In today’s world, our heads are spinning with new technologies. It is what surrounds us in our society and often it’s hard to think about life without it. However, our power to change the world doesn’t come from technology, it comes from the simplest and most basic ideas. These ideas are based on using what is around us in strategic, useful and innovative ways, i.e. design. Design is much more than aesthetics, it is a plan, a way to intelligently build with our resources; it is an execution of an idea in a strategic way. Design will always be what changes our world.
In that respect, I’d like to introduce 5 design ideas that I believe have the power to change our world. These ideas did not depend on the invention of the iPad2 or the use of hi-tech robots. Instead these ideas were based on simplicity and resourcefulness. They are merely well thought out solutions to problems around the world.
More than one billion people lack access to safe water worldwide, and for this reason, water borne illness has become the leading cause of death. On any given day, over 50% of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from water-borne disease.
The Hydropack is a product that uses a type of natural equilibrium in order to filter water. By dropping the pack in any water, the pack separates the liquids through a membrane that only allows water to pass. This product can literally be dropped in any contaminated water and can self hydrate and filter to become drinkable water. One of the best parts is that the Hydropacks are small products that are easy to pack and ship. They are huge life savers in major disasters and I am excited to see how these packs can open the doors to replacing water systems in developing countries.
I have horrible eyesight and during my travels I remember wondering what I would do if I didn’t have any access to glasses or contacts. I am actually pretty sure I would be unable to survive. According to the Centre for Vision in the Developing World (CVDW), over one billion people lack proper eyesight. The idea I am about to explain is just plain awesome. The basic gist of self-adjustable glasses are that these glasses are able to change by the viewer themselves and then can be sealed to keep the prescription. The way they do this is by filling the lenses with fluid that then changes the shape of the lens thus changing the refractive power. It can be used for either short-sightedness (by creating negative power lenses) or long-sightedness (by creating positive lenses).
These glasses are easy, quick and cost effective ways to give proper eyesight to those in need. We often forget how problems like eyesight can affect those without access to proper healthcare. Self-adjustable glasses can really change the world and how we see it.
In developing countries, sanitation is one of the biggest issues. Plumbing is often limited and waste can often stick around creating toxic situations that endanger lives. The solar sanitation system project started by Emory University Center for Global Safe Water heats waste through a solar unit. Since the unit is able to produce temperatures in excess of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it can destroy most disease causing micro-organisms and bacteria within the water. After a few weeks, it can be used as a fertilizer for various crops.
The design is user friendly and most importantly is low maintenance and effective. It will be interesting to see how they plan on implementing these solar sanitation systems and if communities are capable of installing and maintaining these systems by themselves. If it is a success, these systems can save some of the 2 million people who die of diarrheal disease and help the 2.5 billion people without proper sanitation.
It’s a solution to a problem many of us have never thought about. In many areas of the world finding fuel for cooking is an every day issue. Many people are forced to cut down trees in order to use wood as a stove. Often these “stoves” can cause respiratory disease, degrade soil quality, soil stability and contribute to extensive deforestation.
Bob Lange’s stoves cut carbon emissions and use one third less wood. However his design idea does not stop there. Lange wants to see these stoves helping out communities thus he has created a minuscule non-profit that works with Masai villages to implement these stoves and also gives them solar panels. For every four stoves that the village implements, they receive one small solar panel capable of charging a cellphone. He calls it an “informal carbon credit market.”
Not only has Lange introduced a product that saves trees and improves the lives of villagers, but he has allowed the villagers to take control of these changes. By doing this, Lange has created a new currency that is truly sustainable within communities.
The Uniject Device was brought to my attention by a friend as an innovative design idea that has already changed several lives. The idea of this device is to create a way where health workers around the world could give vaccines with little training and with little risk. It is merely a needle with a small plastic bubble filled with a dose of the vaccine. The device takes less than 2 hours of training and it is impossible to reuse therefore eliminating any risk of disease transmission.
This is a device that exemplifies the use of simple ideas to create big impact products. While the focus is just on vaccines right now, it can later be used for numerous other lifesaving drugs in the future.
JustMilk Nipple Shield prevents HIV transmission from mother to baby. A simple nipple shield allows the baby to still drink breastmilk from the mother but reduces the risk of HIV by adding a non-woven disk with a virucidal agent that inactivates the HIV virus. It can also be used as a way to deliver therapeutic drugs to the baby. With over 50,000-100,000 babies in the sub-Saharan Africa contracting HIV from breastfeeding a year, the simple plastic nipple shield can save thousands of babies every year.
Even as cars begin to drive themselves, computers become the size of a cigarette boxes, and the internet becomes accessible in every nook and cranny of our lives, it is a relief to see that solutions still exist in the simplest of forms. It doesn’t take a team of scientists to figure out how to save our world, it just takes a great ideas.