This story absolutely made my day.
The SolarAid is a hearing aid designed and built by Godisa Technologies, a Botswana company founded to make low-cost hearing aids for the developing world. The SolarAid system combines a small hearing aid and a lightweight solar charger; Godisa developed the first No. 13 rechargeable button battery for the system. Godisa is Africa's only hearing aid manufacturer, and the only one in the world making hearing aids specifically for the sub-Saharan Africa environment.
The SolarAid, including the solar charger and an extra pair of batteries, sells for less than $100, and is built to last at least two to three years. But, as low cost as that is, Godisa wants to do even better: they want to make the design free to everyone -- essentially, to go open source -- if the Botswana government will let them.
Developed in Botswana with advisory support from World University Service of Canada, nearly 4,000 SolarAids have been sold in more than 30 countries.
In Brazil, Jordan and Pakistan, non-profit organizations are looking to develop their own versions of the SolarAid and have asked for Godisa's help in providing low-cost hearing aids for their workers.
Flying in the face of all sound business models, Godisa intends to transfer all its technologies for free. [...]
Besides teaching future Godisa staff, the technicians will also travel overseas to help replicate SolarAid's success at the new facilities to be set up in South America, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
Godisa had no plans to patent the hearing aid and charger, intending to make the technology widely available and free to anyone. But the Botswana government wants to protect the innovation.
Explains Godisa general manager Modesta Nyirenda: "Because this is a 100 per cent Botswana product, the government would like to see it patented. This has to do with pride more than anything else."
Godisa is now seeking donations to be able to offer the hearing aids to African children for free.
A quarter of a billion people around the world are hearing impaired, but cannot afford a hearing aid. They aren't just in the developing world -- according to Uniterra, a Canadian organization coordinating volunteer efforts to help developing nations meet the Millennium Development Goals -- two-thirds of deaf people unable to afford hearing aids are in industrialized countries. The biggest problem: being able to afford replacement batteries.
Moreover, Godisa is as interested in the empowerment of the deaf as they are in regional economic development. Of Godisa's 14 employees, 10 are either deaf or physically disabled -- and they're the only hearing aid company in the world to involve deaf employees in the manufacturing process.
That makes two of us.
But they can patent it & just not enforce the patent... or grant free licenses to whoever wants to produce the product for free (and if anyone wants to charge for it, charge licensing fees that would fund a free unit for each unit sold)...
That should meet the 'pride' requirement, as well as the goal of making them available to everyone.
Where's the problem? Lack of understanding of patents? And understanding that patenting something doesn't mean no one else can build it - only that they have to have a (potentially free) license?
This is a very impressive story. As a person that is hard of hearing, I can certainly see the power of people working to provide this kind of tool to the developing world.
As a person who is hard of hearing/deaf (I fall between the two descriptions) I find this story incredibly fantastic.
Now... only if my preferred hearing aid supplier, Phonak, were to modify their models so that I could recharge my hearing aids on sunlight....that would be great!!
I'd need to buy less batteries, I wouldn't have the problem of disposing of expired batteries (I feel guilty about throwing them out so they accumulate until I can find someone to dispose of them safely) and I wouldn't be worried about the need to have batteries on hand all the time.
Thanks Worldchanging for a great story.
This is a really good idea. The model could also be used forother medical equipment using button batteries.
I'd love to see something like this as a sort of "outdoors" version of a hearing aid I could use, that's more suitable for campig, hiking etc.
the thing about patents is that they cost a ridiculous amount of money. a patent for a product in the e.u. costs more than 10,000EU. probably more in the u.s. try to imagine how much a world wide patent might cost.
HI; I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW HOW TO GET ONE OF THESE HEARING AIDS. AT PRESENT THE COMPANY I WORK FOR SUPPLIES ME WITH ONE,BUT MT JOB WILL PROBALLY END THIS YEAR.OUR RETIREMENT PLAN IS LIKELY TO CHANGE,SO I WANT TO PREPARE JUST IN CASE.PLEASE SEND ANY INFO YOU CAN. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.BARNEY TORRES
Where/how can I buy one of these rechargeable hearing aids? I live in an outer province in the Philippines and I have to drive 200 miles to buy batteries. Harold Adams firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Congratulations on such a wonderful product! I live in Cape Town, South Africa - but I received notice of your site from an international site for deaf and HOH people called "listen-Up"...so your site will reach many people far and wide.
I really think you should try and get the word out here in South Afirca....let me know if I can be of any help.
My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations once again! Just superb!
This is a very important innovation that makes not only botswana proud but also the African continent as a whole.It is a sing of compassion to give it free but preserving and protecting the knowledge for future generation must not be overlooked.