Designing for Change in the Developing World, by Francis Raven

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

?Engineering doesn?t normally address challenges in the developing world,” says Denise Kulawik, director of program development for Design that Matters (DtM), a nonprofit in Cambridge, MA. “For a product to be successful in the developing world it has to be inexpensive, robust, and withstand harsh physical conditions. In addition, in rural communities, there are issues with the power system.?

Design that Matters works to improve the quality of life in underserved communities by creating products and services that “meet needs identified by the communities themselves.” The limitations involved in designing products for the developing world are merely inviting design challenges for the designers at DtM.

DtM was launched at the MIT Media Lab in 2000 as a design course focusing on the specific design issues in the developing world; the group later spun off into an independent nonprofit in 2003. Since inception, DtM has accomplished feats of unparalled success: it has achieved six patents pending, seeded one business start-up for low-cost eyeglasses, and provided educational opportunities to over 550 university engineering and business students, among many other important accomplishments.

But what is it that Design that Matters actually achieves? Within their network of students, NGOs, citizens of developing countries and manufacturers, DtM develops products that fill real world needs within the developing world. The products they develop include ?health and assistive technologies, education, micro- production, business development, and portable power.?
Story found here.

Source: Digital Divide Network