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leaf
Harvard University Professor Daniel Nocera has finally perfected the solar panel leaf that he began trying to construct several years ago at MIT. This new technology harvests solar energy in a unique way and has become a more practical way for people living in harsh conditions to gain access to electricity.

Nocera’s invention addresses the main problems with solar panels which are their high price, complexity and inability to produce power at any time. This leaves normal solar panels impractical for the developing world in many ways.

Nocera’s invention differs from a normal solar panel in that it breaks down solar energy similarly to how a plant photosynthesizes. In fact, the solar panel is touted to be ten times more efficient than the average leaf. Nocera’s artificial leaf breaks down solar energy into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then held in a fuel cell and can be used on demand. Due to film build up, the initial design called for purified water to be used, which is rare in developing countries and rendered the invention impractical for impoverished communities.

However, Norcera recently developed a fix for this seemingly impossible problem. The innovators created a mechanism in the leaf in which a catalyst driving the chemical reaction breaks down. This provides a surface that is inhospitable for the film to develop.

With this new development, Nocera predicts that his invention will be widely used in developing nations as a cheap and sustainable way to create useable electricity.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: Knovel
Photo: Wired

the good and bad of geolocation

Modern technologies such as commercialized geolocation have many positive aspects in the developed world. Never before has it been easier to sate your Foursquare obsession while simultaneously tracking Peter Dinklage. However, the effects of geolocation in developing countries are a little more extreme, ranging from trailing Joseph Kony to helping pregnant women find hospitals within driving distance, the positives and negatives can get pretty extreme.

The Good

The UK Department for International Development has collected data concerning the distance between pregnant mother and hospitals facilitating childbirth. By overlaying the data collected by geolocation systems onto satellite imagery, the department was able to show that child mortality increases as the distance of a pregnant mother from a hospital increases. Disseminating information like this throughout impoverished communities encourages safe childbirth at clean hospitals and lowers child mortality.

The Bad

In conflict stricken countries, having a smart phone or even a slightly more advanced mobile phone can have dire consequences for the owner. Because of GPS applications, if someone is caught with a smart phone by a militant organization they will most likely be considered a spy. This makes even owning a smart phone capable of geolocation a risk.

The Good

Geolocation systems can also be used to help prevent civilian deaths in fragile countries where rebellion is common. “Geospacial analysis” has even been used to predict where Joseph Kony’s militant group Lord’s Resistance Army will attack.

The Bad

Since GPS systems are so sensitive and exact when pinpointing location, expressing political opinion through a device with GPS could be potentially dangerous for a citizen in an unstable country. Even corporations collecting data on citizens to use for marketing could be potentially dangerous if that information falls into the wrong hands.

– Pete Grapentien

Source The Guardian

USAID Attacks Poverty At Its Root The Classroom
In line with goals to lower its global footprint, USAID has brought together faculty leaders from leading universities in Pakistan to develop syllabi to increase the quality of education for fourth and final year education majors completing their bachelor’s degrees.

Among the topics discussed were panels on focusing on trends and models of curriculum development. The faculty and leaders worked in accordance with one another to share their notes and syllabi. This workshop was one of many being held to complete course designs. USAID has hosted this event in an effort to strengthen international and national curriculum development in Pakistan and neighboring countries.

Many border communities in Afghanistan have benefited from the increased push to strengthen educational support systems by USAID. Educating communities in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan helps develop the infrastructure of the entire community. This leads to a strengthened economy and higher standards of living. In turn, a more educated community with access to food and clean water is a community that is less likely to susceptible to terrorist persuasion.

Another benefit of educating people in impoverished communities such as those that lie on the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan is that with a well education populace is more able to contribute to the global economy. By assisting educators in strengthening educational systems and educational support systems, USAID is attacking poverty at its root.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: International News
Photo: rawa.org

“I hate it when I tell them no pickles and they still give me pickles,” are among the first world problems chosen by the charitable organization Water is Life to be read by third world children. Labeled First World Problems Anthem, the video is meant to raise awareness of Water for Life’s efforts to provide clean drinking water to impoverished countries. It does this by starkly contrasting the two perspectives of what constitutes a problem in each walk of life.

Rich in very dark satire, Water for Life presents a hard hitting video of children in impoverished conditions reciting complaints such as “[I hate] when my mint gum makes my ice water taste too cold,” which is said by a child in what looks to be a boarding house for kids. All of the gripes read in the video have been chosen from the Twitter hashtag First World Problems. Water for life hopes this video will assist the organization in battling poor water sanitation.

According to UNICEF, poor water sanitation is among the leading causes of illness and death in the world. To combat this, Water for Life is providing a water purifier called “The Straw.” The Straw works to filter out waterborne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and guinea worm. By donating $10 to Water is Life, members of the first world can send this water purifier to a community in need of clean potable water.

– Pete Grapentien

Source Huffington Post

USAID Puts Fighting Terror in Afghani Hands_opt

On February 1, USAID finalized the transition of the Learning for Community Empowerment Program 2 (LCEP) into the Farah Directorate of Education in Farah City program in Farah, Afghanistan. Much more than a title change, this transition puts the task of promoting literacy, providing vocational training, and supporting the development of banks into Afghan hands.

Over the program’s five years in existence, more than 13,000 students had completed the literacy portion of the program. This not only strengthens Farah as a community, but also increases the ability of the people of Farah to take over the program and help their fellow residents in creating more opportunity for the city.

One of the ways which the program improved opportunity within the community was through the vocational program. The program helped by teaching necessary skills, but also by providing the tools to pursue specialized crafts or even the knowledge with how to start a business. This worked in conjunction with the banking system which lent out microloans to assist in small business development.

The transition of the LCEP into the Farah Directorate of Education in Farah City falls in line with the goals of USAID to decrease its global footprint and equip the members of impoverished communities with the skills needed to develop their community.

By developing communities in this way, USAID and the Farah Directorate of Education in Farah City work towards decreasing the threat of terrorism. Communities with higher literacy rates and higher standards of living have been proven to be more resistant to terrorist persuasion. By helping educate the residents of Farah, USAID has helped strengthen global security.

– Pete Grapentien

Source dvids.net

NEAT Nepal Blog_opt
After a decade of armed insurgency by Maoists, tension in Nepal has increased making some impoverished areas more susceptible to insurrection. The Nepal Economic Agricultural and Trade Activity (NEAT), a USAID funded program, has addressed this problem with a new campaign which involves circulating agricultural training materials throughout impoverished communities in Nepal.

By attempting to decrease poverty, reduce conflict and improve lives, NEAT has targeted the illiterate and semiliterate with training materials. The program is working with 67,510 food insecure and disadvantaged households in 20 districts. Combining photos and written descriptions, the 263,000 pieces outline different ways to increase the quality and quantity of 13 different crops and three types of livestock.

The effect of this type of aid is not only a stronger economy in rural and impoverished areas of Nepal, it is also an improved resistance to insurgency and other roots of violence.

This program falls in line with USAID’s newly implemented efficiency program, USAID Forward, which works toward cutting its global footprint. Programs such as NEAT are made from Nepali people who can more easily assess their country’s problems and work toward a sustainable solution.

Thus far, NEAT has helped Nepali farmers increase their household incomes by a total of $8.5 billion,, with 99 percent of them reporting that they had increased access to markets for their crops. The project is slated to close in August 2013.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: FinChannel.com
Photo: Nepal Santoshs

REwiRE blog_opt
Rural Electrification with Renewable Energy (REwiRE) has taken the multi-level task of financing, developing and managing renewable and sustainable energy power grids in emerging markets. In this type of setting, once a company is on the ground in a foreign country, many unforeseen challenges present themselves.

REwiRE has chosen Indonesia, where 67 million people are without electricity, as the best country for the business. Indonesia presents almost the perfect situation for a startup such as REwiRE. The archipelago landscape has made fuel shipments to the country’s 18,000 islands very costly leaving some communities without power completely. However, this provides the perfect context for smaller scale power grids which can provide the communities of Indonesia with much needed and affordable electricity.

Faced with a new culture, diverse landscape, and unfamiliar legal system, REwiRE has teamed up with Ibeka, an NGO which has been helping REwiRE get accustomed to local culture and other challenges.

Providing electricity to impoverished communities is one of the most important building blocks to creating an infrastructure that can pull a developing country into the developed world. By contributing this tantamount element to Indonesia’s diverse landscape REwiRE sets the stage for more future development.

-Pete Grapentien
Source: Social Capital Markets
Photo: 

What 3 of the biggest US tech companies are doing in africa_opt

While Africa has its share of security issues, it has its share of economic growth as well. In fact, as a continent, it is growing at a faster rate than North America. This has spurred a big push in many African countries to modernize technologically which has given rise to many tech hubs and even a few tech cities. All of this begs the question: What are American tech companies doing to contribute to and capitalize on this type of growth? Here is a list of what three of the largest American tech companies have been up to in Africa.

IBM
IBM recently opened an office in Dakar, Senegal which the company believes will bring in roughly $20 billion by 2015. IBM is no stranger to the region as it sold supplies to South Africa in 1911. Recently, IBM has become more and more focused on Africa and has established a presence in 20 of Africa’s 54 countries. No doubt IBM is hoping to establish a bigger presence in many of the upstart tech hubs which have begun sprouting up all over the continent.

Microsoft
In an attempt to gain ground in the smartphone market as well as capitalize on Africa’s quickly growing tech industry, Microsoft has introduced its Microsoft 4Afrika initiative.  Microsoft 4Afrika will be producing a moderately price $150 smartphone. The phone will be marketed toward Africa’s middle-class which comprises one quarter of Africa’s billion people. Microsoft has plans with Nokia to release two more smartphones in the near future. This decision was likely influenced by Africa’s number one spot as the world’s fastest growing region for smartphones. The region has grown by 43% per year since 2000.

Google
Google chairman Eric Schmidt noted that Nairobi has become a remarkable tech hub and has the potential to become an African leader in innovation. However, Google seems to be losing ground in Africa as French based mobile operator Orange and Baidu, China’s answer to Google, have collaborated on a jointly branded smartphone. This comes as no surprise as China has been aggressive in its attempts to forge business partnerships all over the quickly changing continent.

Africa’s main draw to tech companies is that it continues to grow while larger economies have stalled. If this trend continues, those companies who are left behind investing in these developed markets may see their profits eclipsed by these fast growing economies.

-Pete Grapentien

Source The Economist

How 3D Printing Could Change Developing Countries_opt
While domestic 3D printing is relatively new, it has already been making huge waves in the tech and manufacturing community. People have been manufacturing everything from gun parts to industrial tools in the privacy of their own rooms.

As this technology grows, it becomes more and more applicable as a means for small business startups in the third world. 3D printers are easy to use and very practical for creating things such as toilets, water collectors, and even boats.

The benefits of creating materials using 3D printers is not only that the business would not need large scale production lines and lowered start-up costs, but also that the materials used by 3D printers are generally found in waste materials such as milk jugs and plastic pop bottles. Using these materials is doubly beneficial because they are inexpensive and their use helps clean up the environment.

Organizations such as Just 3D Printing and WOOF, Washington Open Object Fabrications, have teamed up to distribute 3D printers throughout impoverished communities in India. These communities will be trained in using 3D printers and given access to open source software to assist in further developments.

Just 3D Printing believes that the model being applied to India can be applied to other developing communities. Implementing this technology could very well be a huge step toward creating sustainable and eco-friendly industry in less developed countries.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: The 3D4D Challenge
Photo: Solidoodle.com

USAID holds a unique position in that its main objective is to put itself out of business. In order to achieve this goal, USAID established USAID Forward.

Shortly after Rajiv Shah became president of USAID in 2009, USAID Forward was created. USAID Forward is a group of measures implemented to strengthen the effectiveness of the Agency’s performance in areas such as budget management, project implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

Recently, USAID has issued a progress report and infographic containing the progress USAID Forward has made in maximizing transparency and delivering better results. This report not only catalogues the current progress being made, but also hints at future developments and the future direction of USAID.

As an agency, USAID is moving away from establishing individual missions around the world, and moving toward establishing partnerships with foreign nations. During the presidency of Rajiv Shah, USAID has cut its global footprint by 11 missions. Rather than establishing missions, USAID works to aid nations monetarily and help them establish a sustainable infrastructure created with its own people. This is a result-oriented tactic that centers around providing data and technical support as well as goal oriented monetary aid with a focus on accountability.

USAID is one of the United States’ largest nonprofits and was established by President Kennedy in 1961. It is currently one of the largest nonprofits in the United States and operates directly under the guidance of the President of the United States and Secretary of State.

Despite the changes in strategy and tactics, the main goal of USAID remains the same: creating conditions where aid is no longer needed.

– Pete Grapentien

Source American Enterprise Institute