When we think of technology we usually think of high tech computers and devices that put the world at your fingertips. But the most basic definition of technology is the use of even the simplest tool to achieve a means to an end. While internet and computers are extremely empowering devices, some communities lack even the most basic technology, such as electricity, to power these more advanced tools.
That is where people like Manuel Antonio Aguilar, and his company Quetsol, come in. A Guatemala native, Aguilar graduated from Harvard University in 2006 and worked in the finance industry before returning to Guatemala to help people in his home country.
Aguilar knew that 20% of the population in Guatemala did not have access to electricity and saw that this was a major obstacle to development. So he came up with a simple idea for a low-cost, environmentally friendly kit to bring electricity to the rural poor. These small kits use solar energy to power light bulbs, computers, and cell phones. The kits, which contain a battery, a solar panel, and light bulbs, are completely self sustainable and are made specifically for people who live in areas where the electric companies do not provide service.
The remarkable thing about the kit is that it is simple enough to be used by anyone and in the long run it is cheaper to use than candles or service from the electric company. The kit costs 1,900 quetzal or $245. Even though this is very little money by US standards it is still very expensive for the families who live in rural areas with few resources. Quetsol found a way around this problem with micro-financing. The company partners with the Bank of Guatemala to allow families to pay $13 a month for the kit.
Not only does Quetsol provide low-cost energy solutions to the poor, the company also offers more advanced energy products and services to design and install solar panels for customers who just want to utilize a cleaner form of renewable energy.
Quetsol is just one example of the growing base of social entrepreneurships demonstrating that business doesn’t just have to be about maximizing profit. Like Tom’s Shoes, Quetsol’s business model helps the most disadvantaged and contributes to sustainable development.
Young social entrepreneurs like Aguilar serve as role models Guatemala’s youth by showing them that they don’t have to choose between helping people and having a financially sucessful business. More and more businessmen are proving that you can do both at the same time. Hopefully, we will see a new generation of social entrepreneurs in Guatemala who are inspired by Aguilar to help their communities with innovative ideas and business plans that improve standards of living for all.