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Integrating Technology
In 2010, Toshi Nakamura and Ewa Wojkowska created Kopernik, an NGO dedicated to providing proper living standards by integrating technology within rural villages. Toshi and Ewa were former UN workers who researched tribes existing within Thailand, Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. The organization currently has four divisions that coordinate donations, financial consulting and technology. Each section is divided between locations in New York, Indonesia and Japan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kopernik continued its pre-planned projects for tribes in financial distress. This shows how lucrative and dedicated the organization has become.

Partnerships and Projects

Kopernik realizes that changing the world requires collaboration, and proudly announces partnerships whenever a new project undergoes initiation. In March 2020, Kopernik and the Malaysian Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), collaborated to introduce Cirebon, Indonesia to digital resources. A businesswoman named Kurian, who owns a 12-person furniture manufacturing business in Cirebon, received help from Kopernik and MAMPU to reach more lucrative digital markets and develop her online marketing skills; Kurian was able to double her profits and reach markets as far as Mexico. MAMPU and Kopernik have historically helped many women-owned micro-businesses develop, despite poverty-stricken circumstances. Kopernik’s Indonesia headquarters runs a Wonder Woman program that empowers female entrepreneurs to learn about business strategies and cleantech resources. The organization trains local women on the technical use of solar panels, mobile phone chargers and biomass stoves that are a low price.

The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI)

In February 2021, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) partnered with the ecstatic Kopernik. They collaborated on the development of “the Waste for Water: Creating A Community-Led Water Desalination Business to Provide Clean Drinking Water to Coastal Villages in Indonesia” project. In 2016, Kopernik flirted with a similar idea by selling the Carocell 3000 water purifier. It tested the experiment within Likotuden, East Flores. The purifier was able to produce 10 liters of freshwater per day, and safely distilled seawater, groundwater and overall contaminated/polluted liquids from local reservoirs. However, the project showed that 10 liters were not enough to provide for the community.

The two NGOs decided to start their project of integrating technology in the coastal villages within Nusa Penida, Bali and partnered with Wujudkan. They wanted to create a community-operated desalination plant that produced up to 3,000 liters daily. The last part of the project is an information campaign that shared guidelines for safe drinking water, water purification and the importance of preserving and sustaining water management.

Technology

Kopernik’s biggest achievement has been integrating solar technology in Indonesia’s “last mile.” By the end of 2020, Kopernik fostered funding support from the Abu Dhabi government to provide 3,600 solar lanterns and 1,000 mobile charging solar lanterns to the southeastern of Borneo. D.Light, a U.S.-based technology company that sells products for as low as $7, develops the solar lanterns. It also develops solar systems that people can purchase through micropayments.

Kopernik also paired with Greenlight Planet, which offers 6kW solar system installation to people in Sumba for $3.60 per month for a three-year period; Sumba Sustainable Solutions (3S) is a company that partnered with Kopernik to enact similar strategies and resources for solar solutions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sumba faced a financial hit from the decreasing tourism industry. 3S devised solutions for boosting revenue in Sumba’s agriculture section. 3S provided a solar-powered corn and rice mill to help farmers create higher sales prices within the crop market. Also, 3S founder Sarah Hobgen claimed that “[instead] of grinding corn manually with stones or pounding rice in a wooden tube, we lend them the mills for just IDR 500, or $0.03 per kilogram.” Both Kopernik and 3S have received international prizes for their support.

Agricultural Work

In September 2020, Kopernik initiated the Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) program in Papua. The program intended to teach agricultural regulations through interactive modules, videos and field practices. This GAP program helped farmers in Papua develop enhanced skills in farm production and post-production. It taught safe techniques to harvest food and agriculture products while including economic, social and environmental sustainability. GAP had farmers focus on the production of cacao, a plant used to make chocolate and cacao butter, by focusing attention on proper plant drying techniques. Kopernik introduced the idea for a solar dryer, which the organization has been blueprinting since 2016.

Kopernik and Papua farmers finalized the dryer within a remote village called Berab. Building a solar dryer involves ventilation and space between the cacao plant. In previous designs, racks were 12.5 cm apart. However, the on-site production showed that 30 cm enabled more ventilation and space for farmers to stir the beans. Due to limited resources, UV plastics replaced the polycarbonate feature, which captures solar light transmission, to capture the right amount of light energy. Additionally, instead of using iron for the framing, the farmers insisted on wood because of familiarity with the resource. Despite the challenges, the farmers finished construction within five days. The device cut the drying process from five days to three.

The Future of Kopernik

Kopernik continues to develop innovative projects, bring together lucrative business partners and work toward integrating technology. The year 2021 is seeing more digital solutions within the company as support for ending poverty increases for Kopernik.

Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr

How Is Poverty ReducedMost modern technology is marketed towards the world’s wealthy, but that should not inhibit its potential to help the world’s poor. As prices fall and production increases, affordable and basic technology may be the solution for eradicating global poverty.

How is poverty reduced through basic technology? First and foremost, by understanding the realistic and productive uses for technology in a community and ensuring that it is relevant.

Too often there are stories of computers collecting dust in African classrooms, or new smartphone apps that can help impoverished people find work — in places where smartphones are unattainable. Despite the vast amount of information on the internet, it is hardly relevant to a rural family in a developing country and will rarely help them escape poverty. In reality, the technology that will help end poverty is more basic.

The United Nations is at the forefront of this vision, with the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) working towards the global spreading of information and communications technology (ICT). Founded in 1996, the IICD has come a long way in understanding the pragmatic strategy needed for implementing modern technology in developing countries. The IICD has learned that “it is not the technology itself that makes the difference but rather the people who own it and apply it.” Therefore, helping people get the most out of ICT is now as equally important to the organization’s mission as introducing it.

The IICD works to apply ICT to health, economic and education sectors in different communities around the world. It’s main focus is in the context of helping the U.N. meet its Millennium Development Goals — an effort that the IICD has been at the center of. In short, the IICD works to instigate large-scale social change through low-tech, relevant technology.

Other organizations, such as Kopernik, work on a smaller scale to improve the lives of many through simple technology. Kopernik connects poor, rural families with basic, life-altering technologies that not only save lives, but also save money and time. These simple technologies include water filters, fuel-efficient stoves and solar lights.

Technologies such as solar lights are affordable and sustainable, and their usage is linked to positive behavioral changes and higher household productivity. Investing and distributing this basic technology should be a major priority, for it is fundamental to increasing human development and reducing poverty.

It is not to say that computers and the internet are not infinitely useful and powerful, but we should keep in mind that the internet won’t help a child if they only have access to contaminated water. So, perhaps the question of how to eliminate poverty has a simple answer: distribute relevant, basic technology.

Catherine Fredette

Photo: Google

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

Wonder Women Initiative Takes Off in Indonesia
For decades, the iconic comic book superheroine Wonder Woman has been a representation of justice, strength and all that is right in the universe. Today, the spirit of Wonder Woman is as present as it has ever been, but it has been breathed into the organization titled, appropriately, Wonder Women. In 2015, it is this plural variation of the legendary superhero’s name that resonates the most with global change.

The Wonder Women Initiative is a movement to revitalize poverty-stricken areas by teaching the women of these communities to sell new pieces of technology and equipment to their neighbors and members of their towns or villages. The effort has been especially successful in Indonesia over the last few years. Some of the items sold include solar lanterns, clean cookstoves and water filters.

An article by CNBC detailing the Wonder Women program recently said, “Since the program started in 2011, more than 300 women have become ‘micro-social-entrepreneurs,’ selling around 10,000 clean technology products to their communities.” The Wonder Women initiative has been extremely successful because of its grassroots approach to eradicating poverty. This project operates under the umbrella of the large non-government organization Kopernik.

Kopernik was founded on the belief that only a simple piece of technology can drastically turn around poverty situations all over the world. The NGO’s website provides certain statistics such as “780 million people live with dirty water, when a simple filter can provide safe, clean, convenient drinking water” and “1.3 billion people rely on dim, dirty, dangerous kerosene for lighting, when simple solar lanterns can provide clean, bright light at night.” Kopernik receives money directly from donors all over the world and in turn, uses these funds to produce cost-effective technology products that can be sent to third world countries and commercialized by an initiative like Wonder Women.

Wonder Women is impacting thousands of lives every year and revitalizing the way nonprofits work. By teaching women how to sell technology at cost-effective prices within their communities, Wonder Women is positively affecting the global economy. Kopernik has a quote on its site that reads, “Our namesake, Nicolaus Copernicus, changed the way people see the world. Like Copernicus, we want Kopernik to be a catalyst for change.” Much like its namesake, Wonder Women is promoting justice and all that is right with the world.

Diego Catala

Sources: CNBC, Kopernik
Photo: Dorkly