Thank you for your generous support to Tsunami response projects!

By Toshi Nakamura

Dear Generous Kopernik Supporter

I am writing to personally thank you for the generous donation you made in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11.

Thanks to you, and others like you, Kopernik was able to quickly deliver thousands of solar lights and solar powered hearing aids to people who had lost everything in the disaster.

I recently traveled to the affected area and spoke to people who had received Kopernik technology.  Their feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  I wanted to share with you some of the comments I heard during my visit:

At first, the corridor to the rest room was lit up by candles. Each time an after-shock struck, the evacuation centre staff ran to blow out the candles to prevent a fire. Since the solar lanterns replaced candles, we have better lights, and everyone feels safer.

For those who are hearing impaired, solar lanterns became indispensable for communication: 

Without light I was speechless. Thanks to the solar lantern, it is now bright around me, and it is possible for me to see people’s mouths and facial expressions. I recovered the ability to communicate.

The clean up and reconstruction process is well underway in the disaster affected area, and electricity is back in many areas, however the need for solar lights remains:

Although the electricity is now back, there are many people who want to have a solar lantern in order to feel secure. From now on, a radio and a lantern will be considered as indispensable in Japan – in case of blackout or… if… another big earthquake strikes.

The solar powered hearing aids were indispensable to replace those that had been lost or damaged in the disaster and received great reviews:

With the solar hearing aid, I was able to hear better than with hearing aid I usually use.

You can view more feedback, photos and information about Kopernik’s response to the emergency here.

Being Japanese, I was really touched and humbled by the extent of support for the emergency projects in my country.  It is people like you, with a desire to help others in a time of need that are such a fundamental part of Kopernik.

We hope to see you back at where you can help more people get access to life-changing technology.

Thank you for being part of the Kopernik community.


Assessing Kopernik’s impact: our solar projects in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

By Gordon Little

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts about the welfare impact of Kopernik’s solar lantern projects in Indonesia. Kopernik’s philosophy is not just to distribute technology but also to assess and demonstrate the impact that simple technology can have on developing communities worldwide. To help with this, Kopernik runs an individual fellowship program as well as welcoming teams from prominent universities to undertake impact assessment projects.

This post draws on the data collected by a talented team from SIPA at Columbia University who set out to assess and quantify the impact on individual and community welfare of the distribution of Firefly solar lamps in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, in 2010. The figures quoted below are drawn from SIPA’s surveys and interviews in local communities: bear with me, while there are lots of numbers, they’re vital to assessing Kopernik’s impact later on! This post describes what these communities did for electricity before solar, and subsequent posts will explain the introduction of Kopernik’s solar technology and then the positive impact and changes it made.

So…why Central Kalimantan? Simple: because there are challenging economic conditions. According to the SIPA team’s survey, the average monthly household income in Central Kalimantan villages ranges from US$55-110. About 20% of people have no formal education. Most people own livestock and cell-phones, but none of the surveyed households owns a refrigerator.

This is partly because people in these villages lack access to most of the services that we in the OECD consider basic, such as clean water and electricity. As a whole, 81.6 million Indonesians (out of 230 million) still do not have access to grid electricity. In Central Kalimantan, where Kopernik’s solar lamp project took place, the rate of electrification is even lower at about 54.8%. That means almost 860,000 people and 180,000 households lack access to electricity: a huge number!

With low incomes and a lack of basic services, households in Central Kalimantan unsurprisingly face significant daily challenges: one-third of households surveyed by the SIPA team selected electricity or fuel as their greatest challenge. 25% of houses surveyed had no access to direct electricity (such as a diesel generator) and relied on kerosene for energy. Other households used some combination of firewood, kerosene, diesel, benzene, candles, batteries.

But all these fuels cost money. Families spend, on average, one in every three dollars of their total expenditures on energy for lighting, cooking and transportation. Diesel, which is used for generators and transportation, costs US$54 per month, while kerosene about US$10. Solar panels, which provide basically free electricity once installed, still cost about US$120 upfront per panel. All of these are considerable costs, given the standard monthly income.

Given the diffusion of energy sources, people’s lifestyles have adjusted according to energy availability. Poorer households can’t afford entertainment devices like TVs. In its place, a culture of sharing has developed so families use each other’s homes for things like charging cell-phones or watching TV. In another example, for those houses without diesel generators, families cook dinner before sunset because they cannot afford lighting for cooking.

Kopernik’s challenge is to improve socio-economic development through new, affordable sources of power. We want to lower the cost of energy while making it more accessible. The extra money saved can go to whatever the family wants. Check back with me in my next post to see what daily changes occurred when Kopernik distributed portable solar lamps in Central Kalimantan.

Future leaders of innovation in Indonesia

By Toshi Nakamura

After the tech fair in Lombok, I flew to Surabaya, and then to Jakarta. I was invited to speak at Student Technopreneurship Programme in Bogor, which train and mentor future Indonesian inventors, funded by the Lemelson Foundation.

The topic I was asked to cover in front of this selected group of 50 creative students was how to bring technologies to the people, the core of what Kopernik does. Last year, Ewa spoke at the same course (see the blog post here).

I brought lots of gadgets from our office, including solar light, self adjustable glasses, water purifiers, and solar powered radio. They were very curious to see and touch these products. Students asked many good questions, including the challenges of behavioural change required in adopting new technologies.

What I was most impressed with was the actual products that these students have produced, which were exhibited outside of the meeting room.

Here are some examples:

This is a solar powered sonic pesticide to be used in the rice paddy. This is water proof, and can kill insects in the 1 hector area around this device.

Here is the bicycle powered rice thresher (named O-Belt thresher).

Milk pasteurizer not by heat, but by electricity. Using this method, milk can retain much more nutrition than traditional way of  heat treatment.

In recent years, lots of people and institutions are entering into the market of creating new products to solve challenges in the developing countries.  This I-Step programme may resemble D-Lab class at MIT, or Design for Extreme Affordability class at Stanford University, but the main difference is that the inventors and the faculty members are all Indonesian, and therefore they are dealing with their own real life challenges that they grew up with.

A few selected graduates from this programme would be incubated under Inotek‘s programme, which supports further technology development and business development. I am convinced that within a couple of years, there are many technologies in the market born out of this programme.

The Women

By Toshi Nakamura

Jordi, Sansan and I just completed our field trip to West Lombok, to meet with an amazing group of women who are heads of households (these are women who are either single mothers, divorcees, widows, or primary income earners for the family) to co-host a two-day technology fair with our partner organization PEKKA. PEKKA was founded about 10 years ago to address the problems and discrimination that women who are heads of households face in Indonesia.

Beautiful scenery of West Lombok

This tech fair is the beginning of our new partnership with PEKKA. Taking advantage of Kopernik’s strong presence in Indonesia, we are increasingly organizing ‘technology fairs’ with communities as the first step of any project located in Indonesia.  The technology fairs provide a great opportunity for the partner organization and community members to learn about the range of technologies that Kopernik distributes, and decide which ones would be most appropriate and useful for them.

More than 200 women came to the fair.  They wore scarves of every colour of the rainbow and were so curious about all the technology on show. I immediately knew that this fair would be a big success, and I was right.

Our partner technology providers are very interested in our technology fairs, and several of them joined us and demonstrated their products to the women. Vestergaard Frandsen (water purifier and mosquito net), Total, the sole distributor of d.light (solar lights), Prof. Nurhuda of Brawijaya University (clean cookstove), and Nazava (water purifier) were present. In addition, Kopernik’s Sansan introduced Barefoot Power products (solar lights) on their behalf.  Our partner Inotek – Indonesian technology incubator was also present. All presentations were really engaging, hands-on and there was lots of laughter throughout the event.

Achmad from Total demonstrating the d.light solar lights

Aidil of Vestergaard Frandsen demonstrating the LifeStraw Family water purifier

Sansan demonstrating the Barefoot power solar lights

Ayie from Nazava Water System

The most popular technology seems to be clean cookstove. The women’s faces brightened when the cookstoves were brought to the stage.

In between the sessions, the women offered us a feast, and very special sweet Lombok coffee. I am now much better at eating food using my hands.

Feast Lombok style

We are going back to Lombok in early August for the next phase of the project.  Can’t wait.

Dr. Nurhuda demonstrating his fuel efficient cookstove

Women checking out the stove

A new pair of self adjustable glasses – Adlens

We just received samples of self adjustable glasses, called Emergensee adlens.

This pair of glasses allows one to adjust the glasses to their strengths, simply by sliding two movable lenses, using the screws on both sides of the frame.

As the name suggests, this was invented to meet the needs in emergency – and the company is sending these to the Tsunami affected areas in Tohoku.

We tried them on. Very light, and kind of stylish. They look like the glasses that baseball players wear…

The adjustment works, though not too precise. But this would certainly be useful for the emergency.

Weddings and bug invasions

By Dedy Haning, Kopernik Project Officer

Last week I was in Bojonegoro again together with Sansan (Kopernik admin officer), Ine (an interpreter) and Michael Finney from the Thunderbird Business School. I feel more relaxed with more company. Michael is a fun person to work with, and he definitely has an Asian gene in his body, as he can take all the spicy food. I am impressed! Things went smoothly as we locked in a deal with a hotel in Cepu for Michael’s TEM Lab who are going to work on project evaluation in July for a month’s time.









Michael – Drinking clean water from Bening One










Trying the Biomass Stove

Besides assisting Michael, we also reviewed the surveys from the last focus group. We learned that designing a good survey is pretty hard especially when the respondents have only basic education levels and don’t like to talk about themselves.  We also realized that we need to be specific when asking questions – for example rather than asking ‘what you normally do in the evening?’ we need to ask what they do at a specific time in order to get useful information.

The baseline survey has given us more knowledge about our beneficiaries:

52 % said that they are not very satisfied with their health and lifestyle. We will want to see whether this changes after using the technology.

23% own a business – therefore we also want to know in the future whether the technology is playing any part in helping improve their business.

72 % always boil their drinking water. It will be interesting to see whether the use of the water filter changes this.

We also have started doing capacity building on simple book keeping and brainstorming activities with all the groups’ coordinator and treasurers. In total there are 9 Groups or 90 women participating in the project, and we have distributed 102 biomass stoves and 101 water purifiers. Of the 7 villages, two of them have two groups and the rest only have one group. Most women use one product, but there are 10 women who use both products, two women use one Bening one and two stoves, one woman uses one Bening and three stoves and one woman uses one water tulip and one stove.

The night before the capacity building and brainstorming meeting, Farabi staff and I discussed the results of early user feedback on the technology. Nanik and Ninik, the two women on the team looked so exhausted because they just returned from the field and listened to all the feedback. While the feedback from water purifier users is so far all positive, there appear to be some challenges among some of the stove users.  Challenges include excessive smoke when they first light the stove and the fire going out before they have finished cooking.

There are other users of the stove however who are very happy and have given a very positive review of the stove.  We therefore decided to focus our next meeting with all the group coordinators on discussing the stove issues raised.  Our plan was to organize a session where the women who are happy with the stove, show those that are having problems with it how to use if most effectively – without creating excessive smoke and to ensure that the fire does not go out while cooking the meal. We believe that this type of peer to peer ideas exchange is most effective. We know that new technology adoption is a complex process and we are all learning as we go.

The following morning, we attended the meeting in the village Ringgintunggal. Sixteen representatives from the groups participated in the meeting. It was great to see the women share and exchange their experiences in using the products. Since each person uses a different type of wood and strategy to cook, this meeting was very important.  The women who were seeing success with their stoves, shared their experiences with those who were facing problems. This strategy worked perfectly as they started to exchange ideas on type of wood, wood preparation and ways to light the stove faster.










Coordinators and treasurers attending our capacity building session

We had another meeting with Michael and Farabi staff to discuss the preparation for the TEM LAB team who will arrive next month to evaluate the project. We reviewed the work plan of the team point by point to ensure that everybody understood the direction of the project and the evaluation plan. We cleared out not long after as we had a massive bug invasion from the rice fields.











Our Meeting


Mindring and Becekan

I learnt a few other things during this trip. In Javanese it’s called “mindring” and “becekan”. Mindring relates to the practice of buying things on credit.  This can be a whole range of things from clothes, kitchen items and crockery. Women in the villages have a specific day to make the repayment. We need to take this into consideration when planning our repayment days.

“Becekan” relates to weddings. Since June is considered a good month, most people choose to get married during this month. It is customary for people in the village to make gifts of money to the newlyweds.  As there are many weddings in a short space of time, that means that the financial burden is very big on households during this time.  Recognising this we decided to delay the first repayment until after the wedding season, to make it easier on the economic situation of our beneficiaries.


Coconut wine making part II




(By Gabriela Leite-Soares)

So here’s the promised article on the Wanic tasting.


Jean, Sheila, Mi Sun and I were involved in making wanic which is the fermented coconut juice (read my previous blog on wanic making for reference). Six days after the fermentation, Saturday May 23rd, the group got together again to taste the coconut juice. Since there were two different models of making the coconut wine/wanic, each of us had two glasses in front of us.


Well..actually Jean had tried the coconut wine before us. But he let us tried the wine and after the first sip of each kind of wine, he asked us: “so what do you think?” Well, neither tasted bad for sure! They both tasted good, but different one from another.


I will reiterate how they are slightly different from each other:


1)      The first sample: we poured the sugar through the fermented plug. Taste: a bit bitter.


2)      The second sample: we removed some of the juice into a glass, added sugar, stirred it well, then we poured it back into the coconut. Taste: sweeter than the first one.


Jean, Sheila, Mi Sun and I agreed that the first one tasted more like wine; while the latter tasted more a bit like cocktail drink. I am a big wine drinker, but for this one I must say that I’d go with the cocktail 😉


With one big coconut, we produced a litter of coconut wine/cocktail. Jean thinks it’s fair to charge the drink for $10 based on the quantity of the wine. Sheila thinks that this is a kind of drink that you’d enjoy when laying by the beach and reading a lovely girlie’s novel.  Mi Sun is amazed by the fact that we just produced a coconut wine which tasted good! I think I am with Sheila on that one!


We think that there is a need to think about how this drink is presented to the consumers.  Having an appropriate bottle for the coconut wine could be one good way to sell the coconut wine.


I’d like to congratulate wanic team for winning the Innovation Challenge organized by See-D.


I wish all the winning teams the best as you are entering into the next phase of the contest. Ganbatte kudasai!