Friday, February 19, 2010

Design for the Other 90%

A few years ago, I attended a brilliant exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt in New York entitled, Design for the Other 90%. I'll let the exhibit tell its own premise:
Of the world’s total population of 6.5 billion, 5.8 billion people, or 90%, have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted; in fact, nearly half do not have regular access to food, clean water, or shelter. Design for the Other 90% explores a growing movement among designers to design low-cost solutions for this “other 90%.”
People have been asking, what can and are museums doing in a practical manner to help with large-scale problems that people face everyday, such as unemployment, economic recession, disaster relief? Well, it seems like the Cooper-Hewitt has already taken a big step in that direction. I initially wanted to point them out to ask, "Why aren't museums doing more exhibits like this today?" But instead what I discovered was that Design for the Other 90% is not just an exhibit that happened five years ago; it is a movement. Please check out the website for resources, events, blog posts, tweets, connecting with like-minded individuals interested in helping others and more.

But what I would also like to point out, thanks to a whole long list of resources I acquired from a presentation by Alex Lightman at last weekend's BIL conference, is that the Cooper-Hewitt does not need to be acting on its own in this quest to bring awareness to design for "the other 90%." Amazing new technologies and resources are being developed everyday--why not highlight some in your own museum? They are usually inexpensive and they can be life-changing--or, more importantly, life-saving. And the Cooper-Hewitt has already demonstrated how your museum does not need to be technology or science-based in order to showcase these wonderful inventions.

Here are a whole bunch innovations to check out:

Remember the days of door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen? Yeah, those days are gone. Now you can have pretty much all of wikipedia in your pocket--without Internet access. For $99 you (or your whole town, if you want to share) can have the WikiReader for access to information about oodles of stuff.

Health care workers in remote locales can now turn their cell phones into microscopes to aid with disease monitoring and diagnosis thanks to the CellScope.

Or how about using little tabs of paper for diagnostic purposes?

Or a pocket PCR device for testing pathogens or food safety, like the Lava Amp?

Speaking of diagnosis, the Diagnosaurus 2.0 is freeware for your pda that aids with making informed health care decisions.

Having trouble communicating that diagnosis? Maybe you need iSpeak, the $2 translation app for your smart phone.

The Aravind Eye Care System in India has adapted WilDNet (wifi over long distance) technology so that health care workers in remote locales can consult with experts in large hospitals to diagnose and treat vision.

Everyone's seen those images of women carrying ridiculously large water containers on their heads. Doesn't look all that comfortable, does it? The hipporoller allows for the smooth transportation of 4-5 times the amount of water that can be carried on one's head, greatly reducing time (and effort) spent in fetching water.

Another invention that seems aimed towards the plight of women, non-pneumatic anti-shock garments, such as the LifeWrap, can help keep women stabilized who are suffering from obstetric hemorrhaging.

The Darfur Stove reduces the need for firewood for cook fires by 72%. That saves time and effort spent on collecting firewood and promotes more environmentally sound and sustainable practices.

And while we're talking about fuel, heat and light, why not use an LED lantern rather than a kerosene one. They are cheap, they last a long time, they don't rely on fossil fuels and they are less polluting.

Windspires are also a great source of energy generation, without taking up as much space as a windmill.

Acasa, a product of Singularity University, is developing an automated process for house construction called contour crafting, which would allow for more rapid re-building following major disasters.

M-pesa is a service offered through Safaricom that allows for branchless banking through your mobile phone. Note: the link is to a youtube ad for m-pesa.

Kiva may be the king of microfinance for global entrepreneurs, but Rising Voices focuses instead on global social media pioneers, offering a micro-grant competition to help jump-start social media projects in remote areas.

But for those Kiva entrepreneurs, when it's time to really soar in your new business and you need marketing and branding materials that are professional looking but don't cost a fortune, you can turn to crowdspring, where over 50,000 graphic designers are waiting to bid on your project.

Another way to make use of crowdsourcing for the global community is by crowdsourcing crisis information through Ushahidi.

Thank you again to Alex Lightman for sharing all of these wonderful inventions with the BIL crowd. I re-shared pretty much all of the ones he presented to us, with the exception of those already being displayed by the Other 90%. For an overview of my thoughts on the BIL conference, please check here on the WestMuse blog.

And don't worry, if after reading all these and clicking on all the links you still feel like there are a lot of problems left to be solved, many more inventions that still need to happen, well, there's always Innocentive to help make those happen in the future.

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