Good Design for the Poor

August 13, 2007

I’m a big fan of great product design (the iPhone is fantastic). I love great product design that’s targeted towards developing countries. For example, the PlayPump is a wonderful, innovative, brilliant idea. Problem: it takes a lot of effort to pump up well water when you need it. Solution: put a merry-go-round on the pump and let hyperactive kids power it. Watercone is another good product: put a tray of dirty water in the sun and collect the clean condensation. The AfriCart is a simple hand cart made from bicycle parts. The key is it can be made and repaired in rural areas without any special tools or materials. There must be lots of interesting ideas that can help the poor live better lives. I’m annoyed, however, that Africans haven’t come up with these ideas themselves. There are lots of smart people in the developed parts of Africa who have real experience with these issues. They should be the main source of new ideas, not rich Westerners halfway around the world.

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