SOULS Open Source Solar Lamp Project - India

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Jose Ramos:

"SOULS is a project initiated by the Indian Institute of technology around 2013 / 2014. The project addresses the need for rural Indian villagers to have light at night, which can help kids study and creates more amenable households. Many rural Indian villagers use kerosene lamps to light their homes. However kerosene is dirty and associated with health problems, nor is it cheap, as many villagers are not even able to afford it consistently.

The SOULS project aimed to directly impact the livelihood and well-being of rural villagers by replacing the use of kerosene with solar lamps. The solar lamps were designed based on open hardware, which allowed the project to reduce the cost of the lamps. Importantly, solar lamp repair centers were established to service the villages that receive the lamps. Locals were trained in the repair of the lamps, and a service model was developed whereby they would earn sufficient income from the ongoing servicing. Solar lamps end up being cheaper overall villagers than running kerosene lamps. A number of new jobs are created in repair centers. On top of this project established a cooperative for the production of solar panels, which would drive the supply of new panels to service existing and new regions of the scheme, and which benefited from a dedicated market.

The project has demonstrated strong benefits such as increased health, increased educational performance by children in the villages with the lamps, and this is not to mention the reduction in carbon emissions from the phasing out of kerosene.

This project shows how an anchor institution can form the basis of the development of an ecosystem which is able to recirculate value in virtuous ways. It is what we might call a “pop-up political economy”, because for a moment it is able to interrupt the relentless logic of neoliberal capital and create an alternative economy." (email September 2019)


From the contribution of Jose Ramos to the 1st Global Commons Forum - Korea‎‎, October 2, 2019: "Cosmo localism: Tech trend, post-capitalist commons transition, or something else?"