A group of young Palestinians from Gaza have developed a practical device to help solve the problem of keeping the batteries of electronic devices such as smartphones charged, a problem which affects millions of people. Even though they have faced tough living conditions for a long time, they have not given up on their attempt to help humanity. Omar Badawi - who is an Electrical Engineer and the CEO and founder of the Walk and Charge project - in this interview answers questions posed by our correspondents Merve Turp and Mustafa Fatih Yavuz in the capital city of Jordan, Amman.
Could you tell us about your device? What is it? And how can people use it?
Our device is a new technique to transform mechanical energy to electrical charge. If we can produce enough electrical energy to charge our mobile phones, this would be the solution for charging problems, and we can use our electronic devices like smartphones and laptops anywhere without wires.
There is a huge effort nowadays towards finding alternative sources of energy - especially renewable and green sources. People move every day and their body movement can help generate a very remarkable amount of energy with the help of technology. This energy is highly important especially in places where electrical power is not available. Hence, the need for a type of technology that helps us make use of this energy is highly necessary. In addition to the previously mentioned point, people nowadays tend to use transportation even if the distance they need to travel is short unless they find it fruitful to walk. If we provide people with a technology that encourages them to walk and make use of their walking, this will save a large amount of nonrenewable energy resources as well. People move and can't calculate how far they were walking and how many calories they are burning.
When we move around with our portable devices we produce a lot of energy. But a lot of this energy is lost as heat. Therefore, the above mentioned problem can be solved by providing people with a new small technology that conversts the mechanical energy of the human body when we walk around to enough electric power to charge portable devices. Battery powered computers, phones and music devices come along everywhere we go. If this technology becomes available for public use, the problem of human physio-mechanical power attrition can shrink and open the horizon for more constructive and creative ideas to make the best use of this human physio-mechanical power.
You and your partners have produced the device in the Gaza strip which suffers from harsh conditions like electricity cuts. Did you produce this device to primarily find a solution to the Gaza electricty cut?
Walk and Charge is a project to solve the electricity problem in the Gaza Strip which has been suffering from a lack of electricity for more than 8 years. The electricity problem is a big problem in the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip is still continuously suffering from power shortages which started more than eight years ago. This affects the hospitals and the whole region. The aim of this project is to solve a part of this problem and we are introducing the product to solve part of the problem in Gaza Strip. The idea of this device is to produce electricity through walking and moving. After that with a small battery we can charge our smart phones and smart watches. Included in this project there is a programme which counts the number of foot steps taken, calories burnt and the quantitiy of power produced. The benefit of ''Walk and Charge'' is that it is a creative idea because it depends on walking and there is unlimited time and space. All of these things make this project more interesting. There are many problems for the project to tackle. One of them is that there is no work space. Now, Walk and Charge is looking for international and local investors for funding. There are also American and international magazines which are interested in this project because it provides a solution not just for problems in the Gaza Strip, but also globally. We make many prototypes to introduce to the investors to receive funding from them. But unfortunately we haven't been allowed to take any kind of equipment - through we were able to develop our project - into or outside of the Gaza Strip so far. Having work space and tools is needed to provide service to the Gaza Strip and to the whole world.
Your project looks like it is solving an everyday issue and could be considered to be a profitable venture. Did you find enough investors to invest in your project?
The establishment of Walk and Charge depended on our team members personal spending and also donations from people outside of Gaza. There are few people who are in interested in the idea of this project and send us a grant to start our project. We received some funding from the Islamic University of Gaza for our project. Walk and Charge has been looking for international investors, especially from Turkey. Turkey looks good for us and has a global economy and a good working environment. We are looking for Turkish people to invest in our project. Turkey is preferred because there is cultural similarity between Turkey and Arab countries. We look for people to invest in us through Turkish and Arab investors to fund us. There are many good projects and Arab minds to invest in, fund and support especially in Palestine which look like good value for the Arab and Islamic world.
Do you think Israeli restrictions seriously affect you?
We faced difficulties regarding equipment in our project. Despite of all challenges, we decided to start our project using local equipment and alternative tools. There are many problems we are still facing. The first one is electronic tools and the fact that we are not allowed to travel outside of the Gaza Strip and to have an international licence for our company. We send a message to the whole world that we can do many things to serve our country and the world. Despite tough conditions, there are many creative ideas. We do market our creativeness in Gaza to solve our problem, especially in Gaza and in Palestine despite of all difficuties from the world and especially from Israel.
These kinds of products have been emerging mostly from the "Silicon Valley" in the United States. Do you think that the Muslim world needs to create its own "Silicon Valley"?
Silicon Valley presents a big sector in the world for big companies and business. I hope there is a special place for Arab and Islamic countries for creative ideas from Arab and Muslim youth, especially in Turkey because it has a big economy and supports ideas and small projects. We have the most invites from the American Silicon Valley. Firstly the company should be established in the Middle East or Turkey to support the people’s projects in the Middle East region.
For Muslims, business is important and especially smart phones and phone applications. For example there is a programme that tells whether the food for Muslims is permitted or not (haram or helal). The information technology and business sector is important also for companies and affects the whole world, especially Arab and Muslim countries. Arab and Turkish support for us is more important because the others are far from our culture. I think investment in this sector has an enormous effect on the world and will have a big market.