Consumer electronics giant Panasonic unveiled earlier this week it has started selling a solar LED lantern which doubles as a charger for people living in areas without electricity. This is similar to products we’ve seen from the likes of Nokero, which just last week unveiled what it dubbed the cheapest solar powered light bulb in the world geared for the same populations as Panasonic’s offering.

Panasonic said its new BG-BL03 Solar LED Lantern, with a built-in rechargeable battery to store solar energy during the day, provides light at night while also acting as a power source for small mobile devices such as cell phones. Key features of this device include 360-degree illumination and a charging time of around six hours, which in turn offers up illumination of up to six hours.

image via Panasonic
image via Panasonic

Related to the launch of this product is a new initiative by the company to donate 100,000 solar LED lanterns to people living in areas without electricity, which mostly means developing and emerging countries. The 100 Thousand Solar Lanterns Project aims to offer to recipients of these lamps, namely NPOs/NGOs and international organizations working in the main non-electrified regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, access to an option to help out their populations in need.

Items such as solar lanterns offer a cleaner lighting option to the roughly 1.3 billion people worldwide without electricity. Many of these people get by on dirty fuel sources, such as kerosene, for lighting, but the problem with that is the “smoke released by them is harmful to human health.” Furthermore, since they do not provide sufficient light, activities of people are significantly restricted at night. The lack of electric light in these regions thus results in challenges in the areas of healthcare, education and the economy.

Panasonic said thus far it has donated a total of 10,000 compact solar lights–5,000 to India, 3,000 to Myanmar, and 2,000 to refugee camps in Kenya. Plans call for more debuts in places like Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malaysia, followed by other countries.

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