Friday, December 08, 2006

Tech solutions to social problems

Here's a list of cool technologies that address real social problems. Its inspired by a list in Fortune, December 11, 2006, called "Tools for better living." Your additions are most welcome.

1) Must be a device that meets a need for a large number of poor people
2) Must be affordable by those people
3) Must function in the environment in which the people who need it actually live

Fortune lists about seven, of which I was most impressed with these two:
The Lifestraw is a cheap, re-usable water filter that allows the safe drinking of even the dirtiest water.

The Start Syringe is a syringe with a plunger that breaks internally after one use, prohibiting its reuse and potential for sharing dirty needles.

Another that I like is the Solar Cooker a fast, hot oven that uses solar power instead of wood for fuel, making it relevant to people in deforested areas.

What have you seen out there that you think is cool, that solves a problem, and that is prices right, culturally appropriate, and could make a huge difference in the lives of millions of people? Send me your entries through the comment function or via email and I'll keep expanding the list.


Sam said...

Mohammed bah Abba's pot-in-pot refrigerator is an excellent example of what you're talking about. The device uses the evaporation of water to cool food kept inside. It has the same usability as the item it replaces, consumes no energy, requires hardly any training to use, and vastly improves food storage time. Most importantly, it can be manufactured in the areas where it's used.

Anonymous said...

On a much higher technology level than the examples in your post, Free Software is such a thing that is designed to shorten differences between the "highly developed rich and the poor". Software such as the Ubuntu family makes it possible to get all the benefits of modern computing for free, in freedom, and on low cost computing devices - even on those that are considered waste in the "highly developed" society.