How Bitcoin Brought Electricity to a South African School


Late last month, the non-profit MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge hosted an event focused on new developments in clean energy distribution and how Blockchain technology could play a role in how electrical grids of the future are built. Arguably the most notable moment of the night came in the form of the demonstration of Usizo, a crowdfunding platform designed to facilitate energy payments between donors and select schools in South Africa.

For the MIT demo, Grid Singularity CEO Ewald Hesse transmitted 1 BTC to a smart meter in Soweto, an amount that would provide roughly three weeks of electricity to the Emaweni Primary School. Meanwhile, in Soweto, a large gathering of school administrators, teachers and staff waited in the darkness – it was the middle of the night local time – for the payment to arrive.

“Now what’s happening is that it’s now going through the Blockchain, the meter is going to take the payment, it will calculate the tariff and load the required amount of electricity onto the meter,” explained a team member during the demo.

Despite an initial delay, the system worked – the lights in the classroom turned on, sparking a wave of applause and cheers from both the crowd in Boston and the school staff gathered in Soweto. Within moments, celebration and music broke out at the Emaweni Primary School as the demo concluded.

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