Information and news about innovations

Uniject is a revolutionary new injection method. The idea behind Uniject is that it would be so simple to use, that even untrained health workers would be able to safely and effectively give injections. This idea would allow for prepackaged, low-cost syringes. Not only would Uniject provide a safer and more cost efficient method of administering vaccines, it would also cut down drastically on the amount of wasted vaccines. The new syringes would not be able to be reused, also eliminating the chance of HIV transmission.

Uniject is an autodisable injection system created by PATH in Seattle. It is essentially a small bubble of plastic connected to a needle that contains whatever vaccine is desired. Health workers would be able to learn how to use this within two hours of training. The plastic bubble contains exactly one injection of vaccine, ensuring the correct dosage every single time.

PATH developed Uniject through funding from the US Agency for International Development. The idea has since been licensed to BD, which is the largest producer of syringes in the world. As part of this agreement, the technology must be given to pharmaceutical producers at preferential pricing for use in developing country programs. The development of Uniject has taken twenty years.

While Uniject was developed with the idea of providing low-cost effective syringes for use of vaccinations in developing countries, it also has the potential to help reduce poverty in other ways. Uniject could, down the road, also be used for other life saving drugs, as well as a potential contraception delivery method. The use of Uniject to deliver contraception could have an immense effect on the developing world and provide an extraordinarily important outlet for female empowerment and family planning in the developing world.

-Caitlin Zusy 

How to Build a TelecentrePLANWEL is an NGO in Pakistan that is short for Planning Professionals for Social Welfare Works. It was founded in 1990 by a group of local technology and business experts for the purpose of promoting basic computer literacy, information sharing, health care, e-government, e-commerce, and e-learning through telecentres, or what they call community access points. Telecentres are public places that provide access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) which help promote development for populations who otherwise would not have such access.

In the past 20 years or so, PlanWel has collaborated with several foreign entities such as Utah State University, Kansas State University, American Distance Learning Consortium, International Telecommunication Union, USAID, and World View Foundation – Malaysia. To date, PlanWel has contributed to the formation of over 400 telecentres all over Pakistan. PlanWel’s mission statement is, “Bringing Technology to the People, Building Technology Based Communities, and Technology for the People and Run by the People”. PlanWel is one of the many examples of telecentre programs that are working to improve lives by providing access to ICTs.

Generally, telecentres are located in rural areas of the developing world. According to the Foundation, there are over 87,513 telecentres in over 53 countries. In this interview, the PlanWel CEO, Shahab Afroz Khan, talks about how to build a telecentre.

What do the telecentres look like?

“In fact, they are not at all fancy. In a rural setting, it would be a one-room to two-room building with some space for housing 5-10 PCs’s at the maximum, one Printer, Scanner, Fax Machine. Internet connectivity through Fiber lines – DSL (In Pakistan we have a very well connected Fiber Optic network). For power, if it’s not on the National Grid, we have it by solar energy. One teacher would teach the students – Typically he is the Owner/ Manager, who would earn his living through this.

The only missing element – AND most important is content in the local language – which we are still looking for and working on.”

What advice would you give on how to build a telecentre community?

“First of all, motivate the community and tell them what they are missing: Information about business, citizen’s information, money transactions, sharing of information, and computer literacy. Once they are convinced that there is a need to open up a telecentre, they need to try and get some type of support from important local people, such as a landlord, local government representative, and the like. This is important because, in many countries like in Pakistan, you must have local support.

It is also absolutely necessary to have your own building – one room of 14ft X 10ft would be sufficient. You cannot run a telecentre on rented space. Next, locate some donors to give you the hardware – this is the easiest part as the donor would like his name to be advertised – which you can do with some caution.”

– Maria Caluag

Source: PLANWEL,
Photo: LawaOnline

Natalia Project Bracelet to Save LivesOn July 15, 2009, Natalia Estemirova was abducted in Chechnya while on the job defending human rights. Later that evening, she was found shot to death.

Humanitarian aid workers are regarded as selfless and live their lives implementing life-saving projects around the world. No matter the public view of these people, the work is full of dangers and, in certain countries, can even be deadly. In war-torn countries, on-the-field humanitarian aid workers have fallen victim to assault, kidnapping, and murder. After the senseless death of Natalia, one Swedish activist group, Civil Rights Defenders, hopes to take preemptive action that will protect the lives of humanitarians across the globe.

In April, Civil Rights Defenders introduced the Natalia Project bracelet, a technological innovation designed to alert authorities when an aid worker is in danger. The bracelet is chunky, plastic, and brightly colored. It is equipped with a GPS-tracking device and cell-enabled alarms that allow the wearer to send out distress signals. The bracelet’s lock will even send out an automatic distress signal if it is tampered with or forcibly removed. While the technology remains a bit spotty at this time, a downed infrastructure could undermine the GPS signals, the Civil Rights Defenders hope to outfit at least 55  aid workers by 2014. On the Natalia Project’s website, supports can give monetary donations as well as sign up for notifications that detail the time and location of a wearer that has activated the distress signal. Supports that sign up for the project and notifications will be updated on the situation as it unfolds and have the opportunity to spread the word.

While the innovation is still in the beginning stages of use, it is sure to be a device that will protect, if not save, the lives of civil rights defenders across the globe.

Kira Maixner
Source Huffington Post, Civil Rights Defenders
Photo Crunch Wear

Modern Philanthropy Depends On Innovation
One of the most significant charity foundations of the past century is the Rockefeller Foundation, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month. The Foundation has set the bar high for other philanthropic organizations throughout the 20th century, and it will continue to do so throughout the 21st century by means of innovation.

The Rockefeller Foundation has promoted innovation as the key to doing good through the “Next Century Innovator Awards,” which look at projects that do more than just help society but transform it. The projects find or create new ways to approach huge societal issues including education, sanitation, marketplace literacy, and cancer, for example.

One project that was awarded the “Next Century Innovator Award” was Innovate Salone in Sierra Leone. The organization transformed the education system of the country to help more children attend school. The project did more than just build a school or donate money for education. It gave the young people in the community an opportunity to solve their own problems according to their individual needs. Those with the best workable solutions were given financial support to build on their ideas to create real results while receiving support and feedback from mentors and peers in their community.

Other organizations, particularly universities, have taken note of this new form of innovative modern philanthropy and are joining the effort to transform the world of charity. More people are beginning to realize that donating money can help to an extent, but the best way to achieve long-lasting benefits is to transform the way people think of the art of giving through innovation.

Katie Brockman

Source: Forbes
Photo: EmpowerOU

USAID Awards $400 Million to Clean Energy
USAID has awarded $400 million to four innovative engineering and technology companies to assist developing countries in attaining clean energy. Specifically, the goal of the contract is to implement new technologies and business models that aim to help “critical priority countries” transition to a low carbon trajectory. According to USAID, countries that will be receiving assistance and that qualify as “critical priority countries” include Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Sudan and Yemen.

Six energy sector themes outlined by USAID that will serve as guidelines for the contract are energy poverty, energy sector governance, energy sector reform, energy security, clean energy, and climate change. Over the course of five years, these awarded companies, Dexis Consulting Group, ECODIT LLC, Tetra Tech and Engility Corporation will compete to deliver their products to these countries and meet the five years, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract. The $400 million will be shared among the four companies and could reach the IDIQ before five years are up.

Tony Smeraglinolo, Engility President and CEO, said the company will compete to support energy reform efforts within the recipient countries. “Around the globe, there is a growing demand for responsible energy development and we are proud to have the opportunity to continue supporting USAID and its important mission,” said Smeraglinolo.

– Kira Maixner
Source: GovConWire , FedBizOpps
Photo: International Institution for Education and Development

Surgery in a Bubble Could Save Lives
Horrific injuries caused by tank shelling, aerial bombardment and shrapnel are taking the lives of hundreds of Syrians every day. As cities are destroyed, hospitals and the valuable, lifesaving equipment they house are dwindling. In December 2012, Paul Jawor, a civil engineer working with Engineers Without Borders in Spain, presented a simple, safe, sanitary option for surgery on the battlefield of Syria. If plastic altitude chambers, or “plastic bubbles”, are utilized on the field and in bombed cities, surgeons could save multiple lives by simply having a safe place to operate.

Plastic altitude chambers are used to help athletes train by introducing specially formulated oxygen into the chamber. By using the same concept, the bubbles are filled with specifically filtered air to give doctors and surgeons the sterile environments that are essential for performing surgery. The bubbles are just big enough for a gurney, lights and a few doctors. Two bubbles can be connected to create a chamber to scrub in and a chamber to operate in to ensure optimal sanitation.

However, with its great benefits, surgery in a bubble has its drawbacks. As the walls of the bubble are fragile, the risk of destruction in a war zone is high. The bubble is also an easy target and at times cannot be camouflaged well. These simple drawbacks have prevented the use of the bubble in areas and war zones in the past. Engineers Without Borders must ensure that the bubble will work before they use it in Syria.

The alternative use of the plastic altitude chamber is not the only innovation that has as much use for saving lives as setbacks. Another innovation, the Rigid Inflatable Boat Ambulance, would be used in areas such as Cambodia and The Democratic Republic of Congo where river access is easier than road access. The ambulance would be used to transport injured people to hospitals. Due to the high speeds that the RIB travels at, the nature of the contents of the boat must be considered and whether or not carrying something like an oxygen tank is worth the risk. If the tank were to fall off the boat and land near a fire it would result in an explosion.

As technology continues to move forward, Engineers Without Borders will continue to create safe, life-saving equipment. “You often have to adapt new equipment to fit a new situation,” says Jawor in hopes that the bubble and the RIB Ambulance will soon ensure safe medical alternatives in any war-torn country.

– Kira Maixner
Source: The Engineer
Photo:  Redr UK

The future of toilets in poor countries
What does the future of toilets in poor countries look like? The Gates Foundation hosted a competition to reinvent the toilet to process human waste without utilizing piped water, sewer or electrical connections and to transform waste into useful resources like water and energy.

The grand prize design was a solar-powered toilet that creates hydrogen and electricity. The second place prize was taken by a toilet that creates biological charcoal, minerals and clean water. A toilet that sanitizes feces and urine and recovers resources and creates clean water won third place.

Why all the excitement about toilets? In a nutshell, return on investments in sanitation is huge. For every dollar spent on sanitation, 5.5 dollars are returned. At a national level, lack of access to proper sanitation costs countries up to 7 percent of their GDP. In addition to being a smart investment, investing in sanitation is also a moral imperative. Diarrhea is the cause of an estimated 5000 child deaths every day. In areas where people defecate in the open or share large community bathrooms, women and girls are more frequently victimized.

Despite these striking numbers, improved sanitation is neglected at every political level. Without a drastic shift in strategies and the courage to undertake this stigmatized issue, the Millennium Development target of cutting the proportion of the population without access to clean water and basic sanitation by a half will be missed by a long shot.

In addition to the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, the government of India is running multiple campaigns to improve sanitation such as the “No toilet, no bride” campaign and an information and shaming campaign aimed at changing the culture of open-space defecation.

The World Bank also recently wrapped up a sanitation hackathon where mobile phone application developers were challenged to create apps to improve sanitation. Many involved mapping public toilets and reporting malfunctioning toilets. Several were designed as games to teach children good sanitation.

Katherine Zobre

Sources: Gates Foundation , Global Poverty Project
Photo: The Guardian

2.5 billion people around the world, many of whom live in extreme poverty, are excluded from the formal financial system. Consequently, this exclusion results in the use of risky and expensive financial alternatives that slow individual and macro-level economic development. In the past, microcredit schemes have been used to solve the problem. Recently, a more holistic understanding of financial inclusion is emerging that focuses on savings, credit, financial literacy, and access to services. However, as these new systems take root, debate can be heard in regards to how the systems should be implemented, who the stakeholders will be, and how to ensure that this new financial ecosystem will function in the long-term.

These issues were addressed in early April at a Guardian conference where Banking on Change outlined the future of the financial ecosystem in developing countries. Banking on Change is a partnership between Plan UK, CARE International UK and Barclays that hopes to help around 400,000 people in 11 countries by developing access to basic financial services. The organization has used savings-led community finance groups in poor communities to help people save, build up assets, access loans from the community “pot”, develop financial literacy and eventually link into formal services. The scheme showed that due to erratic incomes, poor people have a high demand for savings accounts and products in contrast to credit lines and accounts.

Living conditions and finances aside, Ashok Vaswani, Barclays’ CEO for retail and business banking in the UK, Europe and Africa, believes that all people are the same. “People’s hopes and aspirations don’t vary too much,” he said. “We all have them, and people who live in much worse conditions than us have hopes and aspirations that are not very different to ours. They want to send their children to school. They want more for their children, just like we do. People with limited means still have the desire to move up, to put something away.” The difference is that people living in poverty do not have sufficient means to even start a savings account. Vaswani also believes that the money that potential customers save annually, about $58 multiplied by the 2.5 billion people living in financial exclusion, could be much more powerful if linked into the formal financial system rather than stashed under people’s beds.

Aside from defining the customer’s needs, financial literacy is important to the development of the financial ecosystem as well. Governments should do more in educating citizens, especially the youth, about their finances, commented Michaela Kelly, head of Plan’s Programme Delivery Unit.

As the demand for personal banking increases, the needs of potential customers will need to be assessed accordingly. While many view various forms of credit building important, savings accounts and related programs are just as important to the beginning of a financial ecosystem in developing countries. With the implementation of a financial system, both individual and macro-level, economic development will flourish and raise billions of people out of poverty.

– Kira Maixner

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Business Fights Poverty

The Search for Sustainable Materials

What do NIKE, NASA, and USAID have in common? The search for sustainable materials to be used in the production of goods.  As members of LAUNCH, an initiative to raise awareness around the sustainable production of goods, NIKE, NASA, USAID, and the State Department recently gathered with 150 materials specialists, designers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and NGOs to ignite action around the issue.

The two-day LAUNCH 2020 Summit was opened by NIKE, INC. CEO Mark Parker. He stressed the importance of innovation and collaboration in the area of producing sustainable goods. The Summit also served to reveal the LAUNCH 2013 Challenge Statement. This is an open call for innovation in sustainable materials and good production. The challenge is to create innovation in the system of producing fabrics and is open to both individuals and teams. In August, the 10 strongest ideas will be selected and granted access to creativity, capital, and capacity.

The materials used to produce goods play a significant role in the environment. LAUNCH was created to address this growing issue and to seek innovations solutions to global issues.  Three years ago, LAUNCH was able to provide the needed capital to get Astronaut Ron Garan’s clean water innovation into production.  His project-Carbon for Water-used carbon credits and a filter system to clean dirty water. His filter has provided clean water for over 4.5 million Kenyans.  LAUNCH was also a key player in Gram Power, a program providing thousands of people in India affordable, renewable energy.

You can learn more about Launch at their website or sign up for the 2013 challenge here.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: NIKE, INC.
Video: Vimeo


Fiat lux! Let there be light! A timeless phrase that has been used since biblical times, in classrooms and even in movies has a more humanitarian and sustainable meaning since 2011. MyShelter Foundation, a ‘green-energy for all’ organization, began the Liter of Light project out of a simple idea to light up the homes of those who could not afford to do so themselves. With the help of MIT students, the technology of empty water bottles, water, bleach, and a slab of cement has taken the place of electricity and changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

The first installments began in Manila, Philippines. Since electricity rates are so high, families are forced to keep the lights off during the day. Due to the infrastructure of the homes in many of the poorer areas, however, light does not enter the homes during the day and families are left in darkness.

Building the makeshift light bulbs is easy and requires little to no maintenance. 1 liter plastic bottles are taken, filled with a small amount of bleach to keep the water and bottle clean and free of germs, then filled with water. When sunlight enters the bottle, enough light is produced that equals that of a 55-watt light bulb! The benefits of the water bottle bulbs are endless. Not only do they eliminate the need for electricity during the day, but they also reduce monthly electricity costs, are sustainable, help keep slums free of plastic waste, are easy to install, and add a greater sense of well being to the home environment.

Since 2011, Isang Litrong Liwanag (the translation of Liter of Light in Filipino) has spread to other countries such as Cambodia, India, Vietnam, Spain, Egypt, Peru, Kenya, the Middle East, and even Switzerland. MyShelter hopes to reach its goal of installing 1 million water bottle light bulbs by 2015.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: A Liter of Light