The boom in mobile phone ownership has been one of the unanticipated success stories of global development. And with all of that computing power in the hands of so many people, software engineers are at the leading edge of the work to improve lives. Other electronic hardware is also gaining momentum, with innovations like e-readers, drones and 3D printers. These tools are how communities can leapfrog over phases of development to catch up with the pack.
When the sun goes down, the day ends. No work after dark, no studying. That’s the reality for one quarter of the world’s population that lives without electricity. Inventive design and the falling cost of solar power is lighting up homes that the traditional energy grid has left dark. Power solutions that can scale are filling in the grid gaps with solar, hydro, wind and biogas. With alternative energy solutions, the world is lighting up.
Bridges, boats and wheels are connecting people in inventive ways. Bicycle ambulances save lives in the world’s hard-to-reach communities, clinics on buses take medical care to the village, and farmers build do-it-yourself tractors and drive trucks that pull double duty as water pumps and crop processors. Drivers and riders are at the center of transport design in global development.
Nearly 1 billion people don’t have access to clean water, and the consequences are fatal. Diarrhea is one of the leading killers of children under the age of five. Fortunately, the solutions needed to access clean water can be affordable and reliable. With informed design and management, drawing water, transporting and purifying it are all possible for everyone worldwide.
Technology is essential to good health worldwide. Product designers are revealing its potential with devices such as paper-based rapid disease diagnostics, accurate male circumcision tools that can reduce the rate of HIV infection, and suites of telemedicine tools that put doctors on screens right in a patient’s home. Medical devices are the link between good design and good health
Informed construction saves lives, and it also just makes life more pleasant. Architects and engineers are mining the world’s traditional building techniques to find better ways to contend with earthquakes and floods and to adapt to problems like extreme weather in changing climates. At the same time, design of refugee housing and disaster-resistant buildings incorporates tried-and-tested construction with materials like reinforced cement and even plastic. Our basic human right to shelter increasingly hinges on smart choices and good design.
870 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished. Irrigating crops is a simple solution that can double the amount of food a farm produces. But as much as 80 percent of farmland worldwide is not irrigated. Tested machines and new innovations meet that need and others on the farm. From pumps powered by diesel or the sun, drip tubes, mobile apps for weather and market information, low-cost utility vehicles, shellers, driers and much more, innovative design is putting more food on the world’s tables.