Technologies For Everyday Tasks in Developing CountriesIn countries with poor economies, there’s often no way for people with low income to get access to essential amenities or conveniences. Whether the lack of electricity, water, or basic information regarding crops and harvest times, problems are widespread and varied. But people continue to find solutions that are simple and affordable when it seems there are no options. Here are some examples of simple, useful technologies for everyday tasks in developing countries and communities.

9 Technologies For Everyday Tasks in Developing Countries

  1. Sproxil provides an online, easy to access verification method for pharmacies and drug sellers. Counterfeit drugs are a big problem in developing countries, with few ways to check for quality. Sproxil works with factories, providing easy to check codes on genuine shipments. A seller can simply verify the code through Sproxil’s app to ensure the quality of delivered drugs.
  2. EthioSIS is an information gathering and mapping system devoted to soil quality. It has mapped out soil quality in several areas in Ethiopia with the intent to provide accurate information to farmers and government officials. This is accomplished using satellite technology.
  3. BRCK is a compact, low cost, durable router. Built by a company operating in Nairobi, there have been several iterations of this technology in order to bring the internet to every corner of the continent. The same company has created Moja, a free wifi platform accessed through a BRCK and the KIO tablet.
  4. An effective solution to a localized problem, UTEC created a billboard that filters and cleans polluted air. Located near its campus in Peru, it stands in an area where air pollution is a constant, extreme problem. The billboard does the work of many trees, many times over, the billboard itself advertises an engineering education.
  5. Of these nine technologies for everyday tasks in developing countries, GravityLight may be the most universally useful. GravityLight is a simple concept for providing light to houses that don’t have electricity. A generator attached to a chain holds weight. The weight winched up on the chain turns the generator as it descends, providing electric power to a small light, usually enough for 20 minutes. Easy to use and re-use, it can be hung from a wall or ceiling anywhere.
  6. The SeabinV5 (version 5) is the brainchild of the Seabin project. This trashcan has a built-in pump, designed to filter out trash from ocean water. The floating SeabinV5 adjusts to oil-absorbing pads and requires easy cleaning.  The electrical cost of maintaining the pump is equivalent to $1 a day.
  7. The Beacon app acts as a search and rescue in local areas. Rescue agencies launch a unique platform, kept up to date about their area of coverage. In areas without a consistent or fast ambulance presence, it can organize and bring together first responders quickly, which is invaluable for smaller communities.
  8. The Hippo Water Roller does not actually take the shape of a hippo. Rather, the water container is cylindrical with a large handle for rolling, either by pushing or pulling. In many smaller communities, getting fresh water often means traveling several miles and carrying it back with a bucket. The Hippo Roller’s ability to transport water easily is invaluable to these communities.
  9. The Bandicoot is a robot designed for sewer cleaning in India. The hazardous waste it is designed to clean and dispose of is very harmful to humans. Also, it takes a human worker two hours to properly clean an area the Bandicoot can cover in forty-five minutes. The robot is so simple to operate and maintain, that those whose job it was previously to clean the sewers can now operate the Bandicoot.

Technologies for everyday tasks in developing countries must be simple, affordable and able to spread easily. These are only a few examples of evolving tech that brings the world closer to ending global poverty. Creative thinking towards a small scale problem can lead to massive changes on a global scale.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

Shell and GravityLight Illuminate Off-Grid Regions in KenyaWhile access to electricity does not yet span the globe, the force of gravity is universal. The GravityLight Foundation has taken advantage of Newtonian physics to create a cost-effective light source that runs on gravity. Simply by lifting a weight and letting it descend, GravityLight can provide light and transform impoverished homes.

In 2015, GravityLight’s inventive engineering earned it the Shell Springboard Award, a grant of nearly $200,000 used to fund innovative businesses with low carbon footprints. Together, Shell and the GravityLight Foundation have successfully put GravityLights into production and introduced them to 50 communities in Kenya.

Kenya, which has one of the largest economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, has expended considerable effort to create an impressive power sector. In just four years, Kenya has increased the amount of households with access to electricity from 25 percent to 46 percent. Kenyan companies such as KenGen are working to utilize renewable energy sources, and geothermal energy looks promising.

A capacity of approximately 2,295 MW is available on Kenya’s power grid. However, off the grid, in remote areas of the country, only 11.5 MW are currently available. The Shell and GravityLight partnership intends to provide electric light to those off-grid regions in Kenya.

Electricity is crucial to improving the lives of the world’s poor. Access to light alone improves education and the economy by allowing people to study and work after daylight hours. However, the resources required to produce light can be extremely expensive, especially for those living in poverty. The world’s poor spend an estimated 30 percent of their income on kerosene needed to burn in lamps. GravityLight eliminates the need for kerosene to produce light, which is not only cheaper but also safer. Kerosene fumes are known carcinogens that are toxic for both humans and the environment.

Because the GravityLight Foundation uses local people and businesses to organize the sale of its product, marketing for GravityLight supplies Kenyans with jobs. By providing employment, GravityLight is bringing bright futures as well as bright homes to off-grid regions in Kenya.

Shell and GravityLight are not the only groups seeking to improve energy accessibility in order to aid impoverished populations in Africa. In 2015, the same year GravityLight won the Springboard grant, the U.S. government passed the Electrify Africa Act. The act aims to provide 60 million households and businesses throughout Africa with electricity.

Around the globe, 1.2 billion people lack access to electricity. If GravityLight’s debut in Kenya is successful, the foundation plans to continue spreading light throughout the world.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

GravityLight Glowing on Developing Countries
The GravityLight Foundation developed a gravity-powered LED lamp funded by Siemens to provide energy access in developing countries. The aim is to reach 15,000 people in off-grid areas of developing countries by 2017.

The light harnesses kinetic energy from gravity activated by a 12-kilogram weight. The weight can be made from accessible sources such as a bag of sand or rock. The resulting light lasts for 20-30 minutes, takes three seconds to recharge and is six times brighter than a kerosene lamp.

GravityLight costs approximately $10 and pays for itself over the course of two to three months when the cost of kerosene is removed.

The project is funded by Siemens Stiftung, a German engineering firm that sponsors a competition for sustainable development improvements. The gravity-powered light was chosen as the winner from 800 submissions across 88 countries.

GravityLight was tested in 26 countries with 55 partner organizations. Feedback received during these trials from countries such as Liberia, Guatemala and the Philippines provided invaluable feedback regarding the use of the light and the needs of those living off the grid.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) maintains that 1.2 billion people in developing countries do not have adequate access to safe and affordable lighting. Kerosene is expensive, dangerous and an environmental hazard.

According to the World Bank, kerosene costs 20-30 percent of a family’s income. Approximately $38 billion per year is spent on kerosene, the equivalent of $80 per kilowatt-hour for electricity, among the world’s poorest citizens.

A kerosene lamp burning for four hours emits 100 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Additionally, inhaled kerosene fumes are the equivalent of 40 cigarettes per day, killing approximately 1.5 million Africans every year.

The GravityLight Foundation intends to locally produce the lamps, creating a market for skilled jobs and contributing to local economies. The foundation is currently testing assembly in Kenya. The next goal is to provide GravityLight to 100,000 people in Indonesia and Peru in 2018.

Dependable lighting is taken for granted in developed countries. Technology such as GravityLight can change social dynamics in developing countries by allowing children to complete homework after dark, allowing adults to work longer and allowing families and friends to come together for interaction and other activities.

Light, even for just a few additional hours per day, can change lives and create opportunities in developing countries.

Mandy Otis

Photo: Flickr

A considerable amount of resources have been dedicated to finding a sustainable means of providing electricity to those suffering from poverty. In order to create a solution for such a complex problem, a tremendous amount of creativity, innovation and resources have been directed toward finding an answer. Thus far, one idea has managed to utilize the same power that keeps our entire earth in orbit — gravity.

GravityLight, a new product created by the London-based design consultancy firm Deciwatt, does just that. The light is entirely powered by a specific weight, usually around 10 kilograms. This weight can be anything, including sand, stones or even water. As the weight descends due to gravitational force, the kinetic energy created by this process is converted into light by a handful of small gears within the self-contained mechanism. The light lasts anywhere from 28 minutes to 12 minutes, depending on what setting the light is on. It requires no batteries, and can be used repeatedly without any running costs.

The best part about this technology? The entire apparatus only costs $6. For the price of a hamburger, families can buy a source of light more reliable than a kerosene lamp.

Naturally there was some original skepticism surrounding the product. GravityLight was almost shelved entirely in 2012, due to a lack of funding. Jim Reeves, co-creator/inventor of GravityLight said, “In truth, at first it didn’t go well. But it’s an iterative process. You see what doesn’t work, you move on. You see what doesn’t work, and you improve upon it.”

Eventually inertia kicked in, the word spread and the product began to gain traction. The original fundraising goal was to raise $55,000. However, the campaign massively exceeded expectations by raising $399,590 thus far. This has allowed for the product to become even more accessible to those who need it.

The end goal is to eventually make GravityLight commercially available. While the producers of the technology haven’t hit that goal yet, they are currently on track to pursue mass production by next year. With any luck, GravityLight will provide hundreds of thousands of people with a source of light more stable than any other form of electricity.

Andre Gobbo

Sources: Devex, Deciwatt
Photo: Sustainable Brands