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Solar Energy and the Mobile Wave

Oct 31, 2012

A spectacular event in our world’s history is emerging that will bring unparalleled change.  As the fifth wave of the Information Revolution is upon us, the deployment of the ‘Mobile Internet’ is disrupting the status quo of business and communications as it grows in orders of magnitude beyond belief.  The CEO of Google, Larry Page, estimates that "by 2015 there will be over five billion new mobile computing tablets and smart phones with internet access penetrating all walks of humanity."  Imagine the possibilities when 80% of all people across all geographical locations can instantly access businesses and customers with an app, through social media, or a website — this is indeed unchartered radical change. 

Mobile computing will de-materialize 50 percent of all products and services that we have lived with our entire lives and evaporate them into software.  Magazines, newspapers and books will become vapor, as we are witnessing with Newsweek’s announcement that it "will end its print publication after 80 years and shift to an all digital format in early 2013."  Everything in your wallet or purse from credit cards, to cash, to IDs will become vapor as the world adopts mobile money technology and secure software identification.  Instant free entertainment, free education and free medical services will obliterate these industries and give rise to the birth of new mega-app companies.

Accompanying this wave is the purging of brick and mortar storefronts, construction, industrial production, and the waste and carbon associated with these processes.  It is estimated that reduction in paper mills will reduce 40 million tons of carbon dioxide annually in the U.S. alone.  The savings in material costs will be reinvested into new technologies creating millions of new jobs and wealth while at the same time saving our natural capital. 

The people that will experience the most profound impact are the under-served consumers at the base of the economic pyramid (BoP).  This massive demographic are the four billion citizens that manage to live on less than $1,500 annually with unreliable or zero energy.  Developing nations will leap-frog into the twenty first century with the help of mobile computing and create new manifestations for common products and services, new mechanisms for delivery, new investments, insurance protection, and new economics. 

Solar PV will be a key driver in the adoption of the mobile revolution, and distributed energy is a viable solution for powering everyday devices in developing countries.  In Africa, mobile devices are becoming the first true infrastructure that residents have really ever seen.  Currently there are in excess of 760 million phones subscriptions with 400 million of them off-grid.  The deployment of solar to charge mobile devices will likely be linked to the success of wireless technology in the region. 

The fastest growing mobile market in the world is Africa, which also holds the largest number of people living in energy poverty.  The fastest growing energy source in the world is solar.  

I am off to Cape Town to visit AfricaCom to interview businesses and individuals and get a pulse on how solar will play a role in the Information Revolution.  Please stay tuned to my blog for the most current information.

Lead image: Solar panels via Shutterstock

The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.

John is a writer, lecturer, and research associate for the University of Denver, Daniels College of Business with a special emphasis in sustainability management and renewable energy. John’s work is focused on the convergence of solar PV and the under-served consumers at the base of the econom...


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