Nigerian Student Provides A Way To Track NEPA Failure And How To Get Free Electricity
“Electrical outages are a huge problem in Nigeria,” says Ezeozue, who is pursuing dual master’s degrees in MIT’s Technology and Policy Program and in electrical engineering and computer science. “The outages really interrupt everyday life.”
Nigeria’s supply of electricity is severely limited, resulting in rolling outages: Power is cut off every few hours and redirected to neighborhoods that were previously in the dark. While Nigerians know to expect these power cuts, they rarely know when the outages will happen, or how long they will last.
Since his admission to MIT in 2011, Ezeozue — who received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nigeria in 2008, followed by three years of work at a software startup — has created an app, with his brother, that crowdsources information about Nigerian power outages. With the app, called NepaSituation, people living in Nigeria can report outages. This data, when merged into an algorithm developed by Ezeozue, can help Nigerians predict when power outages may strike their neighborhoods, and how long those outages might last.
“With over 100 million cell phones in Nigeria, we knew it was an important resource we could tap into,” Ezeozue says. “It took a while to come up with this algorithm, because the outages are pretty randomized, and the app is only as good as the number of people who enter outage data.”
But Ezeozue has delved into more than just tracking the problem: He is also working to address Nigeria’s chronic energy shortage.
“I started a company that is working to provide solar electricity to businesses and families at zero upfront cost,” Ezeozue says. The company, SolarKobo, was recently funded by a seed grant from MIT’s Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, where Ezeozue is a fellow.
“Nigeria has plenty of solar energy available … for as low as $25 a month, we can make this resource available to those who are interested,” Ezeozue adds.
When he is not working toward the betterment of his homeland, Ezeozue researches machine learning and prediction algorithms in the research group of Una-May O’Reilly, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
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