By Dian Hasan | May 28, 2009
Quick, what comes to your mind when you hear the world “Innovation”? Products such as: iPhone, Dyson Vacuum Cleaner, Toyota Prius and GM Volt? A team of scientists in alien-like suits tinkering with cancer fighting gene-splicing in a high tech lab? Product designers and computer programmers huddled in a windowless room designing the next generation mobile phone? Solar panels being installed on an office building to generate power? Courier service switching to motorbike instead of delivery van to navigate faster through Jakarta’s nightmarish traffic? Solar-powered stoves in Southeast Asian villages? Foot operated water pumps in African villages?
The answer is all of the above! The truth is that most of us – especially in the business world equate innovation as something high tech, involving technology/engineering, and is mostly found in electronics, manufacturing plants, health care and biotechnology. And therefore Innovation is expected to come from advanced economies.
But what is innovation, really? The core of innovation relates to change and adaptation, the very essence of human ingenuity. Harking back to the days of when cavemen struck two stones and discovered how to make fire, and realized that round objects roll easier downhill than square ones.
The fact, however, is that the ability to innovate is not an exclusive right of a few developed nations that have the know-how, funding and high tech lab resources. Innovation belongs to the human race! The developing world has its share of innovations, that can be adapted by businesses from developed world just as much.
After all, almost 90% of the world’s inhabitants live in nations with a per-capita GDP of less that US$10,000. Naturally, these people are of course consumers as well, however, they have a different set of consumer needs and desires than the typical consumer from developed economies. It is highly unlikely they would be able to or even need an iPhone, Dyson, Prius or Volt.
Consequently, there is a tremendous need for low-tech innovations geared to this vast population of consumers.
Innovation in developed economies are mostly technology-led, and in stark contrasts to the developing world, where solving the geographic, economic (read: lack of resources) and cultural constraints are higher on the priority list and more of a reality.
Let’s take mankind’s most essential, fundamental means of survival: WATER. Potable water is taken for granted in most of the developed world, but the stark reality in the developing world is a daily struggle that can mean the difference between life and death. Here’s a look at some basic and simple innovation targeted to solve water transportation. It’s amazing what thinking-out-of-the-box can do, with a device that’s inspired by foot-powered pump and the use of bicycle.