HOW IT WORKS
Firefly PAYG+ is a multi-point pay-as-you-go solar home energy system that consists of a 50W solar panel, control box with 2 USB charging ports, 5 LED lights and optional accessories such as a 19” flat screen TV, electric shaver, fan, USB multiplexer to charge multiple devices at once, and a radio. Firefly kits are managed and tracked via an in-house custom-engineered software program/database called the PAYGO Portal, as well as the Firefly PAYGO app, a custom-built Android application that is able to track customers and payments without constant access to a data connection.
Home lighting, such as that generated by AEG’s Firefly kit, adds over four hours of productivity to each day and reduces the burden on women to collect fuel, firewood, or charcoal. Light also leads to improved educational outcomes; studies have shown that when light is introduced into a domestic setting for the first time, students that previously had not completed homework began to do so. Also, all genders gave light for reading and studying priority over cooking or leisure activities such as entertaining. We have observed that more productive time has facilitated income-generating entrepreneurial activities for women.
Engineers at AEG International developed the Firefly Portal software system to include a database to track kits in the field, customer and payment histories, and to generate unique access codes to reactivate the kits’ energy production after previous “on-time” has been depleted. As our system was built and is maintained by in-house engineers, we are able to make tweaks quickly to increase efficiency.
The PAYG Portal can be accessed from http://aegdrc.cd under the Firefly menu and by selecting the “PAYG Device Administration” option. Users with access can add/edit/delete customers and devices and generate activation codes. Our Firefly PAYG system uses a method of encrypting the 20-digit code from servers at headquarters. Similar software is present in each Firefly device which allows it to interpret codes. Using the encryption keys, the Firefly system locally verifies that the code is valid for each device’s serial number and that it has not been entered previously. As such, the units themselves do not require connection to Bluetooth or mobile networks to be reactivated, which sets them apart from competing products.
Electrification Rates in the DRC
According to 2013 findings from Power Africa, the country’s electrification rate is just 9%, with rates of 1% in rural areas and 19% in urban centers. Overall, 15 million households lack energy access. In urban areas, 47.3% of the population has some access while in rural areas, the number is 0.4%.