Play #8: For Learning, More is More

When installing in the field, start as small as possible to give yourself the space to learn and pivot — even if this means you ignore economies of scale.

Asad Rahman
Feb 14, 2019 · 3 min read

The Pilot: Smart Solar Energy for Healthcare in Zimbabwe

If we introduce internet of things (IoT) connected solar energy systems to rural health clinics, we will enable a 10x increase in out of hours procedures.

Use this play to answer our challenge around post-pilot sustainability: when the tech use case is not sustainable post pilot stage, either through donor funding, private investment, government take up or commercial revenue.

This play is part of our Frontier Technology Playbook: Plays by DfID Pioneers to Overcome Development Challenges. Click here to read the other plays and an introduction to the Playbook.

The Pioneers: Africa Power Storage

With a 21% rural electrification rate, the need for energy in Zimbabwe’s rural health facilities is widespread and desperate. In the face of such need, it’s human instinct to want to do as much good as possible with what you have. So, why did we install our smart solar energy system in two facilities, even though we had pilot budget for more?

Experiencing the end to end installation meant we learned across every point in our journey: including regulatory obstacles, the best way to install in a health clinic, how to train locals to maintain it, and so on. Optimising for learning (and not scale) meant we could optimise our process within the pilot time and budget.

Our objective on the pilot was not to try the tech once and conclude a yes or no on whether the tech creates impact, but to iterate to move towards as much impact as possible for every dollar spent. Ultimately, this is what we know would build the case for this tech being mainstreamed in large-scale donor solar energy programmes.

The Practice

  1. Pick installation sites that are as different, to learn in as many environments as possible — we picked a two-room clinic and large hospital
  2. Leave space for both simple and profound shifts. We shifted towards providing cleaning mops (simple), as well as a new business model where clinics sell excess energy (profound)
  3. Empower all people working on the pilot with a learning mindset — what could we do even better?

Get in touch…

Drop mike@aps.network a line to find out more!

Frontier Technologies Hub

Working with the UK Dept. for International Development to apply frontier technologies to the biggest challenges in development.

Asad Rahman

Written by

Applying tech and innovation to international development with UKAid. Follow us here: https://medium.com/frontier-technology-livestreaming

Frontier Technologies Hub

Working with the UK Dept. for International Development to apply frontier technologies to the biggest challenges in development.

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