The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) has showcased the incredible importance of bringing light to the hundreds of millions around the world living off grid. It has also seen unprecedented momentum in support of off-grid renewable energy in making that vision possible.
On November 10th the UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 was published. This report is published every five years and presents a picture of the trends in global research and development, based on a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data.
Those of us who are fortunate to work directly in the photonics or optical technology fields or are members of the wider technical community, already have an innate appreciation of the transformative nature of light-based technologies and the crucial role they place in our daily lives. Light is not something we take for granted; we recognize implicitly how optical technologies have revolutionized medicine, manufacturing communications, and energy. However, while developed countries have benefited tremendously from these advancements, there are many in developing countries that lack basic access to the very technologies that we consider both commonplace and fundamental for existence. For example, more than one-fifth of the world’s 7.3 billion population has no access to electricity, almost 600 million people living in Africa alone. Without electricity families have no clean source of light, having to rely instead on expensive (and dangerous) alternatives like homemade kerosene lamps; families can spend up to 40 percent of their income just on kerosene. With respect to access to communications, less than 20% of the global internet usage comes from Africa. This disparity in technology richness and its detrimental consequences was recently highlighted by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon who noted, “Widespread energy poverty still condemns billions to darkness, ill health and missed opportunities for education and prosperity”.
Earlier this year, a simple afternoon drink with friends reminded me how light can be used as a context to teach science, from physics through to biology and chemistry.
The Luces para Aprender (LPA) program is a regional initiative promoted by the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI) and it was approved in 2011 by the Ministries of Education of the Ibero-American countries at the XIX Ibero-American Conference on education in Asuncion, Paraguay. LPA has been nominated in 2015 among the finalist projects for the WISE awards innovative education projects of the Qatar Foundation.