WakaWaka charges phones and tablets with solar power, lights up the developing world

Published: Friday, Dec. 14 2012 5:20 p.m. MST

This year was a big one for Camille Van Gestle. Funding for his WakaWaka Light, a solar-powered LED reading lamp, was successfully obtained through Kickstarter. The device also won four Accenture Innovation rewards.

Now Van Gestle is trying to fund a follow-up device that not only provides reading light but can fully recharge a phone or fuel a tablet for an extra couple of hours on a single day's charge, according to his Kickstarter video.

"The capacity of the battery is large enough to fully power most mobile phones from completely depleted to practically full," according to WakaWaka's website. "On top of this, you will have 10 or more hours of excellent reading light as well. If you don’t charge your phone or tablet, as said before, you can have more than 40 hours of light."

But Van Gestle isn't just interested in developing nifty technology for iPhone-addicted Americans. He wants to create products that will help light up the developing world too. He has pledged that for every unit pre-sold through Kickstarter, WakaWaka will donate one of last year's lamp-only models to families in Haiti who live without power.

Approximately 1.5 billion people around the globe remain without access to a stable or safe source of light, according to the World Bank. "Commonly in some of the world's poorest regions, kerosene lanterns are the standard form of night time lighting, which leads to the possibility of fires, explosions, asphyxiation and toxic fumes," writes Bridget Borgbello, a staff writer for Gizmag.

Cheap, accessible solar lighting presents an obvious solution to this problem, according to the World Bank. The benefits of having steady access to light are numerous. Injuries from fires and illness from smoke inhalation are reduced, according to the World Bank. Families have more disposable income because they will not have to buy kerosene, which can eat up to 20 percent of a family's monthly budget. Children with access to light in the evening are also able to do better in school because they have more time to do homework and study.

WakaWaka's Kickstarter funding application still has 28 days before it expires, but the company already is very close to its goal of $50,000.It hopes to have the device ready for commercial consumption in May 2013. The company projects the device will retail for $79, but Kickstarter pledgers can receive the device for $69.

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