At BarCampAfrica, I met this fellow named Karl from Potenco who was excitedly showing everyone this human-powered generator that he had with him. It looked like an overblown yo yo and you can see me holding one below. It has all kinds of capabilities which they go in to on their website in more detail. Suffice to say, it’s a good answer to the mobile power generator issue. This may not seem like a big deal to those of us in the US or Europe as we have constant power, but for folks in Africa and other developing regions, getting at a constant source of power is an issue. You can see this in DR Congo anywhere this is a live power outlet because there will almost always be a mobile phone (or 10) plugged in to it for a charge.
I think what Potenco is creating is cool, although somewhere down the line, we may finally moved beyond the need for such primitive power generation and we’ll finally understand solar or some other form of energy. I think that the only real flaw with this group is that they’re doing what Americans do best, in that they see a need and they’re attempting to fill it for a profit. Their main goal is to find someone like Nokia to sell this device to in order to get it out there. The mobile phone companies are heavily vested in trying to spread phones across developing nations and so a device like this for powering them is going to be needed. Most folks are going to find little use for this device outside of powering a mobile phone unless they want to have an LED light on at night instead of kerosene.
Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with this approach, but you’re not going to make an evangelist out of anyone with it. Those of us who really care and want to heavily invest our time in to promoting something that we think could make peoples’ lives better are going to skip a for-profit product like this because in the end, it’s no better than say making a new toaster for people to buy and promoting that. All I can say is, “Hey, good luck with that.”
Moving Towards Human Power Part 1