What can be more worldchanging than solutions creatively crafted by people who need them the most? Solutions that ease the burden of day-to-day life. Solutions that make use of limited resources available. Solutions that work, despite little encouragement, aid and 'technical' know-how. Solutions that are adapted to the environment and, in most cases, are eco-friendly.
While they are now starting to get recognition, I wonder why little is being done to nurture them and create micro enterprises out of them. Do they threaten large enterprises and governments by implicitly wresting away control and power? Are innovations from below just invisible to established leaders?
There is a Sci-Tech special in the recent Outlook India - Gram By Microgram - which covers innovators across rural India. These are stories of individuals, practitioners of a rustic science that is compelling, practical and applicable to their everyday lives. Many ideas are tailored to the environment.
Some of the innovations featured :
The common threads through these nine stories----
1) Meagre resources available to the inventors
2) None of them have a formal engineering background
3) Government apathy to genuine innovation
Here's the whole set of individual stories in the feature:
Balram Singh Saini & Prem Singh
Sanket V. Chitagopakar & Prashant V. Harshangi
We had also linked to a feature in the BBC News earlier this month on some other rural innovations, including - a motorcycle-driven field cultivator, a seed-cum-fertiliser dispenser and a bicycle-mounted sprayer.
Victor Papanek (http://www.iciscenter.org/html/4_resources/inspiration01.htm) used his enviable position in academia to create designs that worked, especially in the developing world. Archimedes screws for moving water made from old tires, and so forth.
His complaint was that "design" was not based on need, but rather on aesthetic....one example....He submitted a footstool design to an open contest, all but three of the entries were variations on "early american". His design re-used old cardboard boxes and was rejected out of hand. My experiences are similar... A recent competition to create a tea pot for the Canadian Military rejected every single one of the entries because every single entry leaked and spilled when you went to pour the tea.
A re-read of his old classic "Design for the Real World" is worth the time.
thanks Bill ... will look at it.