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Apr 20, 2016 4:19 PM ET

Archived: RMap – Global Collaboratory, Columbia University: A brighter Rwanda, one GIS coordinate at a time – By mapping existing energy systems, our data will help to strategically expand electricity access

iCrowdNewswire - Apr 20, 2016

By RMap – Global Collaboratory, Columbia University

Too many schools and health centers in rural Rwanda lack electricity. By mapping existing energy systems, our data will help to strategically expand electricity access.

A little bit of context…

Three quarters of Rwandans live in rural areas where only 5 percent the population has access to electricity. At present more than half of schools and about one in five health centers lack basic electricity access. This means difficulty running medical equipment required for basic care, dimly lit classrooms, and no possibility of using printers, computers, or other technology. Furthermore, many of these schools and health centers are located in rural areas where the national electricity grid is unlikely to reach in the coming years.

… and an opportunity!

The good news is that the government has announced an ambitious plan to expand electricity access to 70 percent of the population by 2018, including ensuring access at 100% of schools and health centers. Distributed generation (e.g. solar panels and micro hydro) will be essential to meeting these goals.

One piece of the energy access puzzle is to identify the gaps in electricity access and work with public and private providers as they coordinate plans to expand their services. However, improved data is needed in order to understand where new solar and micro hydro installations should go. This process must begin with an understanding of where off-grid systems currently exist and how they are working.

Here’s what we’re doing about it.

A group of six Columbia University graduate students has come together to collect this data. The RMap project will design and pilot tools to gather and share geospatial information on how health centers and schools are using solar and micro-hydro systems. The web and software-based toolkit will use GIS to map the location of installed systems and collect information about their use. The data generated will help energy providers, public and nonprofit institutions as they plan to expand electricity access.

Does this solve it all?

No, this is a small pilot. However, the team is working closely with local solar providers who will use the data generated to inform their work. The tool has the potential to be used across Rwanda and in other countries, and we will introduce the tool to local partners, including local university students and tech entrepreneurs with the capability of expanding our approach.

You can join us!

Our team needs to travel to Rwanda for ten days in mid-May. We will survey the location of solar and micro hydro systems throughout an entire district, and introduce the tool to local university students and tech entrepreneurs, and stakeholders. While we have raised more than half of the money we need, you can help us get the rest of the way!

Team Members


Sonya Suter

Jeewon Kim

Utsav Adhikari

Katherine Sullivan

Diana Nielsen

Adi Subramanian

Contact Information:

Sonya Suter

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