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Program Seeks to Illuminate Poorer Regions with LEDs

Photonics Spectra
Dec 2006
Michael A. Greenwood

Almost everyone in developed regions of the world has come to take artificial light for granted. It is, after all, always there: quick, effortless, cheap.

But that is not the case in wide swaths of the developing world, where artificial lighting remains a luxury, albeit an inefficient and outdated one.

To brighten the future of lighting in these areas, the International Finance Corp., the private sector investment arm of the World Bank, is promoting a $7 million initiative — “Lighting the Bottom of the Pyramid” — to encourage LED companies to bring their ultramodern technology to some of the poorest regions of the globe.

“It will have a huge impact. You’re improving the living standard with better lighting,” said Fabio Nehme, the program’s projects officer.

The goal of the plan is straightforward: Provide people still dependent on fuel-based lighting, such as kerosene lamps and even candles, with a modern lighting system that is long-lasting and efficient, not to mention safe and pollution-free. According to the IFC, the market for LEDs in such regions is enormous and untapped, with 1.6 billion potential customers and revenues that could reach $40 billion. The Pyramid endeavor will be piloted in Kenya and Ghana, but it is expected to expand to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and, possibly, to regions beyond, Nehme said.

Something as basic as the introduction of modern lighting into places previously lacking it could have profound results. Over time, the reliable lighting is expected to spur economic development, to raise living standards and to enhance education in the affected areas. It also will reduce indoor pollution, which, in turn, will improve public health.

The IFC sponsored a seminar as part of Intertech’s Light Emitting Diode 2006 Conference on Oct. 16 in San Diego to outline the Pyramid program and to show how companies can get involved. Nehme said that more than 30 companies have already expressed an interest. “It has gotten a lot of attention from the industry,” he said.


GLOSSARY
light
Electromagnetic radiation detectable by the eye, ranging in wavelength from about 400 to 750 nm. In photonic applications light can be considered to cover the nonvisible portion of the spectrum which includes the ultraviolet and the infrared.
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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