Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

Plastic waste recycling press

August 16, 2009

Great stuff from Maker Faire Africa via Afrigadget.

“We’ve got a lot of plastic trash all over Africa, especially in the cities. A team from IDDS (Amit Gandhi from the US, and Mark Driordan from the UK) decided to create a way to add value to waste plastic by using a low-cost process to transform it into something useful: plastic sheets. From these sheets can be made a number of other products. On display they had shoes, bags, pencil cases and folders.”

See video here.

Image credit, Maker Faire Africa Flickr pool.

Posted via email from REculture: A post consumption economy

Mail on Ovi; low end devices, high user adoption

February 2, 2009

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Nokia announced Mail on Ovi late last year, it was picked up well, and seen as a milestone to delivering email to most of the planet.

“At Nokia we believe email should be available for everybody. We also launched Mail on Ovi, a free email service primarily aimed at the billions of first time email users, 75% of world’s population.” Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo – President and CEO, Nokia stated recently.

Mail on Ovi is free and preloaded on all Nokia Series 40 devices launching in 2009, and a wide range of devices currently out there. Its easy to use, because you don’t have to install anything, you don’t need a computer at all, it ‘works out the box’.

Now here is the interesting part, if you want to install the gmail app on a S40 Nokia, you can’t, you cannot download it; it will tell you that the file size is too big. I stand to be corrected, but I tried 2 different s40 devices, same result. And that is after figuring out how to find the app on the internet. But you can set up gmail in the mail setting pretty easily though, but that would imply you already have a gmail account.

What does that mean? Is it because there are hardware limitations to keep costs low, or is the s40 software is not sophisticated enough to deal with 3rd party applications? Could it be a clever business move to eliminate competition? Or could it just be that Nokia saw an opportunity to make email as simple as possible without too many hurdles. And who do you think is more recognized to 75% of the world’s population?

Now all that needs to happen is for service providers to lower data costs, a ubiquitous internet that can be viewed on all devices and we could be seeing the next internet really take off.

Posted via email from Design in Africa

M-PESA, why it works

October 29, 2008

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Nice commentary from Ryan Hahn on Nick Hughes’ (head of Vodafone‘s international mobile payment solutions) talk at CGAP regarding the success of M-PESA, a mobile banking solution

Why it works;

  1. They focused entirely on offering a single service, and doing it well; transferring money between 2 people using a mobile phone.
  2. M-PESA is simple and easy to use and to set up. All a person needs is a Safaricom SIM and National ID/Passport.
  3. No bank account is needed, which immediately allows a large percentage of Kenyans to avoid the difficulty and complexity of using a bank.
  4. Overcoming this hurdle has led to increased user acceptance; over 4 million subscribers.
  5. M-PESA makes its money by charging commissions on money transfers rather than on investing money. Alternative business model.
  6. Vodafone is looking to replicate that success in other markets. Scalable.
  7. Research done by Olga Morawczynski shows that migrant workers are the early adopters who influence other people to use the service.
  8. The value? Time and money is saved by people having to travel long distances to the nearest bank.
  9. 3,500 frontline agents countrywide means even rural communities are benefiting economically.

M-PESA  delivers a simple valuable service using available resources that is understood and accepted.

I know M-PESA has been around for a while, but successful case studies are proven over time.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)

Project Masiluleke and Frog

October 25, 2008

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One of the stakeholders/partners in Project Masiluleke is Frog Design, see their take on the project here and have a look at their presentation.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)

Project Masiluleke

October 25, 2008

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Biggest news this week is the launch of Project Masiluleke, which ‘employs mobile phone technologies as a high impact, low cost tool, in the fight against HIV/AIDS and TB in South Africa – and beyond’, Praekelt Foundation.

See coverage from Core77, BBC and Poptech. Great use of the mobile phone as an appropriate means of communication while being culturally sensitive and very importantly, 1 million messages will be sent per day.

I think this project will be  huge success, an important issue is being addressed, a simple, easy to understand solution has been designed by combining the resources of stakeholders, there are measurable benefits for people and communities and the cost of the incoming message is free. Brilliant.


Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)

Innovation in Africa tips

October 23, 2008

From Ethan Zuckerman‘s post ‘Innovating from constraint‘:

  1. Innovation (often) comes from constraint (If you’ve got very few resources, you’re forced to be very creative in using and reusing them.)
  2. Don’t fight culture (If people cook by stirring their stews, they’re not going to use a solar oven, no matter what you do to market it. Make them a better stove instead.)
  3. Embrace market mechanisms (Giving stuff away rarely works as well as selling it.)
  4. Innovate on existing platforms (We’ve got bicycles and mobile phones in Africa, plus lots of metal to weld. Innovate using that stuff, rather than bringing in completely new tech.)
  5. Problems are not always obvious from afar (You really have to live for a while in a society where no one has currency larger than a $1 bill to understand the importance of money via mobile phones.)
  6. What you have matters more than what you lack (If you’ve got a bicycle, consider what you can build based on that, rather than worrying about not having a car, a truck, a metal shop.)
  7. Infrastructure can beget infrastructure (By building mobile phone infrastructure, we may be building power infrastructure for Africa.)

And Amy Smith on rules for design in the developing world:

  1. Try living for a week on $2 a day.
    That’s what my students and I do when I teach my class about international development. It helps them begin to understand the trade-offs that must be made when you have only very limited resources. More broadly, it was in the Peace Corps in Botswana that I learned to carry water on my head, and noticed how heavy the bucket was; and I learned to pound sorghum in to flour and felt the ache in my back. As a designer, I came to understand the importance of technologies that can transport water or grind grain.
  2. Listen to the right people. Okay, so you probably don’t know what it’s like to carry fifty pounds of firewood on your head. Well, don’t pretend that you do. Talk to someone who has done it. I believe that the key to innovation in international development is truly understanding the problem, and using your imagination is not good enough.
  3. Do the hard work needed to find a simple solution. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”—and it is the key to this type of design work.
  4. Create “transparent” technologies, ones that are easily understood by the users, and promote local innovation.
  5. Make it inexpensive. My friend Paul Polak has adapted a famous quote to the following: “Affordability isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” and there’s a lot of truth in that. When you are designing for people who are earning just one or two dollars a day, you need to keep things as cheap as you can and then make it even cheaper!
  6. If you want to make something 10 times cheaper, remove 90 percent of the material.
  7. Provide skills, not just finished technologies. The current revolution in design for developing countries is the notion of co-creation, of teaching the skills necessary to create the solution,
    rather than simply providing the solution. By involving the community throughout the design process, you can help equip people to innovate and contribute to the evolution of the product. Furthermore, they acquire the skills needed to create solutions to a much wider variety of problems. They are empowered.

And Paul Polak via Nextbillion;

  1. go to where the action is
  2. talk to the people who have the problem – and LISTEN to what they have to say
  3. learn everything there is to know about the specific context
  4. think and act big – don’t do anything that can’t reach a million people
  5. think like a child – children have no limit to their thinking
  6. see and do the obvious
  7. if somebody already invented it, you don’t have to
  8. design to critical price targets
  9. design for measurable improvement in the lives of more than a million people
  10. work to practical, three-year plans
  11. keep learning from your customers
  12. stay positive – don’t be distracted by what other people think (if there
    were a need for it, the market would have already created it)

So here are my 7 hints/tips/rules;

  1. Understand by observing the environment, infrastructure, culture and lives of people by being there.
  2. Think creatively: start big, use constraints as a filter and find the simplest solutions.
  3. Increase user acceptance; build on existing platforms, lower costs and beware of radically different ways of doing things.
  4. Deliver value; what are the benefits for people using the end product, does it improve a persons life?
  5. Economic sustainability; provide financial motivation for continued growth over time. Empower people by improving their economic or social status.
  6. Share knowledge and skills to continue the innovative process both to and from people and communities.
  7. Peripheral vision; keep a look out for other challenges or new solutions all the time.


Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)


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