I was looking at some of the TEDex videos where people speak about their ideas that worked and almost all ideas are very inspiring. There are some ideas that were so simple that you wonder why are they not more popular and why are not more and more people benefitting from them. Let me give introduce you to few ideas that involved simple thinking and simple design:
Cynthiya Koenig talks about a very simple innovation – a rolling drum that helps women in rural Rajasthan save time and energy that spend in carrying water from long distances. They spend 25% of their time in collecting water and carrying it on their heads, by using this drum they do not have to lift water and the daily requirement can be met in one round instead of multiple rounds.
Suprio Das designed a simple device that cleans water by putting the right dosage of chlorine in the water that is drawn out of hand pumps. A simple mechanical device that needs nothing sophisticated and can be easily managed by anyone helps the users of the water avoid many water borne diseases that come with polluted water.
Arunachalam Murugantham talks about making a simple sanitary napkin that comes at the fraction of the cost of those available in the market and helps women deal with many women’s health issues that exist because of non-availability of clean sanitation. The small machines within a village school or a village community hall can create napkins for the whole village or may be set of villages even creating employment at local level.
All the three are simple innovations that address the basic issues of health at the basic grassroots level. Each of these ideas have seen some success in some way, at least demonstrated that the ideas work. What needs to be done is make them a mass movement so that more and more people can adopt them and benefit from the. The question comes, if the ideas are so good, what has been stopping them from mass adoption, after all if accepted most people can do it themselves with little help that innovators like these would be more than willing to help. The answer may lie in the fact that these ideas are being experimented in silos and it would take another initiative to make them a mass initiatives. Innovators who are technocrats may not have the skills to market their products or ideas. With limited communication channels that connect rural areas to one another, remember most media channels also flow from urban to rural areas, there is no channel that lets these rural innovators connect with each other and share their knowledge. Forums like TED highlight these solutions and may inspire many more people to experiment with more ideas but their reach in rural areas is extremely limited at the moment. Let us face it that most of us living in urban clusters understand these issues at an intellect level through the data that we receive, but we can never understand the complete implications of the problem at hand.
What needs to be done is – Develop a peer to peer network at village level may be, that allows people who have similar problems to address, to interact with each other and look at the solutions that have worked for others and adopt or adapt them to their needs. There are many issues in doing this like most rural areas do not speak the same language or some of the problems may be rooted in the local cultures or climatic conditions. If we can use technology to overcome the language issues and let the people with similar challenges interact with each other either directly or through a nodal agency, a lot of them will be able to solve their problems within their own circles. There can also be simple information sharing on what worked for a community and the other communities once see a working example will pick up the solution on their own.
This will also lead to small clusters of innovation across the country that would not remain within the community but would also benefit a larger population.
Simple and small solutions are an answer to many problems, when we try to solve them in a big way we introduce so many complexities that the core idea is sometimes lost in the process.
Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012. I am happy I saw these videos.