First Steps: How Early Adopters Climb the Solar Energy Ladder

This research looks at how and why a specific segment of early adopters in Uganda used entry-level solar energy products to make their initial steps up the energy ladder. These first steps are important because consumers must overcome significant barriers on the path to adoption, including cost, lack of familiarity and the pull of old habits. Positive initial experiences can build confidence and nurture the demand for future purchases, while broken equipment and unfulfilled expectations can just as easily prejudice them against an entire class of products.

Understanding the experiences and motivations of early adopters opens a window into this critical moment in the market’s inception and can inform further efforts to build demand for solar as well as other emerging products that address basic needs for the world’s poor. It is also central for understanding the social impact of these products, because turning potential benefits into real-life improvements depends on the customer behaviors that surround them.

The research study and report were led by Scott Graham and Anahit Tevoysan of FINCA International’s research team, in collaboration with Eric Verploegen from MIT D-Lab. Study participants were customers of BrightLife, a social enterprise by FINCA International in Uganda.

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