Monthly Archives: February 2016

Article: Bridging the World’s Smart Cities and Smart Villages

DanWessnerBy: Dr. Dan Wessner, IEEE Smart Village

As the world’s cities strive in the next decades to live more efficiently and to somehow maintain or even improve standards of living while spreading resources among more city dwellers, might they have something to learn from their neighbors in the villages?

Reciprocal learning across both populations—together—calls for interdisciplinary and intercultural acumen and relations, empowering interconnected smart-city and smart-village residents, alike. IEEE Smart Village is building out precisely such an education platform. The idea is to define the good and smart things happening in the world’s smart villages and the good and smart things happening in the world’s smart cities, build links between these peoples that previously did not exist and provide a platform for innovation to flourish.

Teaching and Learning Together

 Since its organization in 2010, IEEE Smart Village ( has worked to empower off-grid communities through both development of sustainable local energy businesses that are owned and operated by local entrepreneurs and education. In cooperation with Regis University in Denver, Colorado, the IEEE Smart Village Development Practitioner Program launched in August 2015.

It’s a nine­ month program of study that includes five courses using push/pull, community-based global content from the IEEE Smart Village global classroom at the Posner Center for International Development in Denver. Every Monday night, a four-hour class gathers 24 students, a 50/50 mix of in-classroom participants and international distance-learning registrants. About a third are engineers; the other two-thirds are in development, health, education, agriculture, trafficking or some other practice.

Courses include “Models of Development Practice,” “Entry Points of Development,” “Skills for the Field,” “Going to Scale” and “Practicum,” which applies the lessons learned to the students’ specific development goals. “Engineering” isn’t anywhere in those course titles, but each of those courses has an engineering component as well as other disciplines, such as health, food and water security, anthropology, cultural linguistic knowledge, etc. In this way, the engineer is being drawn into a larger universe of cross-cutting skills and disciplines across different cultures and languages.

This initial IEEE Smart Village Development Practitioner Program pilot cohort is helping IEEE Smart Village test teaching methods. For example, one area of focus is trying to discern the right broadcast software and recording capabilities for replay and for further study and the right content to link these diverse realities so they can work on development solutions together. The goal is not to identify specific universal answers (e.g., here are practices that can foster sustainable living in every smart city and every smart village around the world); rather, IEEE Smart Village is looking for a universal process and teaching approach that diverse communities can apply to particular contexts.

In such ways, IEEE Smart Village’s education program is multi-directional and reciprocal across borders and barriers. Diverse communities in smart villages and smart cities teach and learn together, build case studies together, correct each other’s models together. And with a platform for sharing lessons learned and best practices, ideas begin to emerge.

For more information on the Master of Development Practice program, as offered by Regis University, visit


Dr. Dan Wessner, serves on the IEEE Smart Village board, and he works extensively among international NGOs committed to just and sustainable development. Dan is a focal point for IEEE Smart Village’s development of “Beyond the Light Bulb” educational opportunities in cooperation with international NGO partners through the Posner Center for International Development. This is an extension of Dan’s passion in education, stemming from his role as the chair and professor of politics at Regis University in Denver, Colorado.

Volunteer Testimonial: Nirupama Prakash Kumar

Niru_PictureRead about Niru’s experience as a volunteer with IEEE Smart Village as written in her owns words.

As I was finishing my MBA in the summer of 2013, I realized that my true interests were in renewable energy and social enterprise. However, I didn’t know how to marry the two interests. That is when I came across IEEE Smart Village (IEEE SV then Community Solutions Initiative). It was a perfect marriage of my two passionate interests and that is when I decided to volunteer for it.

My journey with IEEE SV began when Mike Wilson gave me the assignment of scanning all the Portable Battery Kit (PBK) manufactures in the world and coming up with not only a list of PBKs that would suit the IEEE SV SunBlazer product, but also requesting the manufacturers to send sample products to us. I ended up contacting more than 75 PBK manufacturers and more than two dozen of them sent me their PBK samples from around the world. Talking to so many manufacturers who were also deploying rural electrification solutions around the world changed me somewhere completely. I saw my world and my 24 hours of electricity based existence very different from then on.

GHTC 2013I was soon invited to come to GHTC 2013 in San Jose, California, to meet the whole team and I have never looked back since.

In February of 2014, an opportunity came to talk at a conference in Harvard University’s business school. The chairs of IEEE SV, Ray Larsen and Robin Podmore and the Sr. Program Manager Mike Wilson asked me to represent the program and also gave me the title of an ‘Ambassador’ of the program, a title I have cherished since. Later that year I attended a UN conference on Gender and Energy Access as an Ambassador for IEEE SV. I had started some initial research and work on IEEE SV entering India, but soon got a full time job in Nextera Energy. A full time job did not stop me from participating in IEEE SV though. I continued to work with IEEE SV in different formats – helping our Zambia partner with initial business plan work, talking at the IEEE SV workshop at GHTC 2014 etc. Then in October 2014, Robin asked me to conduct my own panel on Sustainable Microgrids at the Intellect 2015 conference in Mumbai, India. The panel had some really young speakers and was a big success. Later in 2015, I conducted the very first IEEE SV Ambassador workshop in Denver, CO, an event part of the larger IEEE SV program at the 2015 IEEE PES General Meeting. In September 2015, I spoke at a conference in Bangalore, India.

At work I was given a ‘Volunteer Spotlight’ on our website for my work with IEEE SV. This led to a lot of enquiries about the program from my colleagues. The enquiries grew to such an exciting level that we now have a whole dedicated group of volunteers for IEEE SV projects here in NextEra. The group is starting some very exciting work and I can’t wait to see it grow more.

About my journey with IEEE SV, which started 2.5 years ago, I can only say that it is one I see continuing for a long time, till we reach the goal set out by the mission of electrifying 50 million people in the next 10 years and beyond that. I have also gained so much from this experience – so many contacts, so much exposure and many many friends. As I have always said – by giving my time and effort to IEEE Smart Village, I have always gained more than I have ever given.


IEEE Smart Village Sub-Committee Leadership

DWDerek Welbourn: Marketing

Derek Welbourn is a major contributor to IEEE Smart Village’s unique business model, in which local people in off-grid communities build local electricity companies that utilize local resources to deliver local solutions at no additional cost to local buyers. First deployed in post-quake Haiti, this model has now been introduced to several African countries and has proven sustainable once established with one-time philanthropic seed funding and IEEE volunteer development support. Patrick has helped present on IEEE Smart Village at both the 2013 and 2014 IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference, as well as other events. He is chief executive officer of inhaus Surfaces Limited in Vancouver, British Columbia.


LeePatrick Lee: Finance

Patrick Lee is a member of the steering committee for IEEE Smart Village’s $10 million fundraising campaign. As vice president of major project controls for Sempra Energy, Patrick supports the Sempra Energy family of companies, providing oversight and governance for large construction projects, including standardizing processes, controls and reporting. Previously, Lee was senior vice president of customer services, innovation and business strategy for SoCalGas, was responsible for all SoCalGas customer services and programs, as well as strategic planning and development of new businesses and technologies. Prior to that, Lee oversaw public affairs, environmental, land services, engineering, procurement and construction of the $1.9 billion, 500-kilovolt Sunrise Powerlink transmission line – the largest capital infrastructure project in San Diego Gas and Electric’s history. Lee is a member of the California Council on Science and Technology and serves as a trustee on the California State Parks Foundation board, and a registered professional electrical engineer in California.

NoelSchulzNoel Schulz: Engagement

Dr. Noel Schulz received her B.S.E.E. and M.S.E.E. degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA in 1988 and 1990, respectively. She received her Ph.D. in EE from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA in 1995. Become joining K-State, Dr. Schulz spent eight years at Mississippi State University (MSU) where she was the TVA Endowed Professor in Power Systems Engineering. She has a total of over 16 years of teaching experience including other schools such as Michigan Technological University, University of North Dakota and Virginia Tech.

She has been active in the IEEE Power & Energy Society serving as Secretary from 2004-2007, Treasurer from 2008-2009, President-Elect 2010-11, and President for 2012-2013. Dr. Schulz is a member of Eta Kappa Nu (Electrical Engineering Honorary Society), Tau Beta Pi (Engineering Honor Society), the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the Society of Women Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers. She served on the Board of Directors for ASEE from 2008-2010.