Infant mortality is a big problem in the world’s poorest nations. Lack of clean water, lack of sanitation and a lack of access to either health education or medical care make it hard for new borns (or even worse, premies) with problems to survive. But say you run a hospital in a city and an NGO gets you an advanced neo-natal incubator: great, it works for a year, but when something goes wrong with it technically, who are you going to call? All around the world, infants lucky enough to make it to a competent hospital die within yards of an incubator that could have saved their lives but for a part costing pennies.
, a think tank devoted to bringing the power of innovative — Nanovative to the solving of problems in developing nations, decided to take a look. Reasoning that an African hospital had no access to high-tech repair services, they asked what kind of technical expertise they did have access to. They found the answer in the streets: used cars.
People in emerging nations have deep resources in keeping old cars going, so Design That Matters developed a neo-natal incubator created entirely of readily available car parts. The heat source is car headlights, the fan is from a car as are the electronics and switching. When it stops working, call your local shade-tree mechanic and you’ll be back in business.
DTM says the key is defining the problem. In this case, helpful hearts might have spent billions organizing logistics to supply parts and technical expertise to hospitals. DTM focused on creating a product that covered most (but not all of the needs), that was cost effective and easily serviced with parts and labor available in any town in the world.
What problems are you trying solve with dollars that could be better served with simplicity?