Raspberry Pi“Ciudad de Ariel” is an elementary school in the rural town of Duran, Ecuador. In this small school, people are studying a computer substitute that could change the world called Raspberry Pi. This life changing computer is a small chip that can fit in a hand.

The Technological Gap

For many developing countries, technology is out of the picture. The general growth in technology proficiency has evaded developing countries. They often cannot afford internet access and computers in all schools, so children and young adults suffer in technological skills. Furthermore, other challenges of poverty, like food insecurity and lack of water, take priority to learning how to use a computer.

The problem is that technology can actually provide large benefits for developing countries. The internet offers vast amounts of information and programming to serve any need. If developing countries have access to computers, the ability to decrease poverty levels can be more feasible. Unfortunately, most computers are specialized, expensive and hard to produce. Previously, developing countries lacked the budget for technology advancement and access. But now, the Raspberry Pi offers tech opportunities to people all over the world.

The Device

There are many unique aspects of the Raspberry Pi that separate it from normal computers. First, its price is affordable; it has a base cost of $35. This is significantly cheaper than any other computer chip on the market. As such, some schools in areas of poverty are using Raspberry Pis in their computer labs.

Another unique aspect of the Raspberry Pi is it’s small form. The Raspberry Pi 4, the most recent model, is only 3.37 inches high and 2.22 inches wide. An entire computer lab of Raspberry Pis can fit in a suitcase. Not only is the computer chip small, it is also incredibly light, weighing only 46 grams. Therefore, the Raspberry Pi is easily portable. This is an important factor as many schools in developing countries are in rural, hard-to-reach areas.

Finally, the Raspberry Pi is famous for its versatility. Most computers are made to do specific tasks. Whether it is running a server, rendering 3D graphics, or browsing the internet, each computer has distinct hardware for its purpose. The Raspberry Pi, on the other hand, is capable of handling almost any task. For example, it can be used as a traditional desktop computer, a server or as a basic computer chip to automate mechanical devices. This allows people to use the device for any function they need.

Due to the Raspberry Pi’s unique capabilities, it has the capability to be highly successful in advancing technology for developing countries.

Real-World Examples

A recent study found that the Raspberry Pi provides a cost-effective approach in building computer labs for schools in developing countries. The success of the pilot project conducted in the elementary school in Duran, Ecuador corroborated this finding. Computer labs have also been built in Cameroon and West Africa. It’s not an entire lab, but a project called Malinux Télé donated Raspberry Pis to children in Mali.

The computer has impacts beyond education. An automated loom was developed using a Raspberry Pi. The designers of this loom found it to be cheaper than traditional automated looms. Another project found a cheap way to purify water using a Raspberry Pi.

The little computer has been able to accomplish tremendous things. From computer labs in Ecuador and West Africa to automated looms and water purifiers, the Raspberry Pi has proven to be a force for good and can change how developing countries access technology.

Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

Resourceful EntrepreneursThe contrast between Western and Indian approaches to entrepreneurship is striking. Western organizations spend lots of money on R&D, while Indian entrepreneurs specialize in creating something from extremely limited resources.

“Jugaad” is the Hindi word for finding cheap solutions in a smart way. Indian entrepreneurs are frugal and have a knack for making the most of limited resources.

Their thinking is creative, and they are willing to consider nontraditional solutions. These resourceful entrepreneurs also tend to introduce people into the formal economy who could not previously access it.

In developed countries, customers will pay $3,000 for a fridge that talks to them, while a poor Indian can purchase a fridge for $30. This clay fridge uses the evaporation of water to keep produce fresh without electricity.

India’s method of innovation is worth considering for Western organizations that are trying to improve conditions in developing countries. Instead of pouring money into a structured innovation process, companies could attempt to formulate solutions based on the resources and materials available in a region.

The Raspberry Pi, an ultra-low-cost-computing device, is an example of a Western idea that has adopted the principles of resourceful entrepreneurs. The Raspberry Pi was created to address the lack of college computer science applicants who had experience tinkering with computers.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a computer user had to learn some programming to be able to interact with a computer, but modern computers can be used without any understanding of how computers work. Raspberry Pi was meant to allow kids to experiment with technology to gain a valuable understanding of its functioning. The low price was made possible by an open-source method of designing the device, so anyone could analyze the device and contribute to its improvement online.

The Raspberry Pi is an exposed board computer, so users can literally see how the device works. Users must connect a mouse, keyboard and monitor to the device and load their own applications in order to use a word processor or browse the Internet.

The VS-Pi program has used the Raspberry Pi technology to increase access to educational materials in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. The fully assembled computer costs only $65 and comes with personalized educational materials in the local language and with relevant content.

The devices have content targeted to a specific community related to education, health, agriculture and finance. The system does not require Internet access and uses little electricity.

The Raspberry Pi’s successful use of cheap materials, creative design methods and expansion of economic opportunities illustrates the value of the methods of resourceful entrepreneurs. Especially in regions with limited access to resources, simple solutions that are “good enough” have the most impact.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr