Transformative, Market-Based Technology Solutions

I was blown away by this article in yesterday’s New York Times:

Science
African Huts Far From the Grid Glow With Renewable Power
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Published: December 24, 2010
As small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper and more reliable, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people far from electricity grids and fuel pipelines.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/25/science/earth/25fossil.html

The story touches on and synthesizes a bevy of fascinating topics including, in no specific order: mobile phone technology, off-the-grid renewable energy technology, banking and financial services, cooking technology, heating technology, environmental technologies, transformational technology, home-scale technology, market-based solutions, sustainability, developing economies, Africa and micro-enterprise.  But what I find most fascinating about this tale is how a set of simple, market-based technologies like mobile phones, $12 solar panels and $5 cookstoves can combine with financial networks and entrepreneurs to solve people’s problems where large-scale, top-down bureaucracies (e.g., governments, large NGOs like the UN, banks amd banking systems, utilities and energy/telecommunications grids) have difficulty.