-energy’s technical team installing batteries and solar panels at Kibengu School

 

After embarking on this project, we realized there were many, many more off-grid schools in need of solar energy. We also found that while schools used the lighting and phone charging facilities intensively, the computers were not really a “must” for many schools.

 

So, with about half of the 2012 budget, we’re equipping six times as many schools with solar energy by focusing on the essentials and giving access to what’s needed most: lighting and phone charging. In order to reach even more schools, each school will repay the cost of the system with small monthly payments via M-PESA. After repaying over two years, just like any average customer, the school will then completely own their solar panels. Their repayments will help us invest in solar panels for many more schools.

 

We are thrilled to bring sustainable energy to more off-grid schools and look forward to working once again with the Alstom Foundation.

Freedom to study at home

September 9th, 2014 by Elizabeth

 

This is the third in a series of posts highlighting the experiences of some of our customers after purchasing EGG-energy solar home systems.

 

Teddy, left, with EGG summer intern Debora, standing under an outdoor security light

Teddy, left, with EGG summer intern Debora, standing under an outdoor security light

Thomas, a soldier in the Tanzanian army, decided to buy an EGG solar home system six months ago. When visiting his house in the more rural outskirts of Dar es Salaam, you are immediately overwhelmed by a warm and lively atmosphere: not only can you hear the sound of TV’s musical shows echoing, but you can also enjoy the bright smile of his 23-year-old daughter Teddy.

 

Teddy works very hard: she manages to earn a decent salary working at a call center, while taking classes at a nearby university. But before the EGG solar home system was installed at her home, finding time to study was much more challenging. Since her home had no lights and was pitch black after nightfall, Teddy had to stay at her office, sometimes until very late at night, in order to study. But now, thanks to the six lights powered by her family’s solar system, Teddy is able to study at home instead of staying late at the office and being forced to make the long journey back home well after dark.

Thomas and Teddy's home with EGG solar panel

Thomas and Teddy’s home with EGG solar panel

Before EGG, Teddy’s family only had battery-powered torches to use after dark. The batteries wore out quickly and had to be replaced at least every week. With their solar panel powering long-lasting LED lights, the family no longer has to spend time and money each week to replace torch batteries. They are also able to watch TV and charge mobile phones at their convenience.