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While South Africans are fearing a “total blackout” amid one the worst power cuts since December 2019, load shedding has dramatically changed the way people work, live and play
This, as experts warn that with Eskom’s aging infrastructure and the slow pace of the transition to renewable energy alternatives, load shedding is likely to become more frequent in the foreseeable future
“We are doing our level best to avoid a total system collapse … and total blackout,” Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter told a media briefing on Sunday. “That is not an imminent risk,” he added.
Meanwhile, experts say besides load shedding, the rising cost of fuel has also made remote working an appealing option for those struggling to keep up with transport costs in South Africa. After all, why spend time and money commuting to work when you can get the job done remotely?
The way we work
By creating cloud-based workspaces, teams can work together even when they’re unable to collaborate in real time because of load shedding or different time zones. “The real strength of asynchronous communication lies in collaboration. With the right tools, it’s possible for a person to start a project in one office before someone in another country is able to review it and add their feedback,” says Andrew Bourne, regional manager of Zoho Corp.
Zoho believes that real-time or synchronous communication and asynchronous communication – which can take place independently of time – should complement each other, and has designed its collaboration software with this in mind.
Furthermore, this software can help to cultivate a vibrant workplace culture even if some people are working remotely. “The same tools can be used to share images and newsletters, and engage in town halls and brainstorming,” says Bourne.
A people-centric approach to the use of technology can make collaboration during load shedding and other disruptions as effective as synchronous communication.
The way we live
Solar panels have become a common sight on rooftops in many neighbourhoods as homeowners look for ways to keep the lights on, and save on electricity costs.
“Rising energy costs and changing regulations that make it possible to privatise energy supply will encourage more residents to include sustainable features into the home,” says Carl Coetzee, CEO of BetterBond.
It’s possible to reduce energy costs and dependence on the grid with a few changes and upgrades, says Coetzee. Features such as skylights and floating staircases will let in more light without having to rely on lights. Opt for LED bulbs where possible and use solar lamps in outside areas to illuminate your home. Invest in a battery and inverter so that you can store solar power to use during load shedding or to reduce your dependence on the grid.
The way we play
Without electricity to power the electronics that keep us entertained at home, many people have reverted to more traditional games and activities to pass the time. Card games, like Cards Against Humanity, Codenames and good old Uno, are great fun, and add some competitive spice to a virtual night in with family or friends.
Load shedding-friendly restaurants do well when the power goes off, as it is just easier for some people to eat out than to plan their meals around the load shedding schedule.
Fortunately, South Africa offers plenty of activities that do not require power to enjoy, including browsing your local craft market, visiting a nature reserve or spending time on the beach. With regular bouts of load shedding becoming the new normal, more families will be looking for ways to stay entertained without having to worry about the power going off.