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MIT Helps Third World With Hands-On Approach

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the helpful-contributions dept.

Earth 128

Hugh Pickens writes "About 60 people from 20 nations will descend on the MIT campus July 14th for the second annual International Development Design Summit to begin an intensive month-long process of creating technological solutions for the needs of people in the world's developing nations. The goal of the program is to develop simple, inexpensive devices that in some cases can be produced locally and make a real difference for people and communities. The event is the brainchild of MIT Senior Lecturer Amy Smith, a returned Peace Corps volunteer and a past winner of the MacArthur 'genius' grant. Previous products of Smith's design class include a bike-powered corn sheller, a metal press that can make clean-burning fuel out of agricultural waste, and an electricity-free incubator. The workshop promotes a shift in focus among companies, universities, investors and scientists toward attacking problems that hamper development in the world's poorest places. 'Nearly 90 percent of research and development dollars are spent on creating technologies that serve the wealthiest 10 percent of the world's population,' Ms. Smith said. 'The point of the design revolution is to switch that.'"

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The Fucking Institute (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24172617)

The fucking institute, I should have fucking known.

Re:The Fucking Institute (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24172899)

This is a boring story. I just masturbated, now I'm going to take a nice long shit. aah...

Hey, I have a great Idea!!! (1, Flamebait)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 6 years ago | (#24172627)

What if the USA stops helping to create wars and manipulating the markets around the world, and helping to create unstable and volatile political situations, that are the conditions that eventually lead all this so called 'third world countries' to be in the terrible situation they are now ... ?

I mean, the USA became RICH thanks to this countries!!. Kill democracy, create wars, sell weapons to both sides, then use it's puppets in the World Bank to get this countries in debt with everyone, Help to create dictatorships, and then go and buy oil and other natural resources really cheap. Corrupt the local cultures and then sell Mc Donalds and stupid movies around the world ...

You know, all the Shit the USA has been doing for the last century to get rich a the expense of the rest of the world.

No, we don't need your stupid help MIT. We need you to stay home, and stop playing to be the world police.

Re:Hey, I have a great Idea!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24172765)

Outgroup homogeneity bias, much?

You do realize those folks at MIT are not the same people doing what you said on your post. If anything, in average they are opposed to what you said.

Indignation is more than justified, just point it at the right people if you don't want to be labeled as unreasonable and ignored.

Re:Hey, I have a great Idea!!! (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173089)

The MIT people may not be the people who design the abusive foreign policy of the US that has resulted in the current state of world affairs, but they need to realize that anything that they come up with will be undermined while the US foreign policy has, as a stated goal, the maintenance of US hegemony over all other nations. While this goal still exists, any attempt by poorer nations to develop themselves will be viewed as a shifting balance of power away from the US rather than the reality, which is a net benefit to humankind.

This goal, and everyone responsible for its creation, development and ongoing application, must be purged from the US political fabric. Given that there is effectively no difference between democrats and republicans, that means a wholly new party and probably an entire system revision.

Until this happens, a million groups of smart people will not be able to do anything about poverty, disease and misery in the third world.

This is the result of a US democratic system that is totally broken. The "democracy" of the US has led to a fatal assault on the liberty that was protected by the US constitution, a population suffering under the yoke of unprecedented plutocratic oppression and a world in ruins due to the deliberate kindling of external instability and hatred in the name of "national security" and "economic interests".

The irony is that the US says that it wants to bring freedom and democracy to the middle east and elsewhere, yet they have neither themselves.

Re:Hey, I have a great Idea!!! (2)

RickRussellTX (755670) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173301)

Unprecedented? It's been happening since the Roman Empire.

In any case, the time when the US was able to dictate policy to the world has passed. China has 1.3 billion, India almost a billion, and 4 billion of the world population lives between Japan and the Arab peninsula. If the US doesn't start cooperating, it's going to fade into irrelevancy.

Re:Hey, I have a great Idea!!! (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173209)

I think somebody's been in the Kool-Aid again...

Ignorancy and hypocrisy displayed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24173891)

It's a feature of the deluded, hypocritical, and US-centrically hateful mind to apply the "cultural hegemony" rationalisation for hate in connection with food stores.

Count the number of Starbucks stores in Riyadh. Then count the number of Kebab stores in Hamburg.

Put simply: If you claim it is understandable if a Chinaman burns a Starbucks, but also claim it's intolerable if a European burns down a kebab store or Chinese takeaway, then you suffer from a deficiency of thinking. Reflect and introspect.

Re:Hey, I have a great Idea!!! (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174203)

No, we don't need your stupid help MIT. We need you [US] to stay home, and stop playing to be the world police.

Be careful what you wish for. Something even worse may step into the void.
     

Re:Hey, I have a great Idea!!! (1)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 6 years ago | (#24175205)

What if the USA stops helping to create wars and manipulating the markets around the world, and helping to create unstable and volatile political situations, that are the conditions that eventually lead all this so called 'third world countries' to be in the terrible situation they are now ... ?

No, we don't need your stupid help MIT. We need you to stay home, and stop playing to be the world police.

I think you're confusing two different things -- US foreign policy, and MIT have nothing to do with each other. The world does need MIT. And you don't speak for the people MIT is trying to help.

Engineers without borders plug (4, Informative)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 6 years ago | (#24172643)

An appropriate place for a plug for Engineers without borders" [ewb-usa.org]

Re:Engineers without borders plug (1)

Quixote (154172) | more than 6 years ago | (#24172939)

What hope is there for EWB when then can't even link to their West Coast chapter properly? See this page [ewb-usa.org] .

Re:Engineers without borders plug (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173147)

I hope you emailed them and pointed out the error of their ways. They are nice people to deal with but as non-profit they don't always see the quality of their web presence as the most important thing on their agenda (and yes - I have also had issues with their website in the past)

OLPC Plug. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173203)

It's so nice of M$ and Intel to pick up the last project they smashed. This is more evidence that M$ wants everyone in the world under their thumb and can no tolerate any other software anywhere. It won't work because the world wants freedom.

Re:OLPC Plug. (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173503)

Thank you for that utterly pointless and irrelevant mini-rant. Now get back in your cave.

Too true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24174259)

M$ has nothing to do with this effort. I misread the summary.

Re:OLPC Plug. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24175901)

twitter is bored because all his accounts are ruined and are posting at -1, so he amuses himself with his journal [slashdot.org] .

The offtopic "M$" thing is also played out with his sockpuppets [slashdot.org] . To great effect, as usual.

Re:OLPC Plug. (1)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176043)

Thank you for that utterly pointless and irrelevant mini-rant. Now get back in your cave.

No need, he (like all of us) is sitting in his mom's basement, which is dark enough already.

TechBridgeWorld plug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24175413)

Likewise, TechBridgeWorld [techbridgeworld.org] deserves a plug too. TBW, out of Carnegie Mellon University, has been doing something similar to this group from MIT. They've been at this for years and a number of students have been through the program. It also helps that Carnegie Mellon has a campus in Doha, Qatar.

WHICH Third World? (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24172649)

The problem is that there is a wide range of poorer nations, every of which is "Third World". There are more advanced nations, like Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, there are some in the middle of the road, like India, Egypt, Pakistan, and then there are the desperately poor, like most of Africa.

The technology needed by each group is different. A cheap way of digging a well is not what the people living in a city slum need most. OTOH, a cheap computer will not be much help people who live in mud huts somewhere in Africa.

Re:WHICH Third World? (2, Informative)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173163)

The technology "needed"? Funny, there's this odd history book that seems to think that humans lived in Africa for a while before Europeans arrived. I'm not sure, but I hear that in this mysterious time before time, they even didn't have cellphones or the Internet!

What is needed is an end to things like this [thirdworldtraveler.com] . Until the first world nations stop raping third world nations and supporting tinpot dictators just for the sake of guaranteeing access to their resources, human misery will continue wholesale.

Re:WHICH Third World? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173663)

Not necessarily at today's population densities (so technology can have a real impact on peoples ability to obtain food).

This project is pretty clearly about increasing quality of life, not resource exploitation, so there really isn't any reason to direct your attitude at it.

Re:WHICH Third World? (0, Troll)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173999)

Until the first world nations stop raping third world nations and supporting tinpot dictators just for the sake of guaranteeing access to their resources, human misery will continue wholesale.

Yes! We need to get out of the way and let the local tinpot dictators get on with raping their own countries without outside intereference. Just ask Robert Mugabe! He'll tell you.

And yes, human misery will continue wholesale once we stop helping local tinpot dictators. Or do you really believe that the various non-functional governments in Africa will suddenly become functional if the West ignores them? HINT: We've been ignoring Zimbabwe for years, and look at the progress they've made.

Oh, and if there are any ZANU-PF types reading this, I hate to break it to you, but the West, specifically the UK and USA do NOT want to recolonialize you. We barely care enough to try to keep you from starving.

Re:WHICH Third World? (1)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 6 years ago | (#24175153)

Until the first world nations stop raping third world nations and supporting tinpot dictators just for the sake of guaranteeing access to their resources, human misery will continue wholesale.

Yes! We need to get out of the way and let the local tinpot dictators get on with raping their own countries without outside interference. Just ask Robert Mugabe! He'll tell you.

Well, just imagine if we hadn't interfered in Iraq, Afghanistan in the 60s, Vietnam, Korea, etc. -- we wouldn't be overextended right now, and could genuinely help out in Zimbabwe if the UN asked us to. In fact, we would actually have enough credibility in the UN to rally support around the idea of taking action in Zimbabwe.

But instead we went chasing 'weapons of mass destruction' and an 'al-qaida in Iraq' that didn't exist there until we turned the country into a pile of rubble. So the man has a point, and his anger is understandable, if not justified.

We barely care enough to try to keep you from starving.

That reminds me of US foreign policy. Taken straight from the "How to make friends and influence people" section.

Re:WHICH Third World? (1)

saigon_from_europe (741782) | more than 6 years ago | (#24175341)

Well, just imagine if we hadn't interfered in Iraq, Afghanistan in the 60s, Vietnam, Korea, etc.

(emphasize is mine)
Then instead of rich and (now) democratic South Korea and poor tyrannic North Korea, we would have poor tyrannic Korea across entire peninsula. And even more likely, passivity from the West would probably encourage Soviet Union and its satellites to try to attack even more countries.

Re:WHICH Third World? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176425)

We need to get out of the way and let the local tinpot dictators get on with raping their own countries without outside intereference. Just ask Robert Mugabe!

If we stopped giving financial aid to local dictators, they would be a lot easier for their people to overthrow.

-jcr

Re:WHICH Third World? (1, Insightful)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176723)

here are more advanced nations, like Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, there are some in the middle of the road, like India, Egypt, Pakistan,

Just curious about your classification -- what makes Brazil and Mexico "advanced" and India and Egypt "middle of the road"? Aside from them being largely arbitrary classifications, the world's poor are pretty much the same everywhere. They're desperate, they have bleak futures and have a shockingly uniform form of suffering, no matter where they are. Small, ingenious innovations like those developed at MIT will benefit them regardless of which country they're in.

Trust me, the poorest, most rural regions of Brazil are not that different from the poorest, most rural regions of India or Thailand or Mexico. Don't assume that the newfound economic prosperity of countries like India and Brazil trickle down to the people who these inventions are targeted at.

Why only developing nations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24172663)

Developing nations don't need as much help as nations for which development is stalled.

solution: destroy MIT (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24172721)

The solution is to eliminate those who produce the technology used to effectively plunder third world nations and keep the first world in comfort. The knowledge and the old boy network is produced by the Oxfords, the Harvards, the MITs, and unlike the figureheads, these people all claim to be "only following orders".

Disclaimer: I recently turned down places at Oxford and Imperial. I refuse to be part of the problem.

Re:solution: destroy MIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24172785)

Mod parent up. The guy heading the team perfecting the missile that forms a neat crater of civilian homes is likely a MIT graduate. The guy outsourcing your firm's workforce to Chinese slave labor will have been the star of his class at Yale.

The Internet is a great distribution medium for books, lectures, etc. Access to tutors and peers is a well-organised forum away. Everything else is just building an exclusionist network.

Re:solution: destroy MIT (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24173395)

Bullshit; you couldn't get in.

You'd suck a mile of cock to get accepted to that sort of university.

Re:solution: destroy MIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24174687)

Isn't that like arguing that the reason the average Slashdot user dislikes Bill Gates must be that he's jealous of Bill's wealth?

Anyway, see post below me - the OP's philosophy isn't original, even among the high achievers. But it's one of those taboo subjects that's only put in the public eye when it can be associated with something bound to bring disapproval. See also the way Islam, socialism, the Constitution, and any number of varied intersecting and non-intersecting philosophies are treated.

Let me tell you a joke. A smart graduate was in line at a supermarket, when behind her shuffled a scruffy old man. He stopped a moment, looked at her basket, looked into her eyes, smiled and said, "You're single, aren't you?" She was taken aback by his brazen remark, then spent a while looking at the 6 items in her basket to see what had given her away. Unable to guess his reasoning, and overcome with curiosity, she replied, "OK, how did you know?" With a straight face he replies, "Because you're ugly."

Sometimes those who are good at solving intricately detailed problems miss the obvious - especially when the problem is within themselves. This is made worse by their being nurtured with a sense of entitlement because of their specific abilities. For them to believe they are the cause, not the solution, of some grand problem is unfathomable.

Re:solution: destroy MIT (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174235)

The solution is to eliminate those who produce the technology used to effectively plunder third world nations and keep the first world in comfort.

Ted Kaczynski, welcome to Slashdot.
     

Re:solution: destroy MIT (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176487)

I think Ted Kaczynski would make a wonderful Slashdot denizen. Smart, politically aware, able to write well about a variety of interesting topics. Okay, yes, he blew some people up, but does that really make him that much more unhinged than the rest of the people here?

Re:solution: destroy MIT (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176719)

Okay, yes, he blew some people up, but does that really make him that much more unhinged than the rest of the people here?

Yes.
   

Re:solution: destroy MIT (0, Offtopic)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176397)

plunder third world nations and keep the first world in comfort.

Wow.. I'm stunned by the depth of your ignorance.

We're wealthy in the first world because we've raised our productivity through capital investment. Trade with third world countries is a mutual benefit, or else it wouldn't happen. Consider for a moment why it is that the countries with the least foreign trade are the worst off.

-jcr

Re:solution: destroy MIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24176845)

Wow.. I'm stunned by the depth of your ignorance.

I'm stunned by the way so many Yanks trot out exactly the same quasi-religious mantras about economics. Accursed armchair social scientists.. can't you move to pontificating about something more inconsequential?

We're wealthy in the first world because we've raised our productivity through capital investment.

Ah yes! where would great reasoners from Aristotle to Leibniz, compilers from Euclid to Record, method-makers from Archimedes to Descartes have been without "capital investment"? We're comparatively well-off because we embrace science to build an almighty fist. "Consider for a moment" the purpose of each war the US has fought in the last 60 years.

Trade with third world countries is a mutual benefit, or else it wouldn't happen.

That is so laughably naive it worries me that someone with enough years to have learnt how to speak a language could utter it. If I use my boot to stomp your face into the mud, and then I announce that I shall cease stomping if you lick the boot, do you describe that as "trade with mutual benefit"?

Re:solution: destroy MIT (0, Offtopic)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176953)

Ah yes! where would great reasoners from Aristotle to Leibniz, compilers from Euclid to Record, method-makers from Archimedes to Descartes have been without "capital investment"?

Funny you should bring that up, because every one of them lived in abject squalor compared to the average worker in the USA or Europe today. Daily showers, refrigeration, plentiful food of incredible variety, entertainment available at the touch of a switch, transportation across continents in a single day, and many other things that each of the people you name would find luxurious beyond imagining, are commonplace to us today.

That is so laughably naive it worries me that someone with enough years to have learnt how to speak a language could utter it.

Ah, there you go: you don't have a leg to stand on with any kind of logical argument, so you get snotty.

If I use my boot to stomp your face into the mud,

Why do so many of you pinkos harbor these depraved violent fantasies?

-jcr

Re:solution: destroy MIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24177343)

every one of them lived in abject squalor compared to the average worker in the USA or Europe today

No, sorry, they didn't. Where known, they lived to a good age, and there's no evidence they had trouble finding good food or shelter. I know it's standard for a religion to believe everything was awful before the coming and spreading of the word of its prophet(s) (Locke? Smith? Founding Fathers?), but 500BC to 1700AD was more than just jacking off in the sand.

That's not to say today's actual motivations are new. Why was Commandino sponsored by Ubaldo? At whom was Dee's Mathematical Preface targeted?

Daily showers, refrigeration, plentiful food of incredible variety, entertainment available at the touch of a switch, transportation across continents in a single day, and many other things that each of the people you name would find luxurious beyond imagining, are commonplace to us today.

In each century one can list new developments that would be "beyond imagining" to those living in the last, whether you're Texan or had lived through Soviet Russia. I understand the need to feel that something special has happened in your generation, in your time, but everything you're experiencing today is the culmination of thousands of years of development of technology, culture and civilisation, and so shall it continue.

Still, your arbitrary lists betray your lack of even the most superficial historical knowledge. I list three ancient Greeks and you comment on our "luxury" of daily showers! Yes, we do have enlightened "pinko" governments from pre-Egypt through the ages to thank for the public works projects that have produced fresh running water and sewage systems.

Refrigeration was even then implemented through ice transportation, practiced on a large scale in the first millennium AD in China, and augmented with use of nitrates since C16. "In the home" one used preservatives or simply didn't think about it, taking advantage of a more localised distribution model for food. Even at my sub-centenarian age I remember when fresh, local, quality produce was available a walk away at a price affordable to all workers; I fear a generation growing up not knowing anything but the crap they get from the supermarket.

As for "entertainment at the touch of a switch", I don't get what's new. If you want to be physically lazy, the ability to use one's imagination to create fantasy worlds, or tell and listen to stories, has been a feature of culture since before anyone wrote anything much down. The Internet is part of the 2+ millennia evolution through tablets, parchments, books, TV, Internet. The idea of "entertainment without getting off your ass" is far from new!

Evolution of transport epitomised by Victorian engineering projects is an excellent example of how an Empire is motivated to create a large scale network. As for today's speed, Whittle was a relation, so I'm happy to ramble at length about how it was disinterest by the Air Ministry, and its later change of heart, that respectively destroyed and revitalised his efforts. Not much free trade in this, I'm afraid :-(.

Ah, there you go: you don't have a leg to stand on with any kind of logical argument, so you get snotty.

My dear jcr, you began your response with "I'm stunned by the depth of your ignorance". You should be able to swallow a little of the rhetoric you dish out.

Why do so many of you pinkos harbor these depraved violent fantasies?

I wish the well-known image of the powerful boot stomping a human face was nothing but a violent fantasy - then I look back at C20 and tally up the stats. Still only five ways to kill a man?

Lost and found technology (1)

gutu (450788) | more than 6 years ago | (#24172745)

Didn't read TFA, this being slashdot and all, but isn't there a shitload of old true-and-tried local technologies that are not anymore common knowledge in famine and civil war-ridden countries? I'm talking about stuff like traditional fuel-efficient ovens, food storage solutions, hygienic dry toilets etc..

Bringing that stuff back would have major impact on daily lives and be logical first step of this kind of program.

Re:Lost and found technology (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24172865)

What's more, this is not a technological problem, but a systematic one. This article [npr.org] is from 2006, and even though the problem was apparent even earlier, nothing happens.

So, instead of trying to help the 3rd world countries with tech, we might just try not to harm them with our business practices and subsidies.

Re:Lost and found technology (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24172889)

isn't there a shitload of old true-and-tried local technologies

I once saw an interesting example of this. There's a village in the Brazilian northeast where people make cattle bells. The bells themselves are made of steel cut from old oil drums, but what's interesting is the way they braze them.

They cut small pieces of brass from junk and weigh them in a primitive scale, they have a standard pebble that's the right weight of brass for each size of bell. They pile the bells on each other, about ten for a pack, with the brass pieces inside of each. This pile of bells they pack in a mud roll, which is left to dry. Once dry, they put the mud pack in a fire, hot enough to melt the brass inside. When the brass melts, which they know by experience, they remove the pack from the fire an roll it on the ground until it has cooled enough for the brass to solidify. This way, the bells do not stick to each other. When the mud roll is broken they have a stack of bells, each beautifully coated with a golden brass layer.

Re:Lost and found technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24172989)

isn't there a shitload of old true-and-tried local technologies that are not anymore common knowledge in famine and civil war-ridden countries?

Oh, we're too smart to re-use some old technology like that. Cause we just must be smarter than the people in the olden days - look at all the stuff we have. How could people who didn't have a bunch of fancy gadgets beeping at them all the time to remind their owners it's time to stop what they're doing right now and for-the-love-of-god charge me before I die! know anything about building simple tools to help people survive.

And there's really no need to, it's not like we're running out of ieas. Look at all the patents that are granted. We're "inventing" new stuff all the time!

Interestingly, this is often wrong (4, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173005)

One thing that holds poor people back is that their equipment is often very primitive. Any method of cooking that needs an open fire or has to heat up a lot of stone is very energy intensive. A Western halogen or induction hob is, by contrast, extremely efficient, heating only what is needed when it is needed. An open fire will often put 80% of the heat output straight up the chimney, whereas I have a very efficient Scandinavian solid fuel stove which puts more than 80% of its output into the house. But the cost of a Jotul or Morso stove would represent maybe five to ten years total income to a third world family.

This is why thinking like this is needed. Expensive but efficient technology needs to be commoditised for Third World production to bootstrap their economies.

Re:Interestingly, this is often wrong (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#24175437)

What is the cost of your Scandinavian solid fuel stove?

90% Solution (-1, Flamebait)

Macgruder (127971) | more than 6 years ago | (#24172911)

"Nearly 90 percent of research and development dollars are spent on creating technologies that serve the wealthiest 10 percent of the world's population"

And I see nothing wrong with that at all. They're the wealthiest 10% for a reason, i.e., they're doing something right.

Please, every Third World nation could drop off the face of the planet and the movers as shakers of the world (Europe, North America, Korea, Japan and China) would not even notice. Probably not even care. The planet sure would smell better. Unwashed masses, indeed.

Re:90% Solution (2, Insightful)

Quixote (154172) | more than 6 years ago | (#24172979)

By "nation", surely you mean just the people. For if you included the mineral assets of these nations, you'd be living like Neanderthals in no time (instead of just acting like one on /. ).

A lot of these nations are poor because the Western nations have invaded, raped, pillaged and destroyed their cultures in pursuit of minerals and precious stones.

England enslaved India not because of their love for the curry, but because they wanted to dominate the spice trade.

Leopold invaded Congo for the rubber (which was derived solely from natural means).

I could go on, but /.'s disk space is probably limited.

Re:90% Solution (3, Insightful)

Saffaya (702234) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174957)

What you say is a big amount of bollocks.

I suggest you go visit IN PERSON any such country that you berate 'raped, pillaged, destroyed' by teh eviiiil western nations and see for yourself the real causes of their current state.

That should constitute for you a real eye-opening experience.

Re:90% Solution (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#24175451)

I wish I hadn't already replied to someone to mod you up. This is very true. Example: Africa. Their situation is caused by a lack of natural resources to begin with (notably, clean water) and governments that come and go.

Re:90% Solution (1)

ZuG (13394) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176635)

I've lived in the second poorest nation in South America (Paraguay) and visited quite a few more. US policies are the proximate cause for many many of the developing world's troubles.

Quick example: Cotton. The US heavily subsidizes cotton, and then dumps surpluses on the world market for cheaper than Parguayans can grow it. They get trapped in a debt cycle, because they have to use pesticides (made by and loaned by Monsanto) so the cotton grows, and then they have a less than amazing year, and they go into the hole. Their Monsanto contract says they must keep growing cotton until they can pay off the debt.

It's really really ugly. Plenty of places have plenty of problems at their own, but at an absolute minimum, US foreign policy is contributing to their problems (likely substantially).

Re:90% Solution (5, Insightful)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 6 years ago | (#24172983)

I am opposed to the argument that poor people are poor because they are doing something wrong. People can be born wealthy, or they can be born poor. The simple fact is, you can only make use of what your environment offers, and in third world countries, that is not much.

Re:90% Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24173087)

I'm going to partially side with the parent on this one.

Poor people may be born in poor or hopeless situations, but after listening to what has happened in Zimbabwe with their elections, not to mention the other instances of genocide is just one of the reasons why Africa will never be as influential as the west.

Africa has about 400-500 years of colonial imperialism that has messed up the continent. There is no doubt about it. However it offers no excuse for the warlords and week governments that are there now. The people that are there now are the makers of their own destiny. They can bring about change in their countries if they so want it.

Re:90% Solution (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173197)

It doesn't work on individual level, but it is somewhat more applicable when we are looking at billions of people, because then good old statistics comes into play.

Of course, it still doesn't mean that nation being poor means doing something wrong. It may also mean that someone got something right first, at the expense of the others.

Re:90% Solution (1)

mc6809e (214243) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173509)

I am opposed to the argument that poor people are poor because they are doing something wrong. People can be born wealthy, or they can be born poor. The simple fact is, you can only make use of what your environment offers, and in third world countries, that is not much.

Which is why Japan is so poor, right?

Re:90% Solution (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173717)

"The simple fact is, you can only make use of what your environment offers, and in third world countries, that is not much"

Change "environment" to "culture" and you'll be far more accurate.

Re:90% Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24173059)

Quoting parent:
  "movers as shakers of the world (Europe, North America, Korea, Japan and China)"

Thanks a lot you insensitive clod for implying Australia is a third world country.

Re:90% Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24173125)

Well, thats why its called the "Land Down Under".

Re:90% Solution (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173085)

Take a read of Guns, Germs and Steel [wikipedia.org] and then review your comments.

From Jarod Diamond's point of view the west did not become wealthy because of us doing things "right". It became wealthy purely through geographical luck.

Aarguments have been raised in opposition to his book, but I still think that it is a worthwhile read.

BS. (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173175)

The unequal distribution of wealth and resources generated in the colonial period has become even more pronounced in the postindustrial or information age. Members of societies with access to good educational opportunities and advanced technology profit far more from the emerging global economy than do members of less developed societies.

Re:90% Solution (3, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173251)

a) The wealthiest 10% (referring to the population of the first world) live the way they do because the wealthiest 0.0001% of the world find it profitable to maintain them in a state of fat, mindless consumption.

b) Where do you think your TV, DVD player, cellphone, shoes, socks, PC are manufactured? I guarantee you that the hard labor required to manufacture these goods is not carried out by the fat, lazy people of the first world. They are too busy doing mindless administrative jobs in the office and then asking for time off due to a stubbed toe.

c) Your "survival of the fittest" attitude is a pathetic attempt at rationalizing your own profligate, wasteful and totally unsustainable lifestyle. You're like a child trying to tell yourself that stealing cookies is actually OK. Go travel, realize that the people in the third world actually are people, who work hard for their families and have the same hopes, dreams and ambitions that you have. The only difference between them and you is that their opportunity is undermined by the first world in the name of "profit" and they don't use abhorrent, broken logic to justify their own existence.

Re:90% Solution (1)

Anonymatt (1272506) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173513)

People that live in third would countries can choose to work in those factories or continue having the lifestyle of their parents and grandparents. They see working indoors as a plus. It would be wack for me to feel guilty for having been born and programmed in the United States. Do you feel guilt? Do you make up for it by using your computer to blow peoples' minds? Har. Do you have a problem with fat people? Why don't you go build something, skinny?

Re:90% Solution (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173293)

Oh, and

d) The "movers and shakers" of the world would die without the third world nations, but the third world would thrive without the "movers and shakers". If you believe otherwise, you're either deluded and ignorant, or 12 years old. Every rich nation in the world today is only rich riding on the back of cheap labor to produce gigantic amounts of consumer goods to fuel their consumption-dependent economies. Taking away the third world would be taking away factories, plants and workshops. How long do you think the "movers and shakers" would survive without that?

My guess is not very.

Re:90% Solution (1)

Anubis350 (772791) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173823)

On the other hand though, how long do you really think it would before there were mirrors of the "movers and shakers" in the third world as they thrive? There's *always* inequality, the evils you rant against are not simple products of the western world, bear that in mind.

Re:90% Solution (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174595)

Every rich nation in the world today is only rich riding on the back of cheap labor to produce gigantic amounts of consumer goods to fuel their consumption-dependent economies.

So.. every rich nation is rich because they produce a tremendous amount of wealth. How insightful of you. Do you want a ribbon?

Re:90% Solution (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176501)

You might want to reflect on your own reading comprehension for a while. Read it again, and then tell me who the author says is actually producing all that wealth. Hint: where is all that "cheap labor" situated?

Re:90% Solution (2, Insightful)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176101)

Taking away the third world would be taking away factories, plants and workshops.

Or, they would come back to the first world, and prices would either go up or down (probably the former.)

Re:90% Solution (1, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176413)

The "movers and shakers" of the world would die without the third world nations,

What's your next guess?

The first world has vastly higher productivity both industrially and agriculturally. We produce surpluses, while third world countries starve under their local dictators.

-jcr

Just more first-worlders using third-worlders! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24172941)

I'd be more impressed if these types of events weren't just a way for the overly affluent to jet set around trying to justify an overly excessive and unsustainable lifestyle.

Speaking as a planet, we simply can't afford you!

Can MIT develop a cheap/safe circumcision device? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24173015)

Circumcision can reduce the HIV/AIDS by a significant percentage. However, access to circumcision and doctors is the problem in third world countries. If MIT could develop a circumcision device that the third world lay person could operate in a safe manner, this would be a big help in reducing HIV/AIDs and the suffering.

Also, there are some of us in the first world that could also use such a device. Circumcision without the embarrassment of a doctor's visit and in the privacy of one's own home. I'd look to get my hands on one to cirucmcise myself at home, and perhaps the first world's use could subsidise the manufacturing costs for the third world.

Re:Can MIT develop a cheap/safe circumcision devic (1)

nogginthenog (582552) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173337)

Many of the circumcision / HIV studies are flawed (Google "circumcision HIV"). It could even have the opposite effect as circumcised men may be less willing to use a condom because they have less sensitivity.

Re:Can MIT develop a cheap/safe circumcision devic (1)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173931)

Simple linear interpolation proves circumcision reduces HIV:

1. Uncut males may acquire HIV.
2. Remove that nasty wedding tackle at birth: no possibility of future HIV acquistion.
3. Remove X% - reduces HIV risk by some amount.

More studies are needed, but a good start would be the surgical reduction of male penises by various amounts (say 10%, 40%, and 80%.) We could then correlate these reductions with rates of future HIV infection.

Naturally, we should do these studies in Africa because those people have a lot of AIDS, and it's only ethical to help them as much as we can.

Re:Can MIT develop a cheap/safe circumcision devic (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173375)

Circumcision can reduce the HIV/AIDS by a significant percentage. However, access to circumcision and doctors is the problem in third world countries. If MIT could develop a circumcision device that the third world lay person could operate in a safe manner, this would be a big help in reducing HIV/AIDs and the suffering.

Also, there are some of us in the first world that could also use such a device. Circumcision without the embarrassment of a doctor's visit and in the privacy of one's own home. I'd look to get my hands on one to cirucmcise myself at home, and perhaps the first world's use could subsidise the manufacturing costs for the third world.

Have you tried employing the use of a cigar cutter for this? If you heat up the blades, then it can cauterize in the same motion.

Not that I've personally tried this.

Re:Can MIT develop a cheap/safe circumcision devic (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176051)

Ok, but does it work by making sex less enjoyable, or by making it less risky?

There is no medical benefit to the circumcision itself. There are religious reasons you might have the procedure done, but from what I've heard, if you're already circumcised by an MD, the religious official still has to snip something, so you're not really doing yourself a favor there.

From one of the TFA: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24173045)

"What people need is usually completely different from what we imagine sitting here in America," says Jodie Wu

People's needs in foreign countries are different than our own? Unpossible!

Trickle down (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24173119)

90% of research dollars may be spent on creating technologies that are targeted at the richest 10% of the population, but that doesn't mean they don't benefit the other 90%. Think of mobile phones, for example - originally aimed at the Western business elite, but they went on to revolutionise the African economy by creating a fast, efficient communication network between villages where it wasn't feasible to roll out wired infrastructure.

Re:Trickle down (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173191)

Never gonna get anywhere with reason here on /.

Might as well give up now.

Why the third world? (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173325)

Nearly 90 percent of research and development dollars are spent on creating technologies that serve the wealthiest 10 percent of the world's population

If reversing that is the goal, why only help the third world when it seems that nearly the entire globe is that way?

Missing links (3, Informative)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173451)

For some reason the news office didn't link to D-lab [mit.edu] . But there are actually plenty of groups at MIT doing stuff like this,
including the Public Service Center's IDEAS [mit.edu] competition, several Mech-E student ptojects, Design for Change [mit.edu] ,
and the spin-off Design that matters [designthatmatters.org] .

These groups work on a lot of interesting things. Some of them, like the Kinkajou projector, see somewhat esoteric or "luxurious,"
but others are pretty basic and nifty. There are a lot of bicycle flywheel-moderated pedal powered devices that seem to fill genuine
needs, as does the famous peanut sheller [fullbellyproject.org] .

Re:Missing links (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#24175463)

If you're someone with an engineering background and some free time, how do you get involved with groups like this?

Re:Missing links (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 6 years ago | (#24175957)

Not sure. DTM seems to run a mailing-list, and accept interns. Other posters have mentioned Engineers Without Borders,
and vkg gave a few links to similar kinds of things [slashdot.org] including "Appropedia."

Re:Missing links (1)

PepperGrunties (526095) | more than 6 years ago | (#24175985)

That's a great question. There have to be a bunch of engineers w/spare time to contribute to these kinds of projects. Not everyone can move to another country or even dedicate a semester to a project. OTOH, will the administrative cost be worthwhile?

Re:Missing links (1)

scotfrank (156936) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176201)

Another MIT spin-off and a group I'm working with, One Earth Designs [oneearthdesigns.org] , should also be mentioned. Our focus is in high altitude areas, particularly the Himalaya region and Tibet. Currently we are testing a solar cooker and heater, and in the future we will be rolling out some methods rural energy generation and water treatment.

If anyone with interest would like to get involved, please contact us! In fact we are hoping to start a multi-purpose system that will facilitate this type of collaboration around the world.

Re:Missing links (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24176223)

So would it be something like this merry-go-round which produces electricity? http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,700235975,00.html This has actually started helping people and is made with locally found materials.

Wow, great idea! (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173483)

Let's make really cheap, low-cost, useful, and robust devices to help people. Why didn't I think of that! Bet nobody else has thought of that before either!

A Cheap Method..... (0, Troll)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173521)

Every time I open the newspaper, turn on the news, or turn on the radio, I hear about some Third World country with not enough food or water or medicine.

Here is a cheaper, easier way that anyone can do, in any language, and requires no technical expertise:

Step 1) STOP HAVING BABIES!

Step 2) Repeat STEP 1 until a sustainable population is reached.

It sounds harsh and mean, but the main problem is that the populations of the countries is far higher than their current situation can sustain. The fewer people you have, then the less food, water, and medicine you need to sustain them and keep them healthy.

Nobody wants to say it, and someone will inevitably mod this TROLL since they feel that feelings and emotions are more important than logic, but that is the problem: Over-population of places that CANNOT support the large and increaing number of people who depend on insufficient sources of food and water.

Unfortunately, some people don't under stand the simple concept that 3 people consume less than 5, and nobody has the balls to either tell them that, or admit to it.

Re:A Cheap Method..... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174273)

Step 1) STOP HAVING BABIES!

By force? If its not done by force, then evolution will eventually override any incentives provided. Even now I know some women who's body releases endorphins (feel-good hormones) when they are pregnant. Thus, they get pregnant to be high, and produce more daughters with the same hormone.
   

Re:A Cheap Method..... (1)

halsver (885120) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174457)

One interesting theory in why the west out paced the rest of the world in technological advancement in the last thousand years was exactly that, population density. During medieval times in Europe, the population was crippled by plague several times. First by the bubonic plague, later small pox, etc. It gave the surviving people a wealth of natural resources relative to their populations. This wealth allows for people to specialize in trades, rather than just subsistence farming. Specialization leads to steady efficiency increases.

Now obviously this kind of organic technological advancement is practically impossible in Africa today. First, any of the basic resources worth a damn, ie coal, iron, ect. Are being used or bought by companies outside the country. Secondly, the basic resources that help people improve their quality of life are not abundant in Africa to begin with. Thirdly, because the wide availability of machine guns, it is very easy to oppress a lot of people with a very small number of thugs.

So we come to the question of how to fix the vast imbalance in the Africa. There is no silver bullet, at least none that anyone with respect for human life would endorse. In general, the only model we have for taking a third world nation and bringing it up to modern standards is by colonization. Colonization has been looked down upon for about the last fifty years, but if you take a step back at the big picture, it has been a catalyst for change which usually meant an improvement in the standard of living for those colonized. There are plenty of counter examples, but I believe there have been more success stories than not. The best examples being: India, China, and South Africa. While many human rights issues occurred because of colonization, other pro development things occurred. Mostly technology influx, but also increased nationalism and infrastructure build-out.

In the case of South Africa and India, the colonists inspired mass uprisings and increased the sense of national identity. Not all "nations" have this. Many countries were simply created politically by western nations. By oppression, these colonists inspired nationalism in the oppressed. What is the value of a strong sense of nationalism? Nationalism inspires a sense of the greater good, it allows a people to undertake great public works projects, it allows them to have a strong federal government, and most of all it helps neighbors stop quarreling.

So in the end, we can't colonize Africa again. Western nations don't have motivation to anyway. However, a key step in helping developing nations is understanding how developed nations got there. Technology alone will not be sufficient. While these project are of course noble and good in their cause, they are only bandaids that do not treat the root problems. I saw a special on 60 Minutes the other day about malnourished children in Africa and this really great cheap solution they had found to fight malnutrition. Great, more children make it to adolescence. There is no correlation that a larger population will promote economic development. Will these children's children still be eating the same imported aid to survive?

Instead of doctors without borders or engineers without borders, we need ditch diggers without borders, or plumbers without borders. Giving a guy a bike that can make corn into flour is cool, but what's the point if you gave him the corn already?

Re:A Cheap Method..... (1)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 6 years ago | (#24176165)

Instead of doctors without borders or engineers without borders, we need ditch diggers without borders, or plumbers without borders.

Well, there's no point in having plumbers and ditch diggers if the population is so significantly unhealthy that they can't actually enjoy such things as plumbing.

Actually, you are a troll (3, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174805)

and had I not posted on this thread already I would have modded you accordingly. Another poster has made the point about population density often being a good thing. I would like to add to this.

A neighbour is a senior project manager for a development charity, and his view is that a lot of Africa's problems stem from too few people. Below a certain density you do not have the GNP to develop transport, or the manpower to clear swamps and get rid of malaria (for instance.) This is why most Third World development takes place in crowded cities rather than rural areas.

But as to why you are a troll. One North American baby = nearly 12 African babies in terms of resource consumption. In terms of resource consumption, the US uses as much as a Third World country of around 4 billion people, and the EU probably uses as much as 2-3 billion Third World people. Now do you get it? The answer is for US, you (and to a lesser extent me) to stop having growing populations, not the Third World. Then we don't need to build kleptomaniac corporations that steal all their resources.

The average North American uses twice as much energy as the average Briton or German, and two and a half times as much as the average Italian. Germans and Italians have a pretty good lifestyle; I'd much rather live in Munich, say, than most American cities. New York has almost European population densities and energy efficiency, yet it is a desirable place to live. If you could just drive sensibly, live in adequate but not bloated houses, and stop trying to commute fifty miles each way to work by three tonne truck, you would free up enough energy to make a significant difference to the entire Third World. And then you would not need that huge army and the array of missiles, because nobody would be coming after you.

Free/Open Appropriate Technology (5, Informative)

vkg (158234) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173557)

is turning into quite a movement.

http://appropedia.org/ [appropedia.org] is like wikipedia but, predictably, for appropriate technology.

http://hexayurt.com/ [hexayurt.com] is a nice little emergency shelter (that's my project.)

http://globalswadeshi.net/ [globalswadeshi.net] takes Gandhi's ideas (like the spinning wheel) and generalizes them into a global picture based on appropriate technology innovations

http://akvo.org/ [akvo.org] does water technology

http://openfarmtech.org/ [openfarmtech.org] does a wide range of systems for a very high standard of living

and there's a lot more out there.

http://www.globalswadeshi.net/video [globalswadeshi.net] has a series of video interviews with people working on appropriate technology in this general vein.

About 30 million people a year could be saved (2, Interesting)

vkg (158234) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173571)

Basically, when you run the numbers, it seems like about half of all global death is from poverty.

This talk (I presented it about two weeks ago) gives some details, sketches out possible solutions, and puts the whole thing in context.

http://www.globalswadeshi.net/video/video/show?id=2097821%3AVideo%3A1943 [globalswadeshi.net]

Enjoy.

Zug-Zug (3, Interesting)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 6 years ago | (#24173699)

The technology is one element of a systemic solution. Go play Warcraft (the original one.) You start out with one grunt. You harvest resources, enhance capabilities, and improve your situation through incremental means. Throughout the process, you've developed an infrastructure that will support your population.

Aw hell! Some bastard sent troops into my Town Square and is tearing the place to shit! Yep, you can expect the local warlord/gang/bunch_of_thugs to do that in the real world as well. You've developed a resource; someone will try to take it from you.

Simply tossing a technological measure at a community won't magically fix things. At a minimum, it'll free up someone to perform another task that wasn't an option before. It's worth doing, but needs to be part of a larger program that helps with developing comprehensive infrastructure.

Re:Zug-Zug (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174863)

Nicely said. And don't overlook that classic example of what happens when you mix Third World mentality with up-to-date technology. We call them IED's.

Re:Zug-Zug (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 6 years ago | (#24175789)

You can weaponize a stick. It's not terribly effective against your neighbor who also has weaponized sticks. However, if these outsiders drop a magical technology into you lap that allows you to deliver your weaponized sticks at your neighbor from a great distance, that represents a disruption in the balance of power you previously had. I think that's the true danger. Incremental improvements in anything give you time to adapt socially, an gives your neighbors a similar opportunity.

If you could attack anyone with impunity, why wouldn't you? If you receive a 50-year step-function improvement in your ability to defend yourself, the next time Thug Boy and his cronies show up with their weaponized sticks, threatening to take half of your food production for the year, you're going to blow them to hell, right?

Help the third world? Two simple ideas: (1)

mveloso (325617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174007)

1. cheap, reliable electricity generation
2. cheap, reliable air conditioning

Those two things alone would make an unbelievable difference in the lives of pretty much everyone in the Third World.

Clean micro-power would obivate the need for (1) expensive to own/operate gas/diesel generators and (2) large infrastructure investments.

Cheap, reliable air conditioning would benefit both industry (food storage and transportation) and normal life (things really are nicer in AC).

These two would change life radically in the third world...for the better.

Re:Help the third world? Two simple ideas: (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#24175487)

Don't forget transportation, as we're making leaps and bounds in the first world towards electrification of transportation. If Nanosolar were to get their product down to $1/Watt, it would make sense for a large non-profit (B&M Gates Foundation) to step in and put several solar generating facilities in Africa. Give the power away at first, but than slowly raise the price to a sustainable level as the quality of life increases.

Re:Help the third world? Two simple ideas: (1)

nickname29 (1240104) | more than 6 years ago | (#24175503)

South African electricity is (was?) probably the cheapest in the world. To the consumer it is sold at about 44 cents per kWh (that is about 5 American cents per KwH).

Neigbouring countries (including Zimbabwe) paid about 13 cents per kWh (about 1.5 'merican sents per kWh). This helped those countries f*ck-all (the are still 3rd world).

Not a new idea (1)

Amazing Kevlar (981492) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174075)

This is a relatively regular initiative which has been producing good results on a sporadic basis for decades. At least this has been my experience in Canada. I feel certain that people in many other so-called 'first world' countries have given it a go as well. It would seem, however, that a more durable approach might consist of going to the people in the areas where the need is felt and assisting them to make their own technologies from locally available materials to answer locally felt needs. Not the same ego-boo but immensely more useful. "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for life" (My apologies to the original)

Sustainability (4, Insightful)

seanthenerd (678349) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174371)

It's great to see (reading the NY Times article) that this summit includes people from developing countries. Often, these sorts of things just involve people from developed countries dreaming up 'solutions' that sound awesome but wouldn't actually work on the ground, because the focus is only on the technologies and there isn't enough understanding of the people and societies in the developing countries or areas the technology is meant for.

I talked to a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders Canada [ewb.ca] who had this crazy story about rural villages in Mali (in western Africa). In almost every single town he visited (poor farming villages, actually) there was a deep, covered well and pump providing clean, healthy drinking water. And nobody used them. Instead, women from the villages would walk a few kilometres to collect water from a stagnant, parasite-infected pool of water.

Which seems ridiculous to us, maybe, except that collecting water by the pool was an important social event for these women (that standing in line at the well didn't duplicate at all), and that people thought the metal of the pump was unnatural - especially compared to a water source 'in nature', and that no one had really convinced the families in these villages that water from the pump would make their babies more likely to survive.

But it really goes to show that the best-intended engineering or technical solutions (in this case, a foreign NGO's decision a decade or two ago that every Malian village needed a water pump) won't succeed without a better understanding of the people they are meant to help. And that in the end, developing countries will never "make it" because of solutions 'handed down' by first-world organizations; in the end people there need to be empowered to improve their lives and their countries. First-world organizations can help with that, but we can't pretend to understand their communities' needs better than they do.

Out of Poverty, Paul Polak (2, Informative)

surfcow (169572) | more than 6 years ago | (#24174929)

ObPlug: Paul Polak's "Out of Poverty" program. http://www.paulpolak.com/ [paulpolak.com] He has a deeper-than-surface understanding of 3rd world micro-economics. He introduced simple but effective technologies in many places which have completely transformed the lives of whole villages. Drip irrigation, cheap water storage, treadle-pumps, etc. He also has a book at amazon. Haven't read it yet, but it's on my wish list.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1576754499/ref=ord_cart_shr?_encoding=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&v=glance [amazon.com]

On a related note:
(IMO) our universities must become more than diploma mills for the children of the wealthy, they should (primarily) be incubators for real, functional change. MIT and a few other universities take this seriously and (most importantly) fund it. (See recent articles on break-through solar technology.) I hope they will open-source the fruits of their research.

We somehow need to shift focus from getting-rich-quick to saving a world that needs it. We can't afford to let the 21st century really can't be like the 20th.

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