Video: William Kamkwamba on the Daily Show & a little 80's nostalgia

Duration: 7 min 44 sec

From his TED bio:

William Kamkwamba, from Malawi, is a born inventor. When he was 14, he built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap, working from rough plans he found in a library book called Using Energy and modifying them to fit his needs. The windmill he built powers four lights and two radios in his family home.

My favorite thing about William’s story and this interview with John Stewart is that it provides a storybook example of how access to information either through your local library or through the internet can be life-changing. William’s current path started because he picked up a book and did what so many autodidacts and tinkerers do. He started to make things. He’s on his way to Dartmouth next year through a series of serendipitous internet events. Blogger Mike McMay (Hacktivate) read about him in a local Malawian newspaper. After reading Mike’s writeup, Emeka Okafor (Timbuktu Chronicles blogger and AIDG advisory board member) “spent several weeks tracking him down at his home in Masitala Village, Wimbe, and invited him to attend TEDGlobal on a fellowship”.

Following Kamkwamba’s moving talk, there was an outpouring of support for him and his promising work. Members of the TED community got together to help him improve his power system (by incorporating solar energy), and further his education through school and mentorships.

After his ‘discovery’, William gets into the African Leadership Academy, a prep school in Johannesburg founded by fellow Echoing Green alums, Chris Bradford and Fred Swaniker. Somehow with all these changes going on, he also manages to write a book, The Boy who Harnessed the Wind with Bryan Mealer.

Yup, all this because of a simple trip to the library. It makes me feel rather nostalgic for Levar Burton and the Reading Rainbow. All that books can transport you stuff.

Because I imagine that the theme song is currently playing in your brain, here are the lyrics just in case that little voice inside your head forgot the words ;).

Reading Rainbow Theme Song

Reading Rainbow
Butterfly in the sky
I can go twice as high
Take a look
It’s in a book
A Reading Rainbow

I can go anywhere
Friends to know
And ways to grow
A Reading Rainbow

I can be anything
Take a look
It’s in a book
A Reading Rainbow
A Reading Rainbow

Pop the name of a book that changed your life in the comments. Mine are the Rand McNally atlas and basic science books that my mom got me as a kid. They kicked off my love of science and learning.

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AIDG's Peter Haas selected as a 2010 TED Senior Fellow

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

The non-profit TED has selected AIDG’s Executive Director Peter Haas as one of 20 inaugural Senior Fellows. The TED Senior Fellows program is designed to bring together young world-changers and trailblazers from the arts, science, entrepreneurship, the NGO sector and education. As part of its commitment to TED, AIDG will be launching an exciting new initiative in our technology research and development program in 2010 that will transform our ability to do research with local and university partners. We’ll be able to share more details next year.

Two of our favorite bloggers Erik Hersman (Co-founder of; blogger, AfriGadget and White African) and Juliana Rotich (Co-founder,; blogger, Afromusing and Global Voices) are also 2010 senior Fellows.


Erik Hersman of Afrigadget documents low-tech entrepreneurialism in Africa. Specifically he looks at ingenuity born of necessity, “tech that keeps economies on life support”. Raised in Sudan (until the war got bad), Kenya, and then again Sudan, he’s a bit of a tech anthropologist searching for Africans solutions to African problems.


From wikipedia

Ushahidi (Kiswahili for “testimony” or “witness”) was a website created in the aftermath of Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election that collected eyewitness reports of violence sent in by email and text-message and placed them on a Google map. It is also the name of the open source software developed for that site, which has since been improved, released freely, and used for a number of similar projects.
The software has since been used to track violence in Congo and pharmacy stockouts in Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Malawi, and monitor elections in Mexico and India, among other projects. It was also used by Al Jazeera to collect eyewitness reports during the 2008-2009 Gaza War.

In addition to Pete, Eric and Juliana, here are the 17 other fellows:

Taghi Amirani (Iran/UK) – Documentary filmmaker, Amirani Films

Rachel Armstrong (UK) – Teaching fellow, The Bartlett School of Architecture; physician; science-fiction author

Frederick Balagadde (Uganda/US) – Research scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; co-inventor of the microchemostat, a medical diagnostic chip

April Karen Baptiste (Trinidad) – Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Colgate University

Faisal Chohan (Pakistan) – CEO, Cogilent Solutions; founder, Brightspyre, Pakistan’s largest online job portal

Colleen Flanigan (US) – Fine artist; stop-motion armaturist, coral reef restoration expert

Gabriella Gómez-Mont (Mexico) – Founder, Tóxico Cultura, a Mexico City-based artistic think tank

Jonathan Gosier (US/Uganda) – Founder, Appfrica, a business incubator in Kampala

Adrian Hong (US/North Korea/South Korea) – Director, The Pegasus Project; former director, Liberty in North Korea

Juliette LaMontagne (US) – Education consultant; innovation facilitator

Alexander MacDonald (US) – Economist, NASA Ames Research Center

Juliana Machado-Ferreira (Brazil) – Biologist, SOS FAUNA; PhD candidate, Sao Paulo University

VK Madhavan (India) – Executive Director, Central Himalayan Rural Action Group (Chirag)

Naomi Natale (Italy/US) – Founder, One Million Bones, a large-scale social activism art installation

Bola Olabisi (Nigeria/UK) – Founder, Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network (GWIIN)

Alexander Petroff (US/Democratic Republic of the Congo) – Founder, Working Villages International

Mohammad Tauheed (Bangladesh) – Architect; founder, ArchSociety

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AIDG Biodigester Intern: Christopher Salam [Video]

Duration: 2 min 29 secs

AIDG biodigester intern, Christopher Salam, talks about his work with us in 2009. Chris has been assisting on biogas field visits, building and managing the demo biodigester installations at AIDG’s Guatemala office and testing biodigester effluent enrichment through vermicomposting.

Recorded Nov 2009.

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AIDG Micro-Hydroelectric Intern: Will Stone [Video]

Duration: 1 min 33 sec

AIDG Micro-Hydroelectric Intern Will Stone talks about his work with us in Guatemala. Will assisted in the upgrade of a Pelton Turbine at the Nueva Alianza community and designed a Mitchell Banki Turbine for use at the Corazon del Bosque ecopark.

Recorded Nov 2009.

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The GuateVerde 2009 Business Plan Competition Winner Is… Quetsol

After months of competition, over 30 hours of business development training, and endless hours of practicing business pitches on October 24, 2009 six talented teams presented their business plan proposals in the final phase of AIDG’s business plan competition: GuateVerde 2009.

GuateVerde 2009 Semi-finalists

Needless to say, with such strong competitors and outstanding presentations, choosing a winner was not easy but it is with great pleasure that AIDG announces this year’s GuateVerde winner, Quetsol.

Quetsol, Winner of GuateVerde 2009
Quetsol is a new business that will provide high efficiency, low cost solar technologies that aim to increase access to basic illumination, electricity generation, and water pumping in Guatemala. Their mission is to help their clients save money and improve their quality of life through the use of appropriate technology.

Who are Quetsol?

Quetsol’s Director of Technology and Finance, Manuel Aguilar, holds a Master’s Degree in astrophysics and a Bachelor’s Degree in astrophysics and physics from Harvard University. His work experience includes founding and managing a global-macro hedge fund, working as a quantitative analyst for a private equity group, as well as significant astrophysics research.

Director of Marketing and Sales Juan Rodriguez has a Business Administration degree from the Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala City with an emphasis in finance and marketing. For the past four years, he had worked as a marketing manager for Proctor & Gamble Interamericas and formally owned and managed his own advertising agency.

The third member of the Quetsol team is Matthew King, their Director of Logistics and Operations. Mr. King is a recent graduate of Harvard University with a Bachelor’s degree in the Comparative Study of Religion. His studies have also taken him to Cuba, via the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and Japan. His work experience includes solar photovoltaic and biodigestor installations in Nicaragua, appropriate infrastructure development advocacy in Brazil, and activism against deforestation in California.

Manuel Antonio Aguilar and Juan Fermín Rodríguez
Manuel Antonio Aguilar and Juan Fermín Rodríguez
Solar LED lighting

Solar LED lighting

Solar lantern and flashlight
Samples of Quetsol’s proposed product line

AIDG is greatly looking forward to working with this talented team and continuing in our mission to increase access to basic energy through local business support. Congratulations to Quetsol and thank you to all the staff, volunteers, reviewers, judges and supporters who made GuateVerde 2009 a huge success!

GuateVerde 2009 Judges: Ing. Saúl Santos, Dr. Dennis Rodas, Ruth Degolia, Peter Haas, Cat Lainé, Lic. Juan Molina