How Developing Nations Can Leapfrog Developed Countries with the Sharing Economy

solar panel africa

This essay is the third in a four-part series on the theme, “The Third Industrial Revolution.” An introduction by Arianna Huffington is available here. Part one is available here. Part two is here. Stay tuned for the next chapters and responses from leading global figures and technologists.

Electrifying the Developing World

The distributed features of the new economic paradigm arising during the Third Industrial Revolution will enable the least developed regions — that were largely excluded from the First and Second Industrial Revolutions — to leapfrog the developed world. Currently, more than a billion people are without electricity, and many more have only marginal and unreliable access. These are the very countries where population is rising the fastest.

The lack of infrastructure is both a liability and a potential asset. It is often cheaper and quicker to erect virgin infrastructure than to reconfigure existing infrastructure. We are already witnessing a surge of activity in some of the poorer regions of the world with the introduction of solar, wind, geothermal, small hydro and biomass harvesting technologies and the installation of distributed renewable energy micro grids.

Electricity is now coming to remote areas in Africa, which never before had access to a centralized power grid. Not surprisingly, the introduction of cell phones has helped precipitate the development of a nascent Third Industrial Revolution infrastructure. Virtually overnight, millions of Africa’s rural households have scraped together enough money — from selling an animal or surplus crops — to purchase a cell phone. The phones are used as much for carrying on commercial activity as for personal communications. In rural areas, far removed from urban banking facilities, people are increasingly relying on cell phones to facilitate small money transfers. The problem is that —> Read More