Accenture IGD solar power

The University of Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (IGD) and Accenture (a global services company) are taking the lead to empower disconnected communities in northern Uganda by harnessing solar energy to generate electricity for Internet and Communications Technologies (ICT), education and training centers, and new locally developed ventures.

This pilot solar energy project will provide communities in Uganda with clean and efficient renewable power and Wi-Fi connectivity. There will also be entrepreneurial training offered at several sites in Uganda to help create businesses and jobs that can take advantage of this new source of electricity. IGD evaluation experts and Accenture will conduct research to measure the impact that these efforts have on the Ugandan communities.

The Accenture Foundation has awarded Notre Dame a $550,000 grant for this two- year project. In addition, this company’s employees have committed to giving a substantial amount of volunteer time to assist with the efforts. This effort builds on Accenture’s Skills to Succeed initiative, whose goal is to equip 250,000 people globally with the skills to build a business or find a job. Through this initiative, Accenture looks for innovative solutions to present to the developing world.

Phase I of the project will serve as a testing ground for possible additional phases of the project that could include between 10 and 100 additional sites throughout Uganda.

Scott Fast, Accenture Foundation executive director, said, “The University of Notre Dame and Accenture are combining the expertise of private enterprise and world class research to make a difference in an area of the world that has been torn apart by war.”

The Initiative for Global Development (IGD), based in the Office of Research, is a new multidisciplinary enterprise on the Notre Dame campus that leverages the University’s signature strengths to promote development and human dignity to people around the world who are in need. The initiative helps develop solution-oriented research focused on rigorous, data-driven impact evaluation and assessment; design and planning of development projects; and training.

Patrick Murphy, IGD program director, said “We will install solar microgrids that are economically self-sustaining, at scales that can support new ventures for a cadre of entrepreneurs trained at our pilot sites. In addition, Notre Dame Electrical Engineering Professor Michael Lemmon’s research on optimal control schemes for microgrids offers a new model for electricity delivery for the 90% of Ugandans and the 1.5 billion people world-wide that the electric grid does not serve.”

Accenture associate partner Samuel Awad, who played an integral role in designing the project, said, “The strength of the project focuses on combining three critical resources—solar energy, internet connectivity, and entrepreneurial training—to develop and ecosystem that will foster business opportunities and create jobs.”
Notre Dame and Accenture will also work with Ugandan-based partners on this initiative—Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach (BOSCO) and Educate!

BOSCO Uganda is a non-profit organization founded by Notre Dame alumnus Gus Zuehlke. For the past five years BOSCO has provided wireless, solar-powered connectivity in communities located in rural areas of northern Uganda. BOSCO focuses on providing innovative information and communications technology solutions that foster socio-economic development and peace building. BOSCO was awarded the 2010 Breaking Borders Award in the Technology category from Google and Global Voices.

Educate! develops young leaders and entrepreneurs in Uganda by providing long-term mentorship and two years of world-class leadership training to high school students. The goal is for these students to start enterprises to help eradicate poverty, disease, violence and environmental degradation. Once solar arrays are installed and internet connectivity is made available, local partner Educate!, with the support of Accenture, will train the local business people as they create and implement business plans for using the additional electricity.