Meetups in Dar on Different perspectives on complex challenges in water and energy sectors

After the initiatives of University of Dar es Salaam ICT Incubator (UDICTI), coaches from College of ICT (CoICT) University of Dar es Salaam started to plan for the meetups, finally the time came for providers and consumers of water and energy to meet and discuss different perceptions towards complex situation and challenges facing the two sectors – water and energy.

The discussion was very interesting, with Six Thinking Hat tool being used. It required each participant to contribute in an active manner. There were two groups in each meetup: Groups 1 and 2 in Water-meetup and Groups 2 and 3 in Energy-meetup. The respective groups consisted of providers and consumers of energy and water. Each group had six members, each wearing a hat that was randomly picked among six different coloured hats.

After a brief introduction of how to use Six Thinking Hat tool, each group was given fifteen minutes to rehearse. This was followed by the discussions intended for the meetups. At the end of these discussions, the following four ideas were generated as useful solutions to problems facing water and energy sectors in Tanzania:

(1) Frequent monitoring and maintenance of water supply system

(2) Awareness creation of water resource management

(3) Change of human behaviour in energy use trend

(4) Awareness creation about unnecessary use of energy

#EnergyCommunityKE Meetup: Innovate and Disrupt!

25th October 2015 was an exhilarating day for #energycommunityKE. We hosted Sumayya Hassan-Athmani, CEO of National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK), a public sector organisation and Edward Koranteng, Group Manager - Energy, Oil & Gas at Chase Bank Kenya Ltd, a leading SME bank in Kenya. The two were principal guests to the second Negawatt Challenge meetup, of Phase II. The audience comprised of a rich blend of representatives from both the private and public sector. It was an exceptional opportunity for those eager to explore opportunities in energy as well as gain some knowledge on how to work with the public sector.

The speakers urged techies not to be apprehensive about working with government. Techies shy away from government bureaucracy, subsequently missing out on opportunities to innovate and make an impact. In line with this, Mrs. Summaya affirmed that NOCK is keen to work with techies to ensure efficiency in internal operations as well as service delivery.           Mrs Summaya went on to challenge techies in the room with the question:

“What is our ‘Uber’? The ‘Uber’ for the energy sector”, she echoed.

She pointed out that a huge opportunity lied in tracking of LPG gas cylinders as well as automating their distribution and delivery.

Chase Bank is actively supporting new technologies in energy, especially in the area of solar. Mr. Koranteng conveyed,

“…Its all about ingenuity; Chase Bank is ready to support you by availing the necessary funds. Our doors are open for you, we believe in your passion.”  

We also watched an inspiring video (see below) about a Malawian boy who at the age of 14 built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap, guided by a book he had borrowed from a library. 

The discussion sparked a lively discussion among those in attendance, while those who were not able to attend actively engaged on twitter - #energycommunityKE was actually a top trend. That just attests how captivating the session was!

Mrs. Summaya closed off by urging techies to innovate and disrupt: “Energy companies were initially resistant to change, but this is changing, they have learnt the aphorism: ‘Innovate or die’.”

Demo Day and announcement of the Negawatt winning team in Dar es Salaam

With much preparation and training, which were done throughout the acceleration period, finally the time came for the two teams, Team T-First and TeamStic to pitch. 

The event was presided by a stakeholder workshop in the morning. Stakeholders from different energy and water organizations discussed the problems facing respective areas of expertise, their current solutions, limitations on the current solutions and proposals on how future solutions should be tailored. The competing teams got chances to give some insights on their solutions through a short presentation.

During the second event Demo Session, each team was given time to pitch and demonstrate on how the prototypes work in front of a panel of judges and the stakeholders. After deliberation the judges announced the winning team TeamStic who will represent Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

What did the Negawatt participating teams get at the end?

 1. Experience in pitching.

 2. Knowledge and skills how to develop solutions around customers needs (Customers feedback and recommendation).

 3. Spirit and discipline of working as a team.

 4. Access to contacts of different stakeholders in the field of their solutions, which eventually led to revamping of their solutions.

First Negawatt Challenge Meetup in Dar

With the blessings of the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research, Knowledge and Exchange of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), who was the guest of honour, and the Principal of the College of ICT (CoICT) of UDSM, who hosted the event, the first out of a series of meetups engaging the community in the Negawatt Challenge program kicked off in the morning of September 17, 2015 at UDSM. The theme of the event was “Innovation for Transformation in the Water and Energy Sectors”.

Stakeholders of the energy and water sectors were introduced to the program, learnt insights from the Ministry of Water (MoW), the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA), CoICT, and Team STIC - one of the teams currently accelerated through the Negawatt Challenge Dar program. Team STIC’s innovative solution for the water sector gained significant interest from the participants and the media who featured the event in the local news

The Next #EnergyCommunityKE Meetup...

New developments in Oil, Gas and Electricity

You Requested. We listened.

We are thrilled to let you know that the Nairobi Negawatt team will be hosting a special meetup featuring top executives from Kenya Power and Lighting, National Oil Corporation of Kenya and Kengen. The meetup is scheduled to take place on the 22nd of October 2015, from 5:30pm at the iHub.

Themed ‘New developments in Oil, Gas and Electricity in Kenya’, this event will inform the local tech community of entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts on new developments in Oil, Gas and Electricity, as well as opportunities that exist for tech entrepreneurs to innovate and disrupt the energy sector.

Through this meet-up we hope to initiate relationships between members of the energy and technology industry, and to encourage public-private sector engagement to create innovative ideas to move both industries forward.

Isn’t this that super dope opportunity for you to connect with public sector representatives in energy and probably jumpstart your way towards mutual partnerships and collaborations?

Grab your ticket before they run out:

We really can’t wait to meet you!

In the meantime, get social and join as online, the hashtag is #EnergyCommunityKE :)

A shift in paradigm – entrepreneurs develop business solutions to fix Dar es Salaam water supply system

The United Nations agreed upon 17 sustainable development goals, among which access to clean water is one. No doubt, what is evident in London and New York – to open a tap and have access to water is still far from being realized in Dar es Salaam. This spring, a design thinkingworkshop formulated a set of ambitious challenges that, if solved, can cure Dar es Salaam's water supply and management system. What has happened since? Many teams became engaged and developed solutions that address specific topics of relevance to the water system. At the end, two teams have been selected and where given special coaching for a couple of months.

Being part of the panel that selected those two teams, I can confess it was a difficult choice. One does not often encounter such enthusiasm and dedication – most of the team members were students or had finished their studies – working long nights to sharpen their business proposals. At the end, one team will present their case at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona – offering investors to buy into their business plan.

We are entering a new path – real challenges can become  goldmines to investors – to explore those goldmines, one needs entrepreneurs who recognize attractive solutions and are dedicated to make a business out of it. The entrepreneurial spirit at institutions in Dar like UDSM, DIT and Ardhi is thriving. Everybody, however, recognizes existing problems. The Negawatt Challenge provides a great opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills and show that recognizing a good problem is the first step in becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Dar has a lot of good problems to crack – in the wake of Negawatt - we will see more and more entrepreneurs taking care of solutions.

Prof. Ramon Wyss, Vice President for foreign affairs, KTH Royal institute of technology

Jump on the bandwagon because Phase II of Negawatt Nairobi is here!

Technology; Energy; and Innovation. These are the three words that aptly describe the Negawatt Challenge, an initiative pioneered by the World Bank to leverage on cities’ rich ecosystems of innovative entrepreneurs to surface sustainable technology solutions that address energy efficiency challenges. In Nairobi, the iHub and iLabAfrica are spearheading the local effort by virtue of their outstanding role in the growth of the Kenyan tech ecosystem.

The Challenge has been designed to unfold in two phases, with the first phase having concluded recently. This phase comprised of Meetups, a design thinking workshop (Challenge Definition Day), a hackathon (Negawatt Weekend) and a Bootcamp. As such we engaged the local community in a dialogue of knowledge sharing and problem solving, which included offering support to entrepreneurs with groundbreaking ideas that tackle local energy issues

What next?

Going forward, we are keen to sustain and continue the dialogue around energy efficiency among the local tech and energy communities. By doing what we know best and capitalizing on the nascent community that we have brought together, the iHub has organized a series of interesting activities targeting current local energy innovators and interested parties.

We are launching this grand phase on Wednesday, September 2, 2015 from 5:30pm at the iHub. This will be an opportunity to share and engage with other people with similar interests as yours, and meet our brilliant innovators who have already benefited and continue to benefit from this project.   

We will feature entrepreneurs who have initiated sustainable businesses in the sector, as well as top-notch applied researchers to equip you with valuable information on opportunities in the energy sector, as well as advise on how best to make hay while the sun shines.

Time to jump on the bandwagon!

Join us in this amazing event and be part of the growing community of energy innovators.  Lots of fun, food and most importantly, invaluable networks and insights await you!

RSVP here, and see you!  

Join the conversation on twitter: #EnergyCommunityKE



The Journey Continues: Negawatt Accra Boot Camp

By Alison Roadburg, iSpace Programs Manager

With the goal to refine their ideas from the Negawatt Weekend, teams Sun Shade Energy, ASOR, W.I and FLIP participated in an intensive, tailor-made boot camp from April 7th until April 26th. iSpace hosted the boot camp convening coaches and mentors who have provided the training along key aspects of business and product development. Bearing witness to the energy and dedication to their new products generated by the boot camp participants, I am convinced that the topic of energy efficiency will remain long salient after the competition.

The teams’ ideas are bold and impressive, as the teams embarked on a journey to help curb contextual energy inefficiencies in Accra. Negawatt came at a pivotal moment in Ghana, as we’ve been experiencing severe power cuts throughout the country, the most pressing of which hit the capital. With no electricity for periods of 24 hours or longer, entrepreneurs have been forced to ask themselves, how can we make energy more efficient through new inventions?

Flip introduced an energy-saving and time-controlled switch for street lighting and commercial lighting in buildings. ASOR offered a hardware and software solution allowing consumers to estimate and track the power needs of home appliances. Sun Shade Energy focused on strengthening building insulations by offering an upgrade of conventional shading systems, and W.I focused on strengthening building insulation by offering a turbine cool housing unit by a process known as “air exchange”.

“It was a learning curve”

The goal of the boot camp was to take the ideas generated at the Negawatt Weekend to the next level, through an intensive curriculum of business development, finance, marketing, the legalities of a startup, and software and hardware training. Extra attention was paid to polishing the pitching skills, as this was a key step in the transgression of the boot camp. In addition to the training curriculum, each team was matched with a mentor for individualized guidance on specific needs and received a virtual mentorship session from National Instruments (NI).

The boot camp was a great learning experience for me, though it was a learning curve. I’ve been on the entrepreneurial journey for a while, but there were things that I didn’t realize and there are things that I didn’t know, so it has changed my focus on some of the things that I do.
— Nii Tete Saashi Quaye from Sun Shade Energy

The boot camp began with an enticing session on pitch coaching by Precious Nana Ewusi Nyarko, whose dynamic experience inspired the participants to go beyond standard approaches when they present their business ideas. iSpace co-founder and CEO Josiah Kwesi Eyison facilitated a session on business development, followed by marketing expert, Rita Kusi, who taught participants on how to present their newly-crafted brand. Kofi Essel-Appiah, acclaimed architect and active member of the Ghana Green Building Council, worked alongside the participants to ensure that their ideas were indeed addressing the energy efficiency pain points. Fiifi Baidoo, co-founder and Chief technical Officer of iSpace, facilitated a session on software development, alongside Ben Nortey, founder of the Metro Institute of Innovation and Technology, who facilitated a session on hardware specifications. Lawyer, Naa Sarku Nettey guided the group on the legality rights to patent ideas, and Wayne Miranda, founder and CEO of Growth Mosaic, led the participants on the logistics of financing a startup. Last but not least, Andrew Etwire from Power World conducted a specialized training on solar energy.

Negawatt Accra Boot Camp participants: ASOR, W.I, FLIp & Sun Shade Energy. Photo credit: Alison Roadburg

Negawatt Accra Boot Camp participants: ASOR, W.I, FLIp & Sun Shade Energy. Photo credit: Alison Roadburg

It was energizing to see youth coming up with creative and innovative ideas for energy efficiency. The passion which inspired the teams to move from ideas to prototype to an eventual idea was a very encouraging thing to witness.
— Josiah Kwesi Eyison, co-Founder and CEO of iSpace

Not another hackathon

At the end of the boot camp, two teams out of four - Sun Shade Energy and W.I - were selected to continue on in the Negawatt competition in a 3-month business accelerator program. The challenge competition will culminate in November 2015, when one team from each of the Negawatt cities, who has performed best during the acceleration, will travel to the Smart City World Expo Congress in Barcelona. There they will meet their peers from the other challenge countries, as well as winners of the Negawatt online urban energy efficiency competition, which is managed by the MIT Climate CoLab and open to teams worldwide. It is in Barcelona, where the teams will participate in their last pitching contest, and one of them will be selected as a global Negawatt winner. 

For Accra, the Negawatt Challenge hasn’t been just another hackathon. From its outset, the Negawatt has placed a special emphasis on the process - one that inspires thoughtful ideation and is based on the generation of viable solutions - and on an intensive acceleration for sustainable, behavioral and effective change as it relates to urban energy. iSpace has been excited to be part of this initiative and we look forward to new opportunities to driving deeper community engagement on energy efficiency.


Images - 
First: Team Sun Shade Energy
Second: Team ASOR
Third: Team FLIP
Fourth: Team W.I

Photo Credit: Alison Roadburg




Be a Hero … You have all it takes to solve energy challenges in Accra

Author: Rudi Ngnepi

While most Accra residents were participating in various social activities on a busy Tuesday evening, a dynamic group of people convened at the iSpace Foundation for the National Instruments (NI) Negawatt Challenge Meetup. The day before, on March 2, experts from the public, private, academic, and nonprofit sectors defined Accra’s energy challenge statements during an interactive workshop - Negawatt Challenge Definition Day – organized by iSpace with support from the World Bank’s Information and Communication Technologies Global Practice, NI, and Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology. The meetup was an opportunity to reflect on how the NI technology could be potentially leveraged for tackling demand side energy challenges identified through the workshop.

NI is a Texas-based company that enables engineers and scientists to accelerate discovery, productivity, and innovation through its innovative platform-based approach. I am a  R&D Group Manager in the Global Engineering Services organization and team member of the company’s Planet NI Program which aims to empower engineers in emerging economies through access to NI technology, hence the symbiotic collaboration with the Negawatt Challenge to enable entrepreneurs and experts to solve real-life energy issues through the use of cutting-edge technologies.

iSpace audience is attentively listening to Rudi Ngnepi's opening presentation. Photo credit (all photos in this blog post): Kobe Subramaniam.

iSpace audience is attentively listening to Rudi Ngnepi's opening presentation. Photo credit (all photos in this blog post): Kobe Subramaniam.


To make the meetup more relevant to the local audience, iSpace invited Power World Ltd to kick off the meetup. Power World has been providing power and energy audit-based solutions in Ghana for the past 20 years. In his opening remarks the company’s representative Emmanuel Narhkom shared his thoughts on the state of the energy private sector ecosystem in Ghana and shed the light on the need for continued research in this area. The research, Emmanuel said, would inspire the rise of technology-based solutions that could help companies reduce their power consumption in an intuitive manner.

Emmanuel Narhkom from Power World describes the energy ecosystem in Ghana. Photo credit: Kobe Subramaniam.

Emmanuel Narhkom from Power World describes the energy ecosystem in Ghana. Photo credit: Kobe Subramaniam.

Following Emmanuel, I started off my presentation by immediately challenging the crowd to be innovators and rise up to address Accra’s energy crisis without waiting for big players to intervene. What I have observed in my one week stay in Ghana, is that Ghanaians, similarly to others living in Africa, tend to reward and recognize Western-based innovations, such as wearable technologies, while ignoring practical solutions produced locally. It is my firm belief that every innovator who attended the meetup has the same aspirations as their peers in the West, and by now s/he had demonstrated an ability to solve problems through the release of several successful mobile and web applications. There is, however, a technology access gap that needs to be bridged: integrated hardware and software solutions that are capable of addressing energy challenges in a way that mobile or software-only solutions simply cannot address are often unavailable to African techies.

Rudi Ngnepi explains the genesis of startups. Photo credit: Kobe Subramaniam.

Rudi Ngnepi explains the genesis of startups. Photo credit: Kobe Subramaniam.

Successful tech startups follow one simple formula: experiment, fail, learn, and repeat. The overall startup process spans beyond the technology piece, with the need for a clear understanding of the problem, value proposition, business mentorship, and financing. The need for rapid prototyping and getting past the first fail is an important part of any successful startup process. With the NI platform, users can follow a graphical programming paradigm and integrate seamlessly with various hardwares. They can prototype rapidly and iteratively – experiment, fail, learn, and repeat - rather than waste time on battling user interfaces and dealing with low-level driver issues.

To illustrate what I was referring to, I called on one audience member named Dayo, whom I had shown a few hours before the meetup one simple NI hardware device. I challenged Dayo to demonstrate to others how one could program a Digilent board without using any manual. Although a software engineer Dayo stood up to my challenge masterfully easy: it took him no more than 15 minutes to set up the device to follow commands.

I, on the other hand, showcased potential models of energy demand-side management using LabVIEW software, which is appropriate for any measurement or control system, and myDAQ device, an affordable, student-ready measurement and instrumentation device.  This software and hardware combination enables seamless data capture from physical assets from substations to home appliances. I demonstrated the ease of capturing information from a mini-grid system – with generation, transmission and distribution components – with the intent of controlling the power distribution within an estate or within individual homes. Though I used a miniature mini-grid system, the concept of “measure, analyze and control” is the basis for how significant improvements can be made in the energy sector. The National Grid UK leveraged this very concept to optimize their investments to meet the energy needs of their constituents.

I believe that the audience was hooked and dazzled with the power of NI products. During the Q&A following my presentation, the audience equipped with new knowledge and insights started asking questions on how they can get access to NI technology, what kind of technical support is available, and how their participation in the Negawatt could bring them closer to the desired technologies. What is key, in my view, is that we have jointly explored how to bridge the gap between energy issues and possible practical solutions, and this is what has generated the utmost value.

With most Accra residents unaware, just the beginning of something special was originating at iSpace. In just one week I would get a very similar impression after my next meetup in Kenya. Continue checking out this blog for more reflections.

Rudi Ngnepi is the R&D group manager in global engineering services at NI and team member of the Planet NI program. Rudi was born in Cameroon and has lived in the United States for 15 years. He is passionate about using technology to solve practical issues in Africa. He is also on the board of directors of The African Leadership Bridge, a non-profit that provides mentorship and educational scholarships to promising young African leaders to study in the United States and then return to Africa to tackle relevant issues and enhance development.


Negawatt Weekend: Dar es Salaam

Author: Basil Malaki and Eric Foster-Moore

The first time we brought people together under the Negawatt Challenge in Tanzania, we ended up with over 50 people in the room passionately discussing the finer points of water service delivery in Dar es Salaam. The output of that meeting was a set of challenge statements that we then used as the basis for the Negawatt Weekend competition on March 28-29, 2015. Teams worked around the clock to develop proposals that they then presented to a panel of expert judges.

On Saturday morning, we were thrilled to welcome a host of exciting guest speakers, including Chris Sheldrick of what3words, Malin Cronqvist of Help to Help. From the World Bank, we had three speakers--Daud Fufudi, Edward Anderson, and Kristoffer Welsein--who discussed the finer points of community mapping with drones and the challenges facing the water supply sector.

Produced by Chris Morgan for the Negawatt Challenge.

We were able to convene over 75 people on Negawatt Weekend. There were eight teams competing to develop solutions to the identified challenges. Participants included many students--engineers in particular--as well as some entrepreneurs, coders, and general techies.

The goal of the Negawatt weekend was twofold: to build capacity of participants and to provide them with the tools and resources to develop products/services to tackle challenges facing the water sector in Dar es Salaam.

Here are the ideas that the winning teams presented:

Team First
A system to map existing pipelines, track usage, and identify leakage points in the water distribution network. Team First plan to develop a sensor which will determine the water level, volume, pressure, PH level and store this information in a database. A report will be sent to a community member in the area experiencing leakage. This will enable them to fix the problem.

Team Avengers
A water treatment machine known as ‘Hydro Safi’. The machine will provide clean and safe drinking water. The machine will use solar power and includes a filtration process that utilizes Ultraviolet rays.

Team Transformers
Team Transformers have created a network connecting registered water vendors to consumers. The vendor database will provide consumers with reliable vendor details in their area.

Team Stic
A pre-paid water metering system that will perform revenue monitoring, provide security for private water resources. It can be operated in two modes, as a Point of Sale which can either offer mobile money or coin based payment and as a household pre-paid meter which offer mobile money payment.

Great races always end where they begin, the winning teams booked themselves a spot in the three week Negawatt Boot Camp facilitated by instructors from KTH. Participating teams will be put through a mentorship and  training program to be rendered by professional mentors and facilitators. During this period participants will improve their ideas further. The outcome of the bootcamp will determine the two teams that will proceed to the Negawatt Acceleration program for over three months before entering the final leg in Barcelona where successful teams will face off at the Barcelona Smart City Expo Congress.

Negawatt in the making: Ghanaians host the first energy efficiency Challenge

Challenge participants at the Negawatt Weekend kickoff on March 14. Photo: Alison Roadburg

Challenge participants at the Negawatt Weekend kickoff on March 14.
Photo: Alison Roadburg

Author: Cecilia Paradi-Guilford

As a rapidly urbanizing capital, Accra, Ghana has been experiencing increased economic activity, coupled with rising migration. An increase in urban residents means an uptick in the demand for energy, both electricity and fuel.
The city has constrained human and financial resources to respond to this issue, as energy supply is struggling to keep up with ever-growing demand. Consequently, severe electricity shortages occur at the national level, resulting in frequent load shedding and energy price inflation, to the tune of 12 percent in the third quarter of 2014 alone.
Dumsor or load shedding has become part of the everyday life of local inhabitants; in fact, it is such a chronic issue that it has even made it into Wikipedia. Under the current timetable, residential customers have up to 24 hours of power outage for every 12 hours of power and are forced to use back-up power, kerosene lamps or be without power. At the same time, the Energy Commission of Ghana estimates that every year end-use electricity waste is around 30 percent of all of the electricity consumed, which in part, is due to the inefficiency of appliances and their overuse by the population. As is well known, inefficient use of energy contributes to higher levels of energy consumption than needed.
Although energy supply in the city is so often an issue, creative energies are bubbling in local information technology and innovation hubs, ready for a “spillover” into other sectors such as energy. Accra is home to a growing community of technologists and innovators, offering great and untapped potential for a new force to offer solutions, particularly, in the area of energy efficiency.
The combination of an energy supply crisis and the city’s commitment towards energy efficiency through a recent TRACE assessment led by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) as well as this talented information technology community made Accra a perfect candidate for the Negawatt Challenge, a new World Bank initiative aimed at identifying innovative software, hardware and business solutions to address energy efficiency, funded by the Korean Green Growth Trust Fund.

Challenge Definition Day: where critical energy efficiency challenges get refined

The Negawatt Challenge got off to a terrific start in Accra on March 2, with more than 40 energy and technology stakeholders participating. The first step was Challenge Definition Day, an event that launched the process to identify and define specific challenges pertaining to energy efficiency on a city level. The whole-day event was hosted by the iSpace Foundation, a co-working and technology hub and lead competition organizer in Ghana.
Experts at the Challenge Definition Day included representatives from government, utility companies, industry associations, the private sector, the donor community and academia. The themes explored were:

  • Demand-side management of energy;
  • Energy audits;
  • Building insulation;
  • Financing of energy efficiency projects;
  • Building energy data ecosystems; and
  • Efficiency of appliances.

A facilitating team from iSpace, the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, or MEST, and National Instruments, or NI (a Global Terawatt Sponsor of the Negawatt Challenge in all participating cities) guided participants through the workshop process, including exploring existing and needed data related to the themes. Through a user journey-mapping technique, teams of participants created storyboards of specific stakeholders’ experiences that identified so-called “pain points,” which are real or perceived problems. This allowed for the development and refinement of more specific challenge statements. By the end of the day, each team presented at least one challenge statement, along with information on useful data, potential solutions and suggested next steps.
The result is a number of challenges including “How might we provide tools that would allow consumers to monitor their energy use more efficiently?“ or “How might we enable more efficient use and monitoring of household appliances to save energy?” These challenges, if solved, have a high potential to impact energy efficiency in Accra by creating a significant amount of “negawatt” power, or energy saved.

Negawatt Weekend: where teams pitch in their solutions

These challenges formed the basis for the next step of the initiative, the Negawatt Weekend. The central event of this weekend was a two-day ideathon on March 14-15, hosted by iSpace and open to innovators, techies, entrepreneurs, makers, energy experts, and anyone interested in urban energy innovations. The event drew more than 70 participants and saw 14 teams putting their energy and talent to hard work to develop innovative ideas for products and services to improve energy efficiency in Accra, leveraging technology and looking at marketability.
The teams received support from expert facilitators and a pitch coach from MEST Ghana, as well as from eight mentors on user interface design, hardware hacking, business and finance, and approaches to community engagement representing various organizations. The Negawatt Weekend ended with the teams’ pitches to a panel of judges.
The winning teams and their ideas were:

  • Team Asor, which focused on offering data services to improve demand-side management through a hardware and software solution that allows consumers to estimate power needs of home appliances, as well as track (in real time) their electricity consumption status and that of their neighborhood
  • Team Flip, which explored enhancing the demand-side management of energy by introducing an energy-saving and time-controlled switch for street lighting and commercial lighting in buildings
  • Team Sun Shade, which came up with a way to strengthen building insulation by offering a photovoltaic upgrade to a conventional shading system, in which the shade would absorb sun energy and reuse it to power lighting and, in the future, other household appliances
  • Team WI, which focused on strengthening building insulation by offering a turbine-cooled housing unit that uses a process known as air exchange

The winning teams will receive intensive training and mentorship support in business and finance, user experience design, hardware, marketing and other technical- and theme-specific expertise through a three-week boot camp that would allow participants to pursue their ideas further. As a next step, two teams will be selected to go through the Negawatt Acceleration process over a three-month period, and then enter the global pitching contest with the other participating cities after the summer.
These teams from Ghana will not only have the chance to compete with their peers in the other cities, but they will also interact with city government decision-makers from other countries convened by the Negawatt Challenge, thus getting an opportunity to showcase their early prototypes.
The solutions surfaced by the Negawatt Challenge will unlikely resolve Accra’s ongoing energy supply issues on its own. However by leveraging entrepreneurial talent to find innovative tools and technologies, as well as build capacity within the city to support entrepreneurship and innovation through a platform where policy makers and startups can collaborate, this activity will be complimentary to existing initiatives.


This blog has originally appeared on the World Bank's IC4D blog:


Author: Rosina Norton

“WHAT’S MISSING? Just a sprinkle of inspiration…”

The meetup gathered a diverse audience curious to learn about NI products and services. Photo credit: iHub Photography

The meetup gathered a diverse audience curious to learn about NI products and services. Photo credit: iHub Photography

Friday evening in Nairobi and the city was bustling with expectancy for the weekend. However, over in the iHub headquarters, there was a different type of excitement in the air - National Instruments (NI) Negawatt Meetup was about to take place. Now that the Negawatt Challenge statements have been clearly defined, developers, entrepreneurs and energy experts of Nairobi have been itching to get started. The chance to solve real-life energy issues by implementing technically informed and innovative visions is a challenge one cannot refuse. That said, we all know that a little inspiration and direction are key to igniting those first sparks of ingenuity.

Introducing Rudi Ngnepi, our host for the evening. Rudi Ngnepi is an R&D group manager in the Global Engineering Services organization at National Instruments and a team member of the Planet NI Program. National instruments is an official Terawatt sponsor of the Negawatt Challenge in all participating cities; the company has been enabling engineers and scientists to create and innovate new products and services since 1976. Their Planet NI Program aims to empower engineers in emerging economies through access to NI technology.

Rudi challenged the audience almost immediately with the question “What’s Missing?” What were the citizens of Nairobi missing that was stopping them from winning the Negawatt Challenge? Shy murmurs rippled through the audience as individuals were hesitant to answer. In response, Rudi dove head first into an impassioned reasoning behind NI’s involvement and their pledge to support the successful teams. A short introduction to successful tech start-ups reiterated the key ingredients: Experiment, Fail, Learn, Repeat. Part of NI’s support would include access to their LabView software and associated firmware as well as their mentorship. LabView is an intuitive software which allows the user to code by using graphics and integrate the program seamlessly with the designated hardware. Rather than having to spend time on perfecting code and battling with user interfaces, LabView allows the user to prototype rapidly and most importantly, get past that first fail as quickly as possible. And to put his money where his mouth is, several impressive applications were demonstrated (including a solution to the classic inverted pendulum challenge and a remote energy management system developed in just 3 days by one of the participants), the audience were hooked.  

Any developer or engineer can appreciate the potential of such software and this clearly resonated with the group. When Rudi asked once more “What’s missing?”, rather than the previous shy murmurs, excited waves propagated through the audience. Questions came flooding in and you could almost hear the idea generating gears start-up in all the inspired minds! As the evening wrapped up, attendees were naturally coalescing and ideas were ricocheting around the room. On leaving, I took a mental note of the atmosphere. If that was just beginning, then this weekend - The Negawatt Weekend at @iBizAfrica - Strathmore University - could be revolutionary!


Left: Rudi Ngnepi presents NI technology. Right: Bobb Afwata from Kenyatta University (Kenya) is demonstrating a remote energy management system he developed in just 3 days. Photo credit: iHub Photography


About the Author: Rosina Norton is a physicist turned energy engineer, who is inspired by the creative and innovative ways science and technology can improve energy generation and consumption. Having completed her Masters in Physics in 2013, Rosina has since worked in the Wind and Solar industry and is currently with African Solar Designs Ltd in Nairobi as a project engineer and consultant. She is also a member of Lightyear Foundation, a charity encouraging hands-on, practical science education in Ghana.

The first ever Negawatt Weekend right here in Nairobi!

You might have heard yourself and others say something like, «It would be nice if someone could find a way to transform cities into more energy efficient places.» At the Negawatt Weekend, you are that someone. If you want to solve that problem and—better yet—build a financially viable company around it, go for it. This an open invitation from the World Bank in partnership with @iBiz Africa, iHub, and National Instruments (NI) to do just that.

The Negawatt Weekend will take place at @iBiz Africa, the tech incubator at the heart of Strathmore University. It marks the third phase in the Negawatt Challenge, an international competition that aims to convene and empower communities around the world to innovate around urban energy efficiency issues.

From March 21st to 22nd, makers, hackers, coders, business experts, and energy efficiency specialists are invited to form teams and compete to address challenges relating to urban energy efficiency. In fast-growing cities like Nairobi, the demand for energy outstrips both total supply and the capacity of the grid to deliver  energy to businesses and households. Blackouts are a typical consequence, and they are costly and dangerous. Energy generation is also often very inefficient. As such, energy efficiency holds a big opportunity for reducing wasted energy resources.

Joining the Negawatt Weekend means leveraging that very opportunity. To give you a head start, last January 29th, a diverse group representing the city’s public and private sectors got together at *iHub and produced these Challenge Briefs.

The two winning teams are awarded the best possible chance to give their ideas legs: a 3-week Bootcamp, both on-site and online, both run in partnership by iHub with Strathmore University. A summer business acceleration program will follow the Demo Day culminating the Bootcamp where only one team out of two will be selected to represent Nairobi at Barcelona’s Smart City Expo Congress. There Nairobi Negawatt finalist team will compete against the other city winners from Accra, Rio de Janeiro, and Dar es Salaam as well as an online competition winner identified through the MIT Climate CoLab contest.


The Negawatt Challenge is off to a terrific start in Accra with over 40 energy and technology stakeholders participating in the March 2nd Challenge Definition Day hosted by the iSpace Foundation, a co-working and technology hub and lead competition organizer in Ghana. The themes identified during the Challenge Definition Day will be used during the Negawatt Weekend where teams of innovators and entrepreneurs will find innovative solutions to these identified urban efficiency challenges. The Negawatt Weekend is a two-day ideathon, open to innovators, techies, entrepreneurs, makers, energy experts, or anyone interested in innovating around local energy issues. Registration is still open before the Negawatt Weekend kicks off tomorrow. Sign up at Eventbrite:

Ing. Godfred Mensah, Manager of System Planning Section at Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), is discussing demand side management of energy. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

Ing. Godfred Mensah, Manager of System Planning Section at Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), is discussing demand side management of energy. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

Participants at the Building Insulation Theme Table probably had the most heated discussions. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

Participants at the Building Insulation Theme Table probably had the most heated discussions. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

Experts at the Challenge Definition Day included government representatives from Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Energy Commission, Electricity Company of Ghana, GRIDCo, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Nongovernmental attendees included representatives from industry associations (Wireless Application Service Providers Association of Ghana, Ghana Green Building Council); private sector (Solar Light Africa, GrowthMosaic, etc.); donor community (GIZ, UNDP, Making All Voices Count); academia (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Ashesi University); and many others.

The event started with participants forming six teams to unwrap specific themes under energy efficiency, including:

  • demand-side management of energy
  • energy audits
  • building insulation
  • financing of energy efficiency projects
  • building energy data ecosystem
  • efficiency of appliances

The facilitating team from WDS, Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), iSpace, and National Instruments (Global Terawatt Sponsor of the Negawatt Challenge) guided the participants through the workshop process which started with the identification of all of the stakeholders for each theme, as well as exploring which types of data might exist around these themes. As the morning progressed, participants actively applied their know-how and enthusiasm to develop the challenges. Through a user journey mapping technique, teams created storyboards of specific stakeholders’ experiences that identified so-called pain points, ie. real or perceived problems. This allowed for the development and refinement of more specific challenge statements. By the end of the day, each team presented at least one challenge statement along with information on useful data, potential solutions, and suggested next steps.

Participants of Energy Efficiency Theme Table are engaged in the stakeholder mapping journey exercise. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

Participants of Energy Efficiency Theme Table are engaged in the stakeholder mapping journey exercise. Photo credit: Zhenia Viatchaninova

The result is a number of challenges which, if solved, have a high potential to impact energy efficiency in Accra. These challenges will be taken on by teams at the Negawatt Weekend and their ideas will be subsequently judged by a panel of experts. The winning teams will receive intensive training and mentorship through a 3-week boot camp that allows participants to pursue their ideas further.

We can’t wait to see what might come out of these challenges! Solutions to similar challenges included the Nest smart thermostat and the Lumkani fire detector. And this is why we are now looking forward with impatience to seeing how Ghanaian innovators will apply their talent to improve energy efficiency in their city.

Emily Daher, one of MEST facilitators, took notes at the Efficiency of Appliances Theme Table

Emily Daher, one of MEST facilitators, took notes at the Efficiency of Appliances Theme Table

NI's representative Rudi Ngnepi was one of the facilitators at the Building Insulation Theme Table

NI's representative Rudi Ngnepi was one of the facilitators at the Building Insulation Theme Table

Key partners to the Negawatt Challenge are:

NI is a global Terawatt Sponsor of the Negawatt Challenge in all participating cities, and is offering technical mentorship and training, access to NI's development tools, and consultation with teams. Since 1976, NI has made it possible for engineers and scientists to solve the world’s greatest engineering challenges with powerful, flexible technology solutions that accelerate productivity, innovation, and drive rapid discovery. Customers from a wide variety of industries - from healthcare to automotive and from consumer electronics to particle physics - use NI’s integrated hardware and software platform to improve the world we live in.

The Climate CoLab provides a virtual track for participants with the aim of creating a massively open online problem-solving platform to address urban energy efficiency. The Climate CoLab is a project of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Collective Intelligence. Its goal is to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people from all around the world to address global climate change. It does so by providing a crowdsourcing platform where citizens work with experts and each other to create, analyze, and select detailed proposals for what to do about climate change.

MEST is a partner of the Negawatt Challenge in Accra. MEST is a not-for-profit established in 2008 to provide training, investment and incubation to aspiring high technology entrepreneurs in Africa and with bridges to Silicon Valley. Since its inception, MEST has invested $15 million in supporting West African entrepreneurs and sponsored 200+ entrepreneurs that have graduated from the training program. MEST has invested in over 20 startup companies that emerge from the training program, with a portfolio ranging from Health IT to digital media, 2 of which were acquired by global technology firms in the last year. MEST has been recognized on Fast Company's 2015 list of "10 Most Innovative Companies in Africa" and regarded as “one of the largest private investments in Ghanaian economic development” by DFID.