IDDS – final presentation

This Monday at the Great Hall of Kwame Nkrumah University was the final presentation of the International Development Design Summit.

The organizers and participants of IDDS were present as well as representatives of the university and the villages where the IDDS people went to.

First Amy Smith, founder of IDDS and lecturer at MIT gave a short speech. She outlined how extraordinary this whole experience had been and showed a small video to give an impression what IDDS was like. The participants had made a lot of experiences:

  • how to do design – stages of design
  • moving projects from paper to ideas to discuss
  • learning a lot about different types of technologies
  • how to make many many things – at Suame Magazine
  • people from the outside came to share their visions
  • the village visits which gave the participants an idea who they were working with and what their desires are
  • building & prototyping

After her presentation, Rajnish Jain, one of the participants shared his impressions. He praised IDDS as an event which lights the flame of innovation and creativity in everyone of its participants.

Then all the 12 teams shortly introduced their project and the solution they found. In the following some notes on their presentations and some pictures of the presentation of the prototypes afterwards (sorry for the quality, my camera isn’t the newest anymore).


Shea Nut Oil

Improve the Shae oil extraction process for women in rural areas
-> decreasing the time and labour involved
hydraulic powered oil press – eliminates 5 of the 10 traditional steps
response of the communities – quality of oil appeared to be the same
-> further testing necessary


Electricity from the river

many villages don’t have electricity -> challenge: bringing it to them through the river
tested the rivers to see how fast they flow, unfortunately it wasn’t enough to produce a significant amount of electricity
-> decision for another approach
children were playing everywhere -> merry-go-round to produce electricity
goes in a battery -> charging mobile phones or likewise


Chlorine dosing team – making water safe to drink

every minute 4 children die of waterbourne diseases, chlorine is an accurate and easy solution to purify the water
chlorine is available almost everywhere in the world
problem: dosing
project – creating a smple chlorine dosing machine
three simple prototypes


Chlorine production team – producing chlorine to make water safe

should allow people with no access to chlorine and energy to produce chlorine
everything needed

  • salt
  • water
  • human power

two devices with two different methods – hand-crank and bicycle


Cool storage team

many farmers lose valueable revenue due to vegetables that go bad while storing
they also have no access to cooling solution
-> creating a device to prevent vegetables from spoiling

  • absorber (corn-combs)
  • phase change material to maintain a constant temperature
  • doesn’t need electricity and is much cheaper than a fridge

tomatoes last up to 8 days longer


Family friendly latrines

around 700 000 children die annually because of hygiene
challenge: creating a latrine which is safe to use for children and easy to maintain to have a hygienic environment


Cassava processing/grating machine

when processing cassavas, the grating is the most exhausting and dangerous step – injuries might occur
-> providing a machine to grate cassava

  • no energy is needed
  • protects the user from injuries

efficiency of women processing cassava tripled


Rice destoning

Ghana consumes a lot of rice

  • imports are more popular, although it is more expensive
  • because it is seen as having more quality
  • local rice has a lot more stones
  • stones come in because farmers thrash rice on the ground

challenge: low cost, treadle driven rice thrashing machine

  • rice doesn’t hit the ground at all
  • low cost – now: 100GhC
  • completely, with parts, available in Ghana


Local plastic recycling

plastic waste is a big problem for communities
-> creating plastic sheets which can be used for different purposes

  • creates income
  • removes waste
  • provides scarce material


  • uses aluminium heating elements
  • small motor for slow and steady movement
  • artisans created great items out of the material


Mobile child monitoring

challenge: tool that can improve child monitoring
many children are underweight
15 million die every year from malnutrition – related illnesses
devices currently used are not sufficient
data is stored analogue and is hard to use

  • measures weight and height
  • automatically sends data to server and receives feedback
  • from 0-5 years
  • sends data immediately -> reduces human error

tested in a community – trying to incorporate as much of the feedback as possible now


Small scale energy

1/4 people worldwide live without reliable, accessible access to energy
poor people spend a lot of money on batteries, keronsene, …
designed low-tech batteries from local available materials to replace imported batteries

  • uses aluminium cans to create electricity
  • to power LED lights & radios – mobile phones to come
  • 4V battery costs 5GhC to make – our would last twice as long
  • manufactured and distributed at a low cost
  • can be built and maintained everywhere in the villages


Threshing technologies for groundnut smallholders

developing a machine to speed up threshing process
threshing = removing the nut from the plant with your hand
removing the nur is slow, tedious & exhausting
process can be sped up with the device


For more detailed information on the event and better pictures, visit the official IDDS blog.

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IDDS – final presentation
was published on 12.08.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
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Going to Maker Faire Africa

This weekend in Accra the Maker Faire Africa will take place.

It’s supposed to be

a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation and invention

and countless interesting and innovative people and groups will attend. will also take part and I will screen our movie Hello Africa there. Of course I’ll also write some blog posts. The people from International Development Design Summit will show their prototypes once more and for more detailed information what will be going in look at the Program of Maker Faire Africa or check out the Blog of Maker Faire Africa.

So if you’re in the area – make sure to be there, it will definitely be great and probably even THE African tech event of the year.

On Maneno, there is an aggregator on the Maker Faire hashtag “mfa09”. Check it out to stay updated.

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Going to Maker Faire Africa
was published on 11.08.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
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IDDS – inside view

Due to me being in Kumasi and our planned screening of our movie Hello Africa (a movie on mobile phone culture in Tanzania) at Maker Faire Africa next weekend in Accra, I got in contact with some of the guys of International Development Design Summit which will present their prototypes at the Maker Faire.

Yesterday I showed up at their place to take some photos, watch them work at the prototypes and find out a bit about the problems which emerged.

Most of the teams focus on problems which need a more engineering-type solution, but one team is into ICTs and I was taking a closer look at them. The team is very multicultural and multidisciplinary – consisting of Evan from the US who is into mobile phones and ICTs, Vaibhav from India who is also into ICTs, Mensah from Ghana working for the Methodist church, Paulina from Guatemale studying industrial design and Dr. Hiwagaba from Uganda who studied medicine.

The challenge the team sought to solve was “baby health care” – assuring that babies can be weighed and measured easily by nurses on the countryside and that the data is kept track of.

The solution they came up with was a device that weighs the baby with pressure sensors, measures the height by a infrared-sensor connected to a measuring tape. After measuring, the data is pre-formatted and senr via a connected modem as sms-message to the database. There the data can be saved and analysed. It’s really easy to use and very practical. The prototype – as all other prototypes of the other teams – is currently undergoing refinement and redesign according to the feedback of potential real users from the Ghanian countryside.

I also looked at some of the projects of the other teams – and after a while I became really euphoric about the amazingly creative and innovative solutions the people from IDDS found for their challenges.

  • Project team “energy production” designed a device which creates electricity from copper, salt water, plastic bottles, aluminium waste and some other things – actually a low tech battery. They already used it to power electric light and a radio.
  • Project team “water purification” designed a device which adds always the exact amount of chloride to water to make it drinkable.
  • Project team “chloride production” redesigned a bike to use it to create hydrochloride from other – available – chemicals. They are working together with team “water purification” to create a feasible all-in-one solution for water purification.
  • Project team “refridgerator” designed a device which keeps a constant temperature of 18° and absorps gases causing fruits and vegtables to rot faster.
  • Project team “plastic waste reduction” designed a device that creates a material which can be used for creating rooftops, raincoats and for several other purposes.

In my opinion all these devices have enormous revolutionary potential – what if you could produce energy from waste and clean water with everyday tools which are already around?

So on Monday the finished prototypes will be presented publically at the KNUST museum and I will be there – really curious on seeing the prototypes in action and observing the ones I didn’t see this time – there are 12 project teams after all.

Also check out Nialls blog – the official IDDS blog, it has far more details and pictures.

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IDDS – inside view
was published on 07.08.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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IDDS – Technology, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in an Academic Environment

In the context of the International Development Design Summit 2009 at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, yesterday (30 July) there was a public lecture on how a university can promote entrepreneurship of their students and faculty members by Paul Hudnut from Colorado State UniversityTechnology, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in an Academic Environment. It was quite interesting to see the “university start up” issue from another side.

Here some notes of the lecture.


Amy Smith – founder of IDDS

A lot of participants of IDDS are here – but others may not know what IDDS is:
IDDS is about innovation – bringing together people from different backgrounds & countries to be creative and innovative and design things
These things should improve the lives of people who live on 1-2$ a day
Everyone should be included in the process – also the people in the villages – the concept of co-creation to create new technologies
Working with villagers to identify technologies which might make a difference and share ideas
In 3 days the project teams will go back to the villages with prototypes and refine them


  • collaboration
  • people should become aware that they themselves created this solution
  • improving creativity and problem-solving capacity beneath people

Paul Hudnut has been with IDDS for te past 2 weeks sharing insights into entrepreneurship

  • how can you transform a prototype to a product
  • thinking about the design process
  • experiences in integrated academia and entrepreneurship
  • founding member of Envirofit – doing wonderful work and has received a lot of recognition

Evo Koufou – professor at KNUST
Introducing Paul Hudnut


Paul Hudnut

Quote from Obama’s speech when he was in Ghana: Africa doesn’t need strongmen but strong institutions -> applies especially to universities
society puts it’s trust in the job of faculties and students – training the next generations to be ready for the problems the current generation hasn’t solved
what is the university role in todays world?
how can universitys mission to teach, research and service

  • develop useful technology
  • foster entrepreneurship

in this speech economic development examples from Colorado State University will be provided:

  • how to deal with research and intellectual property
  • 2 company examples

some experiences what US universities have done to support technology enrepreneurship- maybe helps KNUST

definition entrepreneur: a revolutionary with a business model

Colorado State University:

  • 25 000 students
  • duties: research, teaching, service to the community
  • Colorado state economy based on agriculture, tourism, high tech
  • school: innovation programs in engineering and business schools


  • research university
  • $300m annual budget, 80% from US agencies
  • all inventions in the university belong to the university
  • super-clusters – concentrated research on: infectious diseases, cancer, renewable energy
  • CSU research foundation: provides technology transfer services & invests in start up companies


  • university needs to be partner in innovation process with business (there’s things universities do well, others they don’t do well)
  • research funding is a larger more certain revenue than licensing
  • bias towards economic development over university compensation – start ups are more important
  • bulk of inventions come from small % of faculty (80/20)


US Academic innovation:

  • development: science & industrialization -> computing, communication, life sciences -> networks and systems (energy, environment, health)
  • innovation now has the need not only for technology, but also for a business model

Innovation sources (various scholars):

  • innovation happens with hard work – not genius
  • disruptive (new world-view) vs. sustaining innovations (holding on to an old model)
  • innovations happen throught networks
  • intersections of cultures and disciplines

University paths: publish or patents?

  • intellectual property vs. open source
  • existing vs. new company

Stories about the 2 companies:

  • university set up a new company with new invention
  • university set up new company with new business model for old technology

Story 1 – Solix:

  • biodiesel from algae
  • formed at CSU in 2006
  • new bioreactor patents
  • university initial owner (5%), subsequent investments have been private
  • $17m venture funding
  • now: 60 employees

Algae can create fuel very efficiently, very few water is used to create the oil

  • creating animal feed, energy, biodiesel

July 2009 production began

  • 3000 gallons fuel/acre


Story 2 – Envirofit:
more innovation context  – design for the other 90%

  • large scale problems
  • solutions need to be regionally adapted and scaled
  • urgency

different types of problems need different types of innovation

  • innovation shift from pure technology to business models
  • people in the villages should be able to create the technology
  • companies may find way to disseminate stuff inexpensively
  • move towards open source & business models

Problem attacked- air pollution:

  • sources: transportation, cooking, industry, fire
  • kills millions of people
  • health effect on mothers and children
  • fixing air pollution may have a large impact
  • every month there is a “preventable tsunami”


  • motor cycles produce like 5 times more pollution than cars
  • people cook with open fire
  • around the world biomass is not very much used – Africa & Southeast Asia have the highest dependence, also high death rates connected to that

household energy:

  • 1/2 of the world’s population cooks with biomass cook stoves

Business model:

  • what cook stove would the user want?


  • started in 2003
  • funders: faculty & grad students

validating technology:

  • number of student projects looking at stove design
  • cook stove lab – fuel efficiencire, cumbustion point, …

business model:

  • customers
  • price
  • market research


  • 60 000 stoves sold in India in first year
  • requires less firewood
  • cook really well
  • less smoke
  • number of awards, now $1m in revenues
  • now 50 employees

lessons learned:

  • innovation can’t be mandated, but can be supported and facilitated
  • creative business models and modes of partnerships needed (networkin between academia, industry & stakeholders)
  • innovation may depend more on new business models than new technologies
  • university based start ups can provide learning, research revenue and publicity

what’s next for a university to promote entrepreneurship:

  • what are the institutions strengths?
  • how can these be utilized in a changeing world?
  • what are ideas or problems to start with?
  • what networks do you need to build? (academia, business, NGOs)
  • don’t wait to start, learn by doing

“The best way of learning to be an independent sovereign state is to be an independent sovereign state” – Kwame Nkrumah

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original” – Kenneth Robins

“Every institution was at one point just a handful of people in a room reciding to start something” – Paul Graham


Q & A:

Evoe Kuffou: most people don’t think of the universities as a business – what is a business model for the university?

  • academy shouldn’t be a business, but needs to encourage this type of activity and has to develop a business model for that

started manufacturing traffic lights – but there is a central financial administration and everything takes too long, how did COL do that?

  • sometimes COL does it well, sometimes not so well – grants for research, sponsoring agency;
  • maybe at the point when demand is there, a new company has to be started

can a faculty which is not tenured also jump into business?

  • difficult, some departments at COL did that but not the university as a whole; that chapter is not finished yet
  • at KNUST there is no such issue, people are just not fired here; business activities provide opportunities here

what about technology parks? have you had this idea?

  • COL doesn’t have one, other universities have, city of COL has a technology incubator, often it ends up with people having different aims and no real outcomes & it’s often hard to kill a company

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IDDS – Technology, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in an Academic Environment
was published on 31.07.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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International Development Design Summit

Just a quick point to an exciting project which is currently taking place here around Kumasi and at KNUST – International Development Design Summit.

It’s an initiative by MIT (MIT press on IDDS) to drive capacity building in developing countries, but also to provide students with real-life experience and a forum to discuss issues. The students work together with other students and practitioners here in the wider area of Kumasi and try to find applicable solutions for every day problems of the people in rural areas of Ghana.

One project is for example built around the problem of making water drinkable with chlorides – and how to produce these chlorides with the help of available tools – such as a bike, in that case. Another projects deals with easy methods of rice-destoning – which would rural farmers enable to compete better with big companies.

The project is really good covered in various blog – IDDS official blog in as good source, also pointing to other blogs. The results of the projects will be presented at Maker Faire Africa (IDDS at Maker Faire Africa), really looking forward to seeing that.

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International Development Design Summit
was published on 28.07.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
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