To understand how best to develop and market renewable electricity products and services to rural populations that do not currently have access to electricity, it is important to understand these populations’ attitudes, expectations and desires relating to electricity. My research this summer aimed to better understand rural Kenyan’s rationale and emotions towards wanting or not wanting access to electricity. To accomplish this goal I worked with my host organization, access:energy, and a native Luo-speaking Research Assistant to conduct 80 semi-structured qualitative interviews in rural villages in and around Lake Victoria in Western Kenya.
My research revealed that people in these communities have high expectations that with cheaper electricity they can do more energy-using activities and achieve more, ultimately resulting in a higher standard of living and greater enjoyment of life. Many interviewees expressed happiness, joy and hope for a better future at the prospect of getting access to electricity. There is also a sentiment that people with electricity in their homes have access to unlimited power. The common perception is that once you can manage to get your home connected to electricity, the power will be so cheap that you will be able to afford as much as you want of it. People listed many different activities that they would like to do more of, with faster speed and less effort with electricity (from phone charging and listening to radio to preserving food, raising chickens and cooking popcorn). Though there is great variety in the things that people want to use electricity to do more of, the most common theme in the respondents’ expectations is that electricity will provide light and light in turn provides many things.