Many people in rural, isolated or impoverished areas of the world do not have access to essential information that the rest of us take for granted.

As such, for over a decade, Kristine Pearson, founder and CEO of non-profit organisation Lifeline Energy, has been working tirelessly to bring self-powered radio to some of the most remote communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

This has led to the creation of the Lifeplayer – a wind-up and solar-powered five-band digital radio and MP3 player designed to make information and education accessible to schools and villages in developing regions around the globe.

“I feel passionately about what I do because I have seen the transformative power of radio,” says Pearson. “Radio is still the best avenue of information delivery. When people have information, they make better choices and decisions. And for vulnerable women and children, the groups we predominantly work with, they simply don’t have this information access.”

Essentially, the Lifeplayer is an oversized MP3 player that can be pre-loaded to hold 64GB of content, can download audio from the internet via a microSD card and can record live voice or radio programs for playback later.

Excellent speaker quality allows large groups of 60 to hear it clearly – making it ideal for classrooms – while solar panels, backed up by a wind-up crank, mean that communities can access real-time information without the need for electricity or batteries.

With some financial backing from actor Tom Hanks, yet an overall razor-thin budget, Lifeline Energy spent more than two years gathering feedback from the field to ensure that the Lifeplayer would be fit-for-purpose and long lasting, keeping in mind many users would have little to no technological experience.

The result is a 30.5 centimetre tall and 1.4 kilogram media player that has an intuitive LCD interface and only two control knobs – one for tuning the radio and operating the media player, and the other for switching it on and off and controlling volume.

It went into the field in early 2011 and so far more than 500 000 radios have been distributed, conservatively benefiting over 20 million people.

Read the full article on the Lifeplayer in Curve Issue 38, by logging in or Subscribing to Curve.

Learn about another recent life-changing innovation for the developing world - the solar powered eco-water distiller also featured in Curve Issue 38.

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