Designs for the poor

Steve Mollman at CNN:

Screenhunter_6Imagine taking the industrial design smarts behind the iPod and applying it to the far more basic technology needs of the extremely poor. In the past, few top designers would have bothered. But that’s changing.

At MIT, Stanford, and other universities, young design and engineering talents are eagerly enrolling in courses that teach them how to meet the technology needs of the developing world. Stanford offers a course called “Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability.” One of the teachers, David Kelley, is the founder of IDEO, the industrial design firm behind such tech classics as the Palm V PDA and the first production mouse for the Lisa and Macintosh computers from Apple.

Amy B. Smith, an inventor who lectures at MIT, said her course on design for the developing world gets about a hundred applicants, but she can only take 30.

Smith was a lead organizer behind the International Development Design Summit (, held at MIT this summer and planned again for next year. Mechanics, doctors and farmers from around the developing world teamed up with top design talents to come up with “pro-poor” technologies that are inexpensive and effective. One, an off-grid refrigeration unit, uses PVC piping, tiny water drips, and an evaporation-based cooling method to store perishable food in rural areas.

More here.