I am a big fan of helping improve the economic lives of those in the world by harnessing appropriate technology and capitalism. It is wonderful what can be done to improve the lives of so many people with some intelligence and effort. This talk does a great job of showing how engineers thinking about the economic realities in the much of the world can design solutions to help. Without understanding the economic realities you cannot be effective.
Smith recounts other ventures: a bicycle pedal-powered, corn-shelling machine in Tanzania, which entrepreneurs can rent out, and which saves hours of drudgery for women who traditionally remove kernels of corn by hand; a backpack for storing hundreds of doses of vaccine that can be delivered as an inhaled powder and therefore require no refrigeration; cell phone services that allow Brazilian day laborers and bosses to vet each other in advance, and permit Indian health workers to follow up on TB patients.
Concludes Smith, “Something like 90% of the world’s resources creates products and technologies that serve only the wealthiest 10% of the worlds’ population. There’s a revolution afoot to promote R&D to get designers to work on technologies for the other 90%.”