Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login.

Rewarding good behaviour

Research has shown that we have a chemical reaction to social media and gamification (applying elements found in games, like point scoring, to other activities): every time you interact in this way, your brain signals the reward system and dopamine flushes through your body — whether you have done something rewarding or not.

In 2013, Ekoguru founder and chief executive Wynand Goosen did an MBA in San Francisco and was involved in an IBM programme where the fundamentals of gamification and enterprise systems were analysed. “I returned to South Africa and realised that there was a gap in the energy market. There wasn’t a way to make to make energy-efficiency more fun and engaging, a way to keep people on track and involved.” 

Goosen conceptualised Ekoguru and, together with design company Refresh Creative Media, was up and running in nine months. 

Working off the above insights, Ekoguru aims to use gamification and social engagement to encourage people to reduce the amount of electricity they use in their homes and in their daily lives. It’s done this by designing a system that works off feedback loops that positively reinforce a habit-forming emotional reward system. The system uses money — in particular, savings — to show users how well they are doing.

“First, it’s free for users, so subscribing doesn’t cost anything. You load information about your appliances and how many hours you use them for, and Ekoguru calculates how much energy you are using in rands. When you start to cut down, for instance by turning your geyser off for just a few hours a day, you can immediately see how much you have saved.” 

Once you have figured out how to mange your electricity consumption better, Ekoguru calculates the size of the solar panel system that will work best for your house or business. 

The site also has a market place component where energy-efficient product owners and operators can promote their product, demonstrating how much the consumer saves if they install, for example, a solar panel system.

“Because you pay upfront for solar, it can be hard to people to understand the cost saving benefits.  This [system] calculates when you will break even. Previously, people would ask ‘is it actually worthwhile?’ Now they can see that the cost is justified, especially with the electricity price hikes that will be taking place in the near future,” says Goosen.  

The data from engagement is being used to better understand South African consumers. Strategies can then be developed to figure out the way we use and save electricity and the quantified impact this has on the environment.

The project is also being piloted at schools and for nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). “We’re building lesson plans to educate students on the environment and to get them to motivate their parents to get involved. 

“We’re also offering this as a useful platform for NGOs — they can calculate electricity consumption, but also share the information about Ekoguru and spread the message about being sustainably aware.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Khoikhoi versus US giant Amazon

The controversial River Club development gets the go-ahead, but opponents say they are heading for court

SIU moves on eThekwini housing scam

The developer allegedly secured illegal funding from the housing regulatory authority

More top stories

Why South Africa stopped making vaccines

The high demand for Covid vaccines means there is a limited global supply. Local manufacturing is one solution. So why isn’t South Africa making its own jabs?

‘He can’t just write letters out of anger’: Mantashe reacts...

That is not how decisions are made in an organisation, the party’s national chairperson warns as Magashule sends suspension letter to Ramaphosa

Hlophe’s attorney found in contempt of court

The high court said Barnabas Xulu acted with impunity and contempt in the saga of getting him to repay millions in state funds

Aced: ANC secretary general suspended from the party for the...

Magashule is barred from carrying out his tasks and cannot talk on behalf of the party

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…