In “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” there is a moment where the only landline phone in the dilapidated hotel in Jaipur, India, starts ringing after a silence of many years.
Sunny, the hotel’s owner, frantically digs through accumulated clutter in the hotel office trying to locate the phone before it stops ringing. Ironically he is hampered in his search by the cell phone conversation that is also demanding his attention.
The scene epitomizes a phenomenon called leapfrogging that holds great promise for sustainable development.
The idea is that developing countries can leapfrog developed ones by skipping older, more expensive technologies, such as telephone networks, and moving directly to newer less expensive technologies, such as cell phones.
According to Pratim Biswas, PhD, chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, and the director of the McDonnell Academy Global Energy and Environmental Partnership (MAGEEP), the idea behind a recently announced U.S.-India consortium in solar energy is that India might be able to leapfrog energy production technology, moving directly to solar in areas of the country that have never been electrified.
WUSTL and its McDonnell Academy partner the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT- Bombay), together with corporate partners, such as the St. Louis-based solar company MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc. (MEMC), will play key roles in the effort to define and invent solar technologies that might make this leap possible.
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