Design & the third world
Earlier this year, the Cooper-Hewitt wrapped up " Design with the Other 90%: Cities ," the second in a series of exhibitions intended to demonstrate how design can address the world’s most critical issues.
In Sudan, decades of fighting have displaced hundreds of thousands of women, men and children. Forced to abandon their land and their livelihoods, these people are doing their best to start again.
How Philips, working with nonprofits, is tackling the low-tech needs of the world's poor For decades, Nirmala Shivdas Kshirsagar prepared family meals on a chula, a wood-burning oven made from mud. The stove cost little to operate, but the 45-year-old village schoolteacher paid a price: Unruly flames frequently burned Kshirsagar's hands and feet, and smoke filled her three-room home, making breathing difficult and leaving a sooty mess on the kitchen's mud-plastered walls.
With more than 1.6 million people dying annually due to smoke inhalation from indoor wood burning stoves, Philips Design came up with an idea to effectively tackle the problem. This was part of ‘Philanthropy by Design’ a program which looks at promoting social empowerment through knowledge sharing, creativity and co-design. Social responsibility is climbing ever higher on many corporate agendas these days. But whereas in the past companies may have given cash donations to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a new trend is now emerging. Known generally as strategic philanthropy, it usually involves companies applying their expertise or products in sponsorship projects targeted at local communities or specific segments of the population.
By NICOLE SWENGLEY Frank Oudeman The Imagination Playground in New York Big, philanthropic gestures have traditionally flowed more steadily from the heart of the arts world than design. But that is changing as the industry looks outside of its normal sphere of influence to improve lives, as well as architecture and home decor, through projects ranging from cheap eyeglasses and playgrounds to fund-raisers. "The fundamentals of design are about serving everyone," says Swiss designer Yves Behar.
For a growing number of designers, social issues and crises resonate beyond newspaper headlines. Concerns from unemployment to the AIDS epidemic are inspiring design philanthropists to roll up their sleeves and get to work — creating a new wave of humanitarian designers. “There’s a desire on the part of designers to address critical issues in the world,” says Bryan Bell, Founder and Executive Director of Raleigh, N.C.-based Design Corps, which provides affordable architectural and design services to low-income families and rural communities. Beyond the Tipping Point With distinguished designers and architects like Sergio Palleroni, Maurice Cox and Teddy Cruz leading the way, humanitarian design is poised to open new doors for designers — both those looking to advance the profession beyond its traditional borders and those who “simply want to make a name for themselves by doing something good,” Bell says.
I want you to try to imagine what it's like to live without electricity. It's boring, for one thing — no television, no MP3 player, no video games. And it's lonely and disconnected as well — no computer, no Internet, no mobile phone. You can read books, of course — but at night you won't have light, other than the flicker of firewood. And about that firewood — you or someone in your family had to gather it during the day, taking you away from more productive work or schooling, and in some parts of the world, exposing you to danger. That same firewood is used to cook dinner, throwing off smoke that can turn the air inside your home far more toxic than that breathed in an industrial city.
Essay Julie Lasky A day's events at Maker Faire Africa 2009 in Accra, Ghana. Photo: Nathan Cooke
This week Kenya has been hosting the Internet Governance Forum under the main theme, ” “. Well, yesterday Nairobi’s Innovation Hub hosted one of the “Fathers of the Internet”, Vinton G. Cerf for a session dubbed “ Synergestic Communities ” as well as a Fireside Chat . Vint and Bob Kahn co-designed the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet. Vint is a thought leader on Internet related matters and is currently Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist : Cerf has worked for Google as its Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist since September 2005.  In this function he has become well known for his predictions on how technology will affect future society, encompassing such areas as artificial intelligence , environmentalism , the advent of IPv6 and the transformation of the television industry and its delivery model.
Please meet the third speaker of the "Innovation Drivers XXX" session: Garion Hall is CEO of abbywinters.com , a premium and successful adult pay site, with tens-of-thousands of paying members. They employ a staff of 22 talented experts in their Amsterdam office. The pay-site launched in 2000 and is still going strong (despite the Australian government causing them to move continents in 2010!). A strong team of experienced managers lead the staff of 22, and use robust systems to produce consistent works of a high quality and low cost, while empowering individual staff to excel and enjoy their work.
Hardware hacking is what Solomon King does in Uganda, he already makes his own robots, now he’s taking that idea a little further. He’s taking it to kids, trying to get robotics into the hands of Ugandan youth through his Fundi Bots project. ( Fundi is the word for technician). Their plan comes in three parts: a lab , school robotics clubs and robotics camps . That first item is important, a lab. A central place where the members of Fundi Bots can come in and find the relatively expensive tools, software and computers needed to make the robots and learn together. It gives a hub to their spokes of activity taking place in the schools throughout the year, a much needed “club house” for the community.
Much has been written about the role technology played in bringing social and political change across much of the Middle East and North Africa, but less is known about the technological revolution that is taking place and transforming people's lives in sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that by 2015 sub-Saharan Africa will have more people with mobile phone network access than electricity access at home. People with internet and no home electricity will reach 138 million, according to the Cisco Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast for 2010-2015. This deep and rapid mobile penetration is catapulting developing countries into the 21st century and bringing new and previously unimagined opportunities.
Is it possible to develop software applications in Africa that respond to civil society needs?
A growing community across Africa is coding software to suit their own needs. This year marks the 50th anniversary of 17 African states gaining independence. Now, a wave of homegrown programmers, developers and software makers claim to be heralding a new era of African independence. Earlier this month, the Idlelo conference, organised by the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA), brought together the continent's cleverest coding minds at Accra, in Ghana, to discuss new software opportunities in Africa. Unlike the bigger, foreign developers - who have mainly targeted the urban markets - the coders at this event looked at how to reach the rural, relatively poorer communities of Africa. In their words, they're people who know how to code, and know the continent.