Two new reports from august organizations – the World Bank and the Ashoka Foundation – draw needed attention to a challenge that many, if not most of us, in the developed world take for granted: the availability of electricity, water and basic sanitation. These studies also help make an important point: that taking care of these basic services can “fuel” entrepreneurial development. In the developing world much human time and energy is spent seeking out fresh water and dealing with the vagaries of intermittent power, time that could otherwise be used to go to school or to start and grow a business.
The World Bank study –“Getting Electricity” – published by the Doing Business team, takes a look at the linkages between getting power and growing businesses. Not surprisingly, there is a correlation, although is is not purely a function of level of economic development but also of the connection costs and the number of steps it takes a business to get wired into a power grid. Further, the study reports that businesses in low income countries suffer an average of 18 power outages per month, compared to 8 per month in lower middle income countries and 3 in upper middle income countries.
The Ashoka Foundation effort focuses at the “bottom of the pyramid” – at the 16 billion people around the world that have no electricity. Their research effort, undertaken in partnership with Hystra and three French energy companies (GDF Suez, Schneider Electric and Total), investigates efforts to bring more power to the people. These efforts are found to cluster in four categories: grid connections, power devices, solar energy systems, and rural cooperatives. Read more by visiting this web link.
Interestingly (and either coincidentally or not), a recent blogpost on the Huffington Post discusses another aspect of this issue, focusing on the fact that 1 billion people worldwide do not have ready access to clean water, and the burden of finding and fetching water falls to women and girls – who might otherwise have more time for education and business pursuits. Read more at “Water and Women: A Gender Crisis, a Global Opportunity.”
Take a minute to think about the 200 million hours that are spent – mostly by women and girls – every single day just to get fresh water, and how much more productively those hours could be spent. So, bringing more “power to the people” can really empower women!