Renewable energy: a resource for early childhood development

by | Oct 22, 2015 | Blog, Our Investments

Trustlab is innovating smarter ways to connect children to education, health services and social benefits, using mobile decentralised applications (DApps). Through this innovative technology, incentives can also be offered for caregivers to ensure that their children participate in developmental opportunities, such as community playgroups and pre-school programmes.

At the same time, DApps are a revolutionary way of collecting information about how the services are being delivered and what results these are achieving. This provides proof for the benefits of socio-economic development investments. The data can then inform further development and can be used by social impact investors and service providers to plan and manage for development results.

Children in the communities around Renewable Energy projects, such as solar and wind farms, live in some of the most remote and under-serviced locations in the country. These children should now be given a much better start in life because they can benefit from the companies who operate these projects, through the Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP).

REIPPP companies receive long-term contracts from the South African government. In return, these companies are required by law to invest in developing local communities, whilst they generate and sell power from renewable energy.

REIPPP companies have to report back regularly to the Department of Energy about the investments they are making, to show how local communities are benefiting. Community service providers, such as Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres who are funded through this mechanism often have a hard time meeting the stringent reporting requirements they must comply with. DApps could change this.

For example, an ECD centre that is funded by a renewable energy power producer to deliver 20,000 playgroup attendances in a year would record the attendance of each eligible child using a DApp application through a mobile phone. This provides an automated way for the ECD service to report on their service delivery. At the same time, valuable information is collected for the child’s benefit in a safe way that protects their privacy. The renewable energy company is able to demonstrate its contributions in a way that is transparent and accountable.

This is not only about using a digital technology. “We have innovated an entirely new way of thinking about how development resources can be distributed and made to work so that these benefit everyone,” says Dr. Shaun Conway of Trustlab (the agency that has been funded Innovation Edge to develop this new approach). “We provide a simple way for benefits to flow through a system of smart agreements”.

For example, an agreement between an energy provider and child is that the energy provider will pay for a child’s playgroup session if the child meets certain criteria, namely that they’re identifiable, live in an eligible community, attend a registered playgroup, and take part in developmental screening tests to identify developmental risks and show how they are benefitting from the service.

The data collected in the process is extremely valuable because it enables ECD services to become better managed. For the ECD service providers, knowing how many children have been registered, how many playgroup sessions have been delivered and how many kids have attended is useful information for budgeting, planning and delivering the ECD service.

Having a unique digital ID also provides a benefit to individual children because they can prove their eligibility to receive services and benefits from a range of service providers. Any information that is collected in the process is owned by the child for their own future benefit. Because DApps are based on blockchain technology, the data are encrypted and remain private.

Using this mechanism, Innovation Edge wants to increase funding for ECD from renewable energy independent power producers. This initiative could enable 500 more children to benefit from funded playgroups within the first 12 months. But the numbers could be much higher if more REIPPP companies come on board!