By Christian Peterhans
In the past decades, there has been a growing interest in introducing technological innovation products in countries of the global south to combat poverty. While technology has the potential to improve the quality of life for individuals living in poverty, it also poses unique challenges.
Countless innovative products to better critical life circumstances in third-world countries have been developed and deployed over the past years. They combine the technological progress made to offer easy to use solutions. However, many of these promising projects have failed, and we must start asking why. Ikea's assembly manuals may offer a starting point to rethink our approach.
One of the primary challenges is the lack of infrastructure in these countries. Many third-world countries lack the basic infrastructure necessary to support technological innovation products. For instance, most of these countries have limited access to electricity and the internet. This makes it difficult for individuals to access and use technological innovation products. In addition, the lack of infrastructure also makes it difficult for companies to distribute and sell their products in these countries. This limits the reach of these products and makes it difficult to create a sustainable market.
Another challenge is the lack of education and training on the use of technological innovation products. Many individuals living in third-world countries lack the education and training necessary to understand and use technological innovation products. This limits the ability of these individuals to adopt and use these products. It also makes it difficult for companies to market and sell their products in these countries, as there is limited demand for products that individuals cannot use.
Cultural barriers also pose a challenge when introducing technological innovation products in third-world countries. Many of these countries have different cultural beliefs and practices that may conflict with the use of technological innovation products. For instance, some cultures may view technology as a threat to their traditional way of life. This makes it difficult for companies to market and sell their products in these countries. It also limits the ability of individuals to adopt and use these products.
Finally, there is the challenge of the high cost of technological innovation products. While technology has the potential to improve the quality of life for individuals living in poverty, many of these products are too expensive for the average person living in third-world countries. This limits the ability of these individuals to access and use these products. It also makes it difficult for companies to sell their products in these countries as there is limited demand for high-cost products.
During the lecture, Professor Günther gave an example related to safe water storage in remote villages. Groundwater pumps were introduced to provide access to clean water, but it turned out that the quality of drinking water in households did not improve due to unsafe storage. To address this issue, water tanks were developed to ensure water quality at home. However, the cost of $20 was too high for villagers, and the government did not fund it as a private item. This example highlights the challenges of introducing technological innovations in impoverished regions, such as lack of infrastructure, high costs, cultural barriers, lack of education and training, and government policies and regulations.
To overcome these challenges, a more effective approach might be to focus on education and community involvement. Instead of solely producing products, efforts could be directed towards producing manuals that explain safe water storage and offering a variety of DIY solutions using readily available materials. By working with local communities and enabling them to develop their solutions, it may be possible to create sustainable solutions in the long run.
In conclusion, introducing technological innovations in impoverished areas requires a multifaceted approach that goes beyond product development. It is essential to consider the specific challenges faced by local communities and to involve them in the process of finding solutions.