While some tech industry experts are using their talents to push Silicon Valley innovation and Wall Street excitement, many have turned their attention to a new arena, as well: solving the problems of the developing world.
From simple, easy to use creations such as water filtration systems and low-cost health care, to advanced technologies spreading Internet access, these inventions have the potential to save lives around the world.
With the acquisition of Titan Aerospace, a tech startup that makes solar-powered drones, Google has ambitions beyond the search engine. They want to bring the Internet to the developing world via high-altitude aircrafts that will essentially work like satellites. There are obvious commercial incentives to the project, but Google also aims to empower developing communities with the communication benefits and resources associated with online connection.
The organization WaterisLife has created a high-tech book that could potentially save the lives of millions who do not have access to clean drinking water. Contained on every page—along with messages that promote safe water consumption—are nanoparticles that kill bacteria, making each a water purifying filter. And because each filter can be used for 30 consecutive days, the book’s 300 pages can provide a family with clean, safe drinking water for nearly four years.
Founded by a group of Stanford graduates, the Embrace Nest seeks to help premature infants in communities that don’t have access to expensive medical equipment like incubators. At the price of just $300, the Nest (which looks like a high-tech sleeping bag), uses a special “phase change” material (sort of like wax) that can keep a baby warm for hours before being reheated. And because of its lightweight design, it can be quickly transported to remote villages, potentially saving thousands of lives.
Also developed by Stanford researchers, the Foldscope offers a low-cost solution to a major problem in the developing world: malaria. Because many rural villages don’t have access to the lab microscopes necessary to properly diagnose the illness, life-saving treatment options are often limited. The Foldscope, which can be assembled from a specially designed folded piece of paper and a tiny lens—at the cost of just 50 cents—can give these communities easy access to the essential technology.