Solar Lantern Evaluation


In summer 2013, a team of MIT faculty and students traveled to western Uganda to conduct CITE’s first-ever product evaluation. Researchers conducted hundreds of surveys with consumers, suppliers, manufacturers, and nonprofits to evaluate 11 locally available solar lantern models.

The team assessed solar lanterns from three integrated perspectives: suitability (does a product perform its intended purpose), scalability (can the supply chain effectively reach consumers), and sustainability (is the product used correctly, consistently, and continuously over time). 

CITE’s first-ever evaluation report includes a Consumer Reports-style Solar Lantern Comparative Rating Chart, an in-depth supply chain analysis, and an in-depth analysis of Solar Sister, a regional nonprofit organization and key player in Uganda’s solar lantern market.

Each solar lantern was given a rating score from 0 to 100 based on how the product’s attributes and features fared. Attributes included characteristics common and central to solar lanterns like brightness, runtime, and time to charge. Features included characteristics common, but less central to the solar lanterns like ability to charge a cell phone. 


Key Findings

  • A solar lantern’s ability to charge a cell phone was one of the most crucial features to the users surveyed.
  • For users surveyed, the number one barrier to adoption was cost. Users cannot afford the product, and microfinance options are limited.
  • Users surveyed lack confidence in the product based on poor experiences with other solar lanterns in the past. 


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