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Monday, August 01, 2005

Its Time For Management Transfer

(Via WSJ) Fancy computers, MP3 players, cellphones and the rest, "high technology" is not the realm of the world's economic elite. Radically simplified versions of the same tools for use by the world's very poorest simultaneously get designed.Their goal is to make technology a cause, not a consequence, of economic development.In most poor countries desktop cost of 300$ is not the impediment but availability of reliable and clean supply of electrical power is indeed one. Less power consuming The Jhai Foundation computer, peddlied away on a stationary bicycle attached to a generator - It costs about $200. The $1 million Grainger Challenge Prize for Sustainability, is meant to go to whoever invents a simple, inexpensive method to remove the arsenic that's poisoning the wells used by millions of villagers on the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere. The arsenic problem was chosen for the "challenge" prize both because of its pressing humanitarian urgency and because it's the sort of contained problem that might well be solved by an inspired bout of creative engineering that relies on the most modern materials and methods. There are other instances of smart technology transfer programs, from low-cost, super-simple cellphones to long, thin Velcro-closing sacks conceived by NASA to provide housing for an eventual mission to Mars. The sacks were to be filled with Martian soil and then stacked to form an igloo-like structure, but they have already proved useful at providing shelter in desert villages.
Sometimes the latest high-tech solution is the last thing people need. In many parts of the world, potholes aren't just irritations but major impediments to economic development. New road repair systems in the West use advanced materials and sophisticated application systems. But these systems can't be used in developing countries unless a major structural issue is dealt with first. While Western aid programs cover the capital costs for building roads, they usually won't subsidize the routine upkeep required to keep the roads passable. Governments thus have an incentive to let their roads crumble so that they can get grants for new ones.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
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