Evaluation of the Sunlabob Battery Lantern from the perspective of users in rural Lao PDR
Abstract: Access to electricity is fundamental in modern everyday life and throughout the developingworld; NGOs and development agencies are, in different ways, providing electricity toremote areas in order to increase quality of life. Electric light can eliminate the need to usepolluting kerosene lamps and allow villagers to conduct income generating activities andchildren to study during the dark hours after sunset.The objective of this thesis was to evaluate the features of a battery lantern designed toprovide electric light to rural villagers at a cost competing with using the traditionalkerosene lamp. This is done through a business model where the lanterns are funded by anNGO or public donor and the solar charging station is funded by the manufacturer and/orprivate investors.The evaluation was done through a field test where a village of 234 people in rural LaoPDR used the lanterns for six weeks, after which the villagers were interviewed regardingtheir usage patterns and thoughts of the lantern. The results were meant to help themanufacturer to identify issues, concerning function as well as quality, with the lantern inorder to be able to better accommodate the wishes of the end user.The results of the study show that, in general, the villagers were very happy about thebattery lantern but many of them still had suggestions on design improvements. Thetechnical evaluation of the lanterns show some significant problems with the discharge ofthe batteries due to stand-by power of the discharge controller. These findings imply that anaddition should be made to the business model where the amount of days allowed for theuser to make use of the lantern should be limited.Concerning design, it was suggested that the lamp should be placed on the top of thelantern rather than the current placement on the front, in which the spread of light isrestricted. Having the lamp on the top of the lantern would expose it to force but the resultsof the survey show that the villagers are very careful with the lanterns. The addition of sucha model would give the villagers a choice and in order to provide the right lantern todifferent villages around the world, pilot studies should be conducted before providing anyvillage with the full intended amount of lanterns.
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