D.LIGHT: Brightening the future of poor communities through affordable and reliable electricity
d.light is an international company dedicated to helping people without access to reliable electricity through affordable and safe solar energy products, from light-emitting-diode (LED) lanterns with cell phone charging capability to study lanterns, which can provide up to 12 hours of light on a day’s solar light charge.
YL volunteer Lidia has detail on light-d.light-story:
In the absence of light, darkness prevails. Scary, isn’t it? It’s not the monsters you should be frightened of, but the fact that this is a reality millions of people in underdeveloped nations face every day.
You see, no light equals no nocturnal productivity. Without light, people can’t work or study at night, and this is an obstacle against development.
Let’s fix this! Drums roll, please! Let there be light!
According to a World Bank study, families who were given access to solar lighting reported a 50% increase on their monthly income, and their children, who previously studied less than one hour per night, are now able to study four hours or more everyday.
But what did families use before d.light? Let’s talk about kerosene.
Toxic lights – The truth behind kerosene lamps
Did you know there are 1.6 billion people in the world with unreliable electrical connections, whose primary source of light is kerosene lamps? Also, did you know these lamps are a common cause behind a large number of fire accidents that result in the destruction of homes and entire communities every year?
Did you see the difference in light quality between doing housework by kerosene lamp and d.light S250?
But that’s not all! You see, the fumes they emit, such as carbon dioxide and monoxide, contribute to global warming and acid rain, and also cause severe infections, respiratory problems and cancer.
In fact, the World Bank estimates that the 780 million women and children breathing these fumes inhale the equivalent of smoke from two packs of cigarettes a day. The result is that two-thirds of the adult female lung cancer victims in the developing world are non-smokers.
Also, the carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen in the air and can be fatal when inhaled. Yet the light from kerosene lamps is so poor that people can only see in the dark if they are really close to the flame, which makes them inhale even more of the toxic smoke.
Moreover, kerosene has to be imported and can be pretty expensive in rural areas, consuming a large percent of a family’s income. So when it seems like it can’t get any worse, many families cannot afford a proper bottle and wick for the kerosene so they rely on fragile glass bottles and pieces of rope that often result in dangerous fires when the bottles are knocked over.
In January 2006, d.light came to life in a Stanford University class called “Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability,” which is dedicated to bringing together engineering and business students to solve the world’s hardest problems by creating affordable and accessible products for even the worlds’ poorest citizens.
In the class, the team composed of Sam Goldman, Ned Tozun, Gabriel Risk, Xianyi Wu and Erica Estrada examined lighting and power. They traveled to Southeast Asia and spent weeks meeting with families, taking pictures, and listening to stories.
They found out one of the main reasons LEDs had not replaced kerosene, even though they are much more efficient, was the high cost of solar energy. Solar panels are often two times more expensive than the light and battery they power.
“After our last trip to Cambodia we realized we could build a global business with ultra low-cost (and super high volume) products designed specifically for rural customers. We committed to a new venture together, turned down our job offers, and started polishing our venture pitch!” –Sam Goldman, CCO and founder of d.light
Inspiration, illumination. Ned Tozun, now President of d.light, kindly answered some questions for us and told us all about their journey!
YL: Why d.light? Why this social venture?
NT: “At first, d.light started as a class project, but it soon became apparent that there was a massive market failure happening and we could have a role to play in helping to correct it. Essentially, the technology was there; however, it just wasn’t getting out there. The solar and LED companies that were out there were mostly focused on developed markets. When we started the company, nobody was making a serious effort to bring solar lighting solutions to base-of-the-pyramid families. So we realized that this could be much much more than just a class project. During our second year in business school, we decided to very seriously work on writing the business plan, putting prototypes together and raising the funding so we could pursue this full-time after we graduated.”
Indeed they did! In early 2007 they won $250,000 from the Draper Fisher Jurvetson Venture Challenge!
YL: Awards and three million lives changed! How does that feel?
NT: “It’s an incredible feeling that we have come so far, but I also still feel that we have so much more to do. As a company, we try to celebrate successes, but we are also never complacent or satisfied with the status quo. The reality is that three million lives changed barely scratches the surface. There are still over 1.5 billion people who don’t have access to electricity and we have a long road ahead of us!”
That’s right! They have set the target to improve the quality life of 50 million people by 2015. So how can we help?
D.light is committed to making their products available for all households without access to reliable electricity, regardless of their income, so they have partnered with Kopernik, an innovative website connecting donors to technology solutions for base-of- the-pyramid households (the largest but poorest social-economic group), to fundraise enough money to light up the entire district of Oecusse in East Timor.
“Having bright, reliable lighting empowers families to rise out of poverty by increasing household income, improving education opportunities, and increasing health and safety”. –Sam
The Fellows Program
The Fellowship Program allows passionate and talented professionals to use their unique skills and experiences to contribute in a significant way d.light’s mission. These are young, bright minds. Just like you and me. See what one of the fellows had to say about the experience:
“Most of us started volunteering at d.light with some lofty and altruistic reason that we were going to be helping the people at the bottom of the pyramid. There was that, but those same people helped us so much more to see their generosity of spirit, simple happiness and the importance of helping each other as human beings. Nearly three years on, I still look back at my three-month-long experience with d.light as a guiding compass for my professional life.”
– Elaine Khoo spent three months in the area of brand identity, packaging, internal and external communications.
So what are you waiting for?! Visit d.light’s website and spread the word for a brighter future!
Join them on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/dlightdesigninc
And follow them on Twitter! http://twitter.com/#!/dlightdesign
- D.light’s website and press package. http://dlightdesign.com/home_global.php
- The Korea Times. “LED Lighting Technology – Clean Lighting for Poor”
- Pictures credit to d.light design
Social Communications student and aspiring diplomat. Loves the outdoors, books and music. This tree hugger’s ambition is a tolerant and greener world, and believes all actions no matter how small can make a difference. This is why she joined Youth Leader.email@example.com