New digital solution could offset cost of cooking gas

Oluwatobi Oyinlola is one of the three young innovators who were recently recognised by the Ministry of ICT for their innovations. / Sam Ngendahimana

When Oluwatobi Oyinlola arrived in Rwanda last year, he found out that 65 per cent of the country’s urban households rely on biomass fuel for cooking—which poses a risk to human health and drives deforestation.

The Nigerian national then started exploring the possibility of developing a digital solution he latter called Pay-As-You-Cook, with an aim to trim the cost of cooking gas for both middle and low income earners.

A graduate in electronics and telecommunication, Oyinlola leveraged on his five years of experience in Pay-as-you-go technology and smart valve implementation he had acquired from Nigeria.

The founder of SkyRockets Ltd is one of the three young innovators whose projects were nominated for awards in October last year for the project of digital solutions for smart cities.

The awards were initiated by the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, and National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA), with the support from the German Agency for International Cooperation.

Each of the three young innovators received $3,000 in capital.

Alongside other winners, Oyinlola was offered mentorship for three months to transform his idea into full prototype.

He is currently working with University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology that hosts the African Centre of Excellence in Internet of Things.

The Pay-As-You-Cook system is a smart device with a battery connected to the gas cylinder.

It will be able to monitor and inform users about quantity of cooking gas levels in the cylinder and how much it costs.

A mobile money payment system is also embedded in the devise, he revealed.

“The gas users will not need to pay upfront for gas cylinder which low income earners cannot afford,” he said.

According to Oyinlola, the device will send an alert if the gas is exhausted and notify gas companies to immediately supply more to the client since it will have a GPS that monitors the whole supply chain.

The devices will be imported from China and assembled in Rwanda.

Oyinlola says that his company will partner with distributors of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

“We will start with 100 gas users during the the pilot phase. We will be grouped in an incubation hub by Rwanda’s ICT ministry and will soon go to Finland to acquire more knowledge in our digital innovations,” he said.

They aim to distribute 1,000 devices by the end of the year.

Some 10,000 low income households have been lined up to receive the devices over the next five years.

“We are targeting 90 per cent of Rwandan households by proposing a technological innovation of green and affordable source of cooking,” he said.

According to the Government’s seven year programme, the number of Rwandans using wood as a source of energy will be reduced to 42 per cent by 2024 from the current 83.3 per cent.

The use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in cooking has increased from 724.6 tonnes in 2010 to about 3,000 tonnes in 2017 according to figures.

Only 5 per cent of Rwandan urban households use LPG for cooking, an increase of four per cent from 2014.

Only 1.1 per cent of the rural households use gas for cooking. This means that, out of the 2,708,000 households in Rwanda, only 135,400 use cooking gas.

Currently, the households using gas need at least 26,000 tonnes of cooking gas every month.