Ethan Arpi

Bikes That Power Laptops

BikepowerI?ll come right out and say it: I have discovered a cure for childhood obesity.? But it’s not the kid’s meal equivalent of the Atkins or South Beach Diet.? Because serious problems require serious solutions, I suggest that we turn to Uganda and see how villagers power their cell phones, laptops, and televisions.? You see, American children are obese because they spend way too much time watching programs like ?Pimp My Ride? and ?My Super Sweet Sixteen,? while they chat on AIM and send text messages to their friends (And we wonder why they all have ADD!).? If we simply adopted the rural Ugandan model of energy production, we could still enjoy all the virtues of American culture?i.e. reality TV?while avoiding its vices, namely obesity.

So what are Ugandans doing that keeps them so lean and mean?? According to an article published last week in Voice of America, many Ugandans are now utilizing bicycles to power their computers.? With technology supplied by Inveneo, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, which has been profiled in Nextbillion’s activity database, Ugandans can hook up their bicycles to a generator which powers a battery used in their computers.? About fifteen minutes of pedaling translates into up an hour of battery time on the computer. ?Earlier this year, Robert Marsh, the founder of Inveneo, told East African Business Week that he plans to create a for-profit subsidiary of Inveneo to distribute his technology and promote local entrepreneurship: ?In some countries, we can license the system to small entrepreneurs and create businesses that can generate profits by offering basic services.? So we will eventually think of having a commercial subsidiary.?

According to East African Business Week, Inveneo has already installed its first bike powered computing system, which connects five villages in western Uganda.? Laura Mellow, another employee at Inveneo, explained to Voice of America that the new bike powered computers have significantly improved communication and economic mobility in the villages.? “The people use it to talk to each other,? she said.? ?They use it to call surrounding villages, the market towns, to find out the best prices for their products. Then they go there and sell theirs. They also coordinate with each other so that they can pool their crops and take it to villages where they can get more money for their crops based on volume.”

With skyrocketing energy prices and a spiraling obesity epidemic, the United States has its own incentives for promoting bicycle generated power.? So while politicians think that drastic measures need to be taken, like reopening the nuclear energy option, why not consider other small scale energy initiatives?? After all, American children need the work out.

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World Resources Institute