Cameroon to fight power cuts with cell phones, Internet

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Cameroon plans to send daily emails and text messages to electricity customers asking if they have experienced power cuts, in a bid to get a handle on its crippling blackouts, officials said Wednesday. (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Cameroon plans to send daily emails and text messages to electricity customers asking if they have experienced power cuts, in a bid to get a handle on its crippling blackouts, officials said Wednesday.

Customers in Douala, the economic capital, who sign up for the new programme will receive an email or SMS every day asking: “Did you experience power cuts yesterday, and if so, how many and for how long?”

The programme, due to launch in October, will be “a kind of permanent survey”, its backers said. The project — known as Feowl, for “fuel owl” — is being funded by journalism watchdog group the International Press Institute.

“In economic terms, it will be a godsend for companies, which will be able to precisely analyse the risk of power cuts before deciding what neighbourhood to set up in,” said one of the project’s organisers, Nicolas Kayser-Bril.

“For journalists and civil society, it will bring a new element to the debate” on the southern city’s frequent power cuts, Kayser-Bril said.

Despite its huge potential to produce hydroelectric energy, Cameroon has a massive power deficit that causes frequent blackouts, undermining the economy.

Workers broke ground last month on a 201-megawatt Chinese-backed hydroelectric dam expected to become operational by 2017. –AFP