In honour of FIFA feel compelled to say something about soccer this week. Shall start with the electricity generating football, SOCCKET, put into production in 2013 with kickstarter funds. It was developed in 2012 by Jessica Matthew, an Edo from Nigeria, a very clever girl who went off to Harvard and allegedly taught herself mechanical engineering. Her psychology and economics degree shows: the project is sophisticated way beyond its energy-generating possibilities.
The football has a pendulum inside which turns a generator attached to a battery. This adds a bit of weight, but just an ounce. The ball is airless, don't understand that bit. It has a 6W output: for the undeveloped world, this means a lamp can be plugged into it for three hours after half an hour of kicking the ball around. For the developed world which is actually purchasing the balls for quite a lot of money, it can recharge your phone. You buy this soccer ball really as a charitable act: you buy one and one will be given to someone far away.
Uncharted Play, Inc, Matthew's design firm, also makes a skipping rope, PULSE, where the generating mechanism is in the handles. This sells for $295 in New York. Says Matthew, 'Right now, we are selling them in New York and in New York, we charge people a lot because it is New York'. As I said, clever.
In an interview, Nicole Brown of Uncharted Play explains the marketing of PULSE: 'Because charging a cell phone is more of a developed world issue, we’re going to give a SOCCKET, which powers a lamp, to the developing world for each PULSE sold.' Images show little children in otherwise un-illuminated huts doing homework by the light of a tiny led lamp and, where living off the grid is not an option, iPhones in bright white rooms are plugged into it. I understand that the developing world far exceeds cell phone use compared to the developed world which has so many more options, but one's First World charitable impulses are triggered by the combination of technology (which we have) and poverty (which 'they' have).
It's good, this project, but the marketing of it is a bit patronising. I found a hysterically funny collection of comments on SOCCKET on Seun Osewa's ₦airaland Forum covering every possible aspect of the project, such as, from Willskid:
Seun and Mum
Mum: Seun, where u dey go?
Seun: I wan go play ball
Mum: Ori e da... U no go go read ur books
Seun: Mama u forget say u and papa fone don flat...If i nor play ball, u no go charge ur fone today oo...
or from Virgo:
So while developed countries produce electricity with Coal, Liquid Petroleum, Petroleum Gases, Nuclear, and others, Africa must resort to kicking a ball around in order to enjoy electricity?
Let's just say ₦airaland remains skeptical.