You guys are SUCH nerds. Have you never heard of pre-paid electricity? We have pre-paid electricity, pre-paid telephones, pre-paid cell phones etc. It is actually quite a good idea if you think about it, win-win situation for all. Here in SA, there are a lot of (poor) people who do not have access to credit, in the form of credit cards, accounts etc. In fact a large percentage of our country’s population is un-banked, or under-banked. This is due to high levels of poverty and unemployment.
What do you do when you have no job, no income, yet you want to purchase electricity or talk time on your cell phone? You buy it with cash when you have it, i.e. pre-paid, or not at all. Who is going to grant you credit when you don’t have a fixed address because you stay in a shack and no income because you are unemployed?
Rose has a pre-paid cell phone, she buys ‘talk time’ or ‘air time’ in certain amounts when she has money. Or like today for example, I buy it for her. (Rose v v bad with managing her money, spends it all in the first week on clothes and shoes). My cell phone is on contract, in other words I pay for my usage at the end of the month. I have a job, I have an income that allows me to have credit. But some people choose to be on pre-paid any way, just because they prefer paying for things upfront and not waiting for the surprise at the end of the month.
Pre-paid opens up a whole new world of utilities and communication to people who never before had access to these things.
This is how pre-paid electricity works (it’s a fairly new thing here, last 10 years or so, the older houses still have the system where you pay for your usage at the end of the month, but all the new houses have pre-paid boxes). The electricity people come and install a pre-paid meter in your house. You then buy virtual tokens for the meter, either by taking your electricity card (like a swipe credit card) to the local grocery store, or 7/11 etc, or via the internet, or via your cell phone. You decide how much you want to purchase. 10 bucks, 100 bucks ,500 bucks, whatever amount. You decide the amount and you will be issued with a 20-digit number (the virtual token) that you then have to enter into your meter. Once you hit enter on your meter (it is a small box, about A5 size, mine is in my garage), the box sends a signal via wireless radio transmission to a receiving beacon, the token is verified, and access to the purchased amount of electricity is returned to the meter. Voila! You have electricity. No mess, no fuss.
I don’t often run out of electricity because Marko walks past the meter when he gets out his car every day (a red pilot light also flashes to tell you when you are running low). But because he has been away I forgot. I normally buy for about three months at a time. So it was actually HIS fault, like every thing else around here.
Buying pre-paid talk time also works the same way. You purchase a certain denomination, you are then issued with a virtual token, you enter the token and you are allocated the purchased amount of talk time in return.
Sheez, you guys are SO last season.
Winner story: About three years ago M and I woke up at about 3 am to discover that the electricity had run out. We thought about leaving it until morning but we were scared there would be no hot water for a shower in the morning. So clever, technologically-advanced (not to mention G&D) me came up with this cunning, Magyver-like plan. Got up, fired up laptop (luckily there was enough battery time left on the laptop), dialed in, signed on to electricity website, took out credit card, (all in the dark), held card up to light of laptop screen to read number, entered number, bought tokens, logged off, took laptop to meter, held up laptop to meter so that light of screen could shine on keypad, keyed in token number, electricity restored. Total time elapsed – 8 minutes. Including Ibex-speed dial up, log on and log off. How cool am I! Tertia = total winner.
This time was only slightly less impressive with me sitting in restaurant (drinking), Marko in Johannesburg (working) a few thousand miles away, my credit in my purse, Rose at home on her cell phone (stressing) and between the three of us we managed to purchase electricity virtually and within a few minutes.
And you call *US* third world ;-)
BTW – have you noticed I have gmail now? Am v cool in nerdy-type way. Even cooler, gmail is set up in such a way that I read and reply to message in Outlook Express meaning I get my offline replication functionality I was looking for.
Sometimes I amaze myself with my extraordinary intelligence. (Not to mention my good looks, wit and charm)
Ok, I can’t lie to you, it wasn’t me who set it up. It was one of the techie dudes at work. But it took great intelligence to delegate said task.
Shutting up now.
One last thing. Why are my footnotes and PS’es getting longer than my posts?
PS Do you think I will ever shut up*?
PPS Really going now. Good night.
*Not while I drink wine when blogging.