Kopernik: Using Technology to Improve the Developing World

Billions of people all over the world lack the technology allowing them access to light, fuel-friendly cooking and clean drinking water. This is why Kopernik, a nonprofit technology company, is working to distribute simple, life-improving technologies to the world’s poorest communities.

The company provides these communities with items such as water filters, solar power lights and cooking stoves. Nicolaus Copernicus is the organization’s namesake since Kopernik is meant to be a catalyst for change and new ways of seeing the world. Kopernik distributes the best technology for the developing world through sourcing, connecting and reinvesting.

Sourcing

Kopernik uses its website to spread awareness about its technology. In response, countries submit proposals for the items they need the most. Then Kopernik publishes projects on the website in order to raise funds.

Connecting

Once the projects are fully funded — usually by donors — Kopernik ships the technology to its local partners. People then buy that technology at an affordable price through those local partners.

Reinvesting

Next, the local partners repay the money from technology sales to Kopernik. This money is then reinvested into new technology. Kopernik also works with local partners to assess the technology’s impact and share feedback with technology producers.

Funding

Kopernik is a nonprofit organization with a for-profit arm. The for-profit part of the organization is a consulting firm that works with technology companies in product development. The profits from the consulting business are then channeled toward the nonprofit operations.

Kopernik receives funding from companies, government development programs and individuals. Its partners also provide in-kind support such as free or discounted services. This keeps the organization’s operating costs low.

Technology

Kopernik is helping women access clean birth supplies and information about safe birthing practices. For example, in the Chittagong district of Bangladesh as well as Laos, the nonprofit provides JANMA clean birth kits to women. These birth kits contain sterile tools to reduce the risk of infection during childbirth.

In Vietnam, the organization has also connected 90 families with hearing-impaired children with affordable hearing aid technology. This makes it possible for children to learn to speak and form a better bond with their families and communities.

Impact

So far, Kopernik has served 396,325 people and distributed 90,359 technologies. It has funded 170 projects and reached 26 countries, among them Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Ghana and Nigeria.

According to Patrick Vinck of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, “New applications of technologies to humanitarian action may be the most important factor influencing humanitarian effectiveness over the next decade.” In this regard, Kopernik’s emphasis on technology distribution represents great gains for the world’s anti-poverty organizations with only more progress to come.

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr