One of the deciding
factors in who has access to this technology, is the distribution of energy. In
order to ensure the equality of technology we first need to solve the problem
of unreliable energy.
The concept that energy must
come from one central source is inefficient and outdated. By decentralising
energy and allowing people to generate and use energy as needed, you’re
allowing people to take charge of their own prosperity. In a continent like Africa,
with the incredible opportunity for solar and wind generated energy, keeping
energy centralised severely hampers the potential for economic growth.
Microgrids are an
effective way to quickly and effectively diversify a centralised energy grid.
By employing microgrids you not only take the strain off the central grid and
lower your carbon footprint, you also create economic opportunities where
people can sell off excess energy produced.
The Brooklyn Microgrid
project is an excellent
example of how clean energy can be turned into thriving micro-economies. In
this case, LO3 Energy, a company based in New York US, working alongside
Siemens have installed a solar-powered microgrid. In addition to generating
clean energy for its own use, the company also installed a blockchain enabled
transactive energy platform. This means any unused energy can be sold, generating
a new revenue stream.
The same system could be
put in place in certain parts of Africa. A shop or building even in remote
parts of the country, for example, could install a microgrid and sell off
excess energy to surrounding businesses. You could take it one step further and
create a transparent energy retail environment where a resident in another part
of the country, could choose to top-up their electricity directly from a
microgrid supplier based elsewhere.
By diversifying energy
through microgrid technology, we can very quickly create new income streams in
disadvantaged areas while at the same time growing and stabilising access to
energy. This, in turn, will kickstart real democratisation of energy.
Our Siemens office in
Midrand is equipped with a microgrid and now uses 50% less power off the
central grid. The office has gone more than a year with uninterrupted power and
has saved about 2 460 tons of CO2 since the system was opened (174 000 kWh per
Through energy comes
wider access to communication and the ability to participate in global
conversations through online connectivity. This in turn nurtures creativity,
innovation and economic growth.
journey from ‘idea’ to ‘successful product or business’ is a complicated
process involving business cases, pitches for funding to build a prototype,
raising capital investment for production and testing, wading through patent
approvals and trademark law. While many of these steps are still crucial once
you have a working prototype, the democratisation of technology makes it easier
for inventors and entrepreneurs to develop their ideas. SME’s are vital
economic drivers and making it easier for them to compete will benefit the
economy as a whole.
Digital twinning is one
example that streamlines the production process. A digital twin is a virtual
representation of a physical product or process, used to understand and predict
the physical counterpart’s performance characteristics. Digital twins are used
throughout the product lifecycle to simulate, predict, and optimise the product
and production system before investing in physical prototypes and assets.
This means innovators can
test their products in the virtual world and refine it before ever needing to
raise money for testing. Real-life testing is still vital with most products,
but with digital twinning you can get your product as close to perfect in the
virtual world in order to save time and costs when it comes to the final
real-life test phase. In many ways this agility levels the playing field giving
small, developing companies (and countries) the same opportunities as their
bigger and more established counterparts.
Siemens also offers this
technology free to universities. Students have access to a free version of the
same easy-to-use software suite used by professionals. In addition to free
software, we provide tutorials, webinars, online courses and certification to
help them develop their skills.
Breaking down barriers
Through access to
technology anyone, anywhere, has the opportunity to create a thriving business
or economy. Across Africa it can play a large role in the empowerment of women
and youth development.
One example is our
Siemens Fabric campaign, which was set on the global stage, but all the fabric
produced for the initiative was made by a small female-owned business situated
in Alexandra, Gauteng. Legae Larona Sewing Cooperative in Alex now forms part of
the Siemens Enterprise Development programme.
This is where you start
seeing the results of the democratisation of technology – when an innovator
from a small community in a developing nation has the same access to
opportunity as those operating from high-tech offices in the first world. It’s
not yet a perfect system, but through the clever use of technology we can
exponentially increase access to opportunity.