Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are contributing to the achievement of development goals in diverse and ever-expanding ways. They are used to increase the effectiveness and reach of
development interventions, to enhance good governance and to lower the delivery costs of many public and private services. When used appropriately, ICTs facilitate the creation and strengthening of new economic and social networks with the potential to advance and even transform the development process. ICTs are increasingly applied to interventions in such critical sectors as education,health, agriculture and disaster management.
A number of crosscutting issues arise in almost every application of ICTs to development processes. These include equity in the access and use of ICTs by competing social groups; the capacity to reorient ICTs to multiple uses; ensuring information flows across the barriers of illiteracy and limited access; production of meaningful content for distribution
via ICTs; and the challenge of utilizing ICTs in areas where infrastructure such as electricity and technical support are
notably lacking. A growing number of organizations seek to apply ICT best practices in unelectrified areas, but are faced with the questions of how to adapt those practices to the conditions in rural and remote areas and how to meet ICT energy needs given the limited availability of financing.
To help answer these questions, this guide describes a variety of energy
systems that can power small-scale ICT projects in off-grid areas and identifies practical ways to reduce the costs of those systems. Informed selection of ICTs can net savings of thousands of dollars for off-grid projects by reducing the need for energy. Simply using energy efficient shared resource computing solutions instead of desktop systems
can reduce the net investment in an offgrid telecenter by over US$15,000. One of the primary goals of the discussion is
to raise awareness of the relationship between ICTs and energy, and the
financial benefits of considering energy needs early in the process when
planning ICT programs in unelectrified areas.
2 Small-Scale Power Systems
There are a number of ways to power small-scale ICT installations in locations that are not served by the electricity grid. Typically, the easiest and least expensive solution from the end user’s perspective is to
arrange for the extension of the electricity grid to the project site. The cost of grid extension increases with the distance from the grid at a rate of several thousand U.S. dollars per kilometer . Therefore grid
extension often starts to become economically prohibitive farther than three to five km from the grid.
When grid extension is not an option, a standalone or distributed power system can be installed to generate electricity at a location close to the site where the electricity is needed. (For those who require an
introduction or refresher to the basic concepts and terminology of electricity and power generation, Annex 1 contains a brief review of these topics.) Examples of small-scale, standalone power systems
include generator sets powered by diesel, solar PV systems, small wind systems, and micro-hydro systems.
The cost of providing power in off-grid locations is influenced by the technology, the size or capacity of the system, and the ongoing operating costs of fuel and maintenance.